Should airline loyalty programs be regulated?

Oh, the lovely world of federal regulations.  Sometimes we love them and sometimes hate them.  Congressman Grayson, a democrat out9-25-14-3 of Florida, has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate the airlines’ frequent-flyer program policies.   He specifically wants the length of notice given to frequent flyers when a program is changed investigated.  The DOT came back stating they’ll be auditing these programs to ensure they are complying with their disclosure requirements.

As View from the Wing reminds us:

Under existing law, frequent flyer programs can do anything they want to you. They just have to tell you they’re doing it.

I have to admit, this existing law really ticks me off.   In a Business Week story a spokesman for U.S. airlines’ trade group Airlines for America says the programs exist to thank customers for their business and loyalty.  Well that’s all fine and dandy, but what if you are flying that airline specifically because of their reward program?  When they lower the value of those redemptions what kind of thanks is that??

I’ve been frustrated with these changes in the past, and am still frustrated.  Airlines can literally do whatever they want, with no notice. Why is that okay? Of course, if I go down the rat hole of inconsistent airline policy I may never stop. (Don’t forget about my close friend waiting on a ruling from the DOT after he was unjustifiably accused and penalized by American for supposed seat blocking.)  Let’s just say that it’s troubling how much control these airlines have with frequent flyer programs.

With that being said I don’t know if I would support major regulation in this arena.  If it becomes too regulated you may see these programs start to disappear.  However, I think it’s perfectly acceptable for the airlines to be required to give proper notice if a change is taking place.  Congressman Grayson’s recommendation of a year’s notice might be pushing it a bit but it doesn’t hurt to aim high then settle a little lower.

Readers, what do you think about regulating airline loyalty programs?

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  1. The airlines are not required by anyone to offer these programs.
    Get the government involved and watch these programs go away.
    Forget the miles this whole thing will turn into points.

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