Airlines go great lengths to stop mileage brokers, which are people who buy and sell miles. While buying and selling miles isn’t illegal, it does violate the terms of just about every loyalty program out there. As a result, loyalty programs often audit accounts and take action when they suspect people are buying and selling miles.
Hilary at TravelSort notes that her Alaska Mileage Plan account was locked because she was suspected of being a mileage broker, though they offered to reactive the account if she agreed to the terms & conditions of the program going forward. So she read the terms carefully (which I’m guessing 99% of us don’t do), and noticed something I haven’t seen before. Specifically, the Alaska Mileage Plan terms & conditions include the following:
“Travel agents, travel arrangers and unauthorized brokers are not permitted to issue Mileage Plan tickets or to process or facilitate any other Mileage Plan transactions (including Mileage Plan account creation, account inquiries, and mileage or award ticket transfers) on behalf of others.”
This is an interesting precedent that I don’t think we’ve officially seen from any other loyalty program. Alaska Mileage Plan is saying that “travel arrangers are not permitted to issue tickets or to process or facilitate any other Mileage Plan transactions.”
There are plenty of award booking services out there (including one we’ve had for years), where people will help you redeem miles in exchange for a fee. This doesn’t typically violate program rules, since you’re not buying or selling miles, but rather are paying someone for advice. That’s very different.
Alaska it putting travel arrangers in the same category as brokers here, which is bizarre. Now, in practice they don’t really have a way of enforcing this. That’s to say that you’re still allowed to have a friend book on your behalf, but just not a “travel arranger,” which seems like an odd distinction to make. Would a (legitimate) friend who helps you book a ticket become a “travel arranger” by virtue of having helped you book your ticket? 😉