The Coupon Connection Forum Closed Indefinitely — Because of Fraud Unit of American Airlines?
FlyerTalk members have reported that their American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program accounts have been audited; and penalties such as the forfeiture of instruments such as eVIPs have been imposed on them for their actions — even for what could be considered minor violations of the rules, terms and conditions.
As a result, The Coupon Connection forum — a place where FlyerTalk members who have posted 180 times and have been members for 180 days can exchange or give away something of which can be considered valuable to fellow FlyerTalk members — has been taken off line indefinitely. This was after the initial decision to simply prohibit the offering of instruments from the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program. Here is the global announcement posted by FlyerTalk member and community director SanDiego1K:
“After serious discussions between the Coupon Connection moderators and me about the issues that have come to the forefront in the past 24 hours, the decision has been taken to take the Coupon Connection Forum offline for the time being. The moderators will be doing some forum cleanup and developing new guidelines before we re-open the forum. At this time, we cannot predict when the forum will be reopened.”
Do not bother to click on this link about advertising eVIP trade being monitored by corporate security of American Airlines until The Coupon Connection forum is open again — and even then, the discussion could be permanently deleted.
Two thoughts come to my mind: first, there were FlyerTalk members who used The Coupon Connection forum so often that it almost seemed like they were using — or abusing, probably as a more appropriate term — that forum as a brokerage business for frequent travel miles and points as well as upgrade instruments and cash vouchers from being “bumped.” They were clearly breaking the rules imposed by the airlines pertaining to the terms and conditions associated with the frequent flier loyalty programs of airlines — although many of the violations of the terms and conditions were not permitted in The Coupon Connection forum, such as attempts to sell frequent travel loyalty program miles and points.
Second is that I wonder if the “fraud” was so prevalent that the revenue protection unit or corporate security unit of an airline should be so proactive in containing the problem. It has been posted many times in many different ways that the frequent flier community — including FlyerTalk, Milepoint and all of the weblogs out there combined — is so small in the grand scheme of things that it is really insignificant to the overall business of an airline. If that is true, why take the trouble to impose harsh penalties on FlyerTalk members? Is it to attempt to stem losses? Is it a display of significant punishment to cause the FlyerTalk member to think twice about “breaking the rules”? Is it perhaps both?
Some FlyerTalk members are concerned that their personal information and privacy had been compromised, as these exchanges are usually performed anonymously — or, at least as anonymously as are their FlyerTalk names.
Since FlyerTalk was launched greater than 15 years ago, your privacy is and always has been taken extremely seriously — whether Randy Petersen or Internet Brands owned and operated FlyerTalk. You can be assured that no one at Internet Brands submitted personal information to American Airlines in this incident or — other than any extremely rare legal case — at any time to any travel company. In this case, it appears that the corporate security unit of American Airlines was rather aggressive to the point where some FlyerTalk members wondered how they knew about their exchanges posted in The Coupon Connection forum. Could this be considered an issue of invasion of privacy of FlyerTalk members by the corporate security unit of American Airlines?
When an exchange becomes fraud can be a particularly sensitive issue. For example, I know of no airline which will allow you to sell to me the frequent flier loyalty program miles you earned — but you are permitted to redeem them for an award ticket for me to use where I could provide something in return without the airline finding out about it, such as a free night at a hotel property…
…which was the main reason for the existence of The Coupon Connection forum: to allow FlyerTalk members to maximize the usage and value of their frequent travel loyalty program instruments — not to violate any of the terms and conditions to which were agreed upon when becoming a member.
I personally can count the number of times I have actually exchanged anything in The Coupon Connection forum in the greater than eleven years since I became a member of FlyerTalk; and even then, my transactions were benign. There rarely was an offer posted there which compelled me to want to conduct business with another FlyerTalk member; and even then, there have been reports of FlyerTalk members not fulfilling their end of an agreement — very disheartening, as that can damage the perception of the FlyerTalk community to the person who was ultimately “cheated.”
Is the closing of The Coupon Connection forum the result of the abuse of travel instruments by FlyerTalk members; the aggressive behavior of personnel from the frequent flier loyalty programs of commercial airlines; or a combination of both factors? Was it a matter of time before other airlines followed the lead of American Airlines? If and when The Coupon Connection forum is once again open to qualified members of FlyerTalk, will those who participate be far more wary and careful about what offers are posted there — or will it be business as usual again?
What are your thoughts?