Shhh! Don’t tell anyone your frequent flier miles are expiring

Whenever I write anything about expiring frequent flier miles, I invariably get a comment or two from a grizzled road warrior who says: Serves ya right — you were warned!

True enough, airlines have done a much better job of trying to tell their customers when points are about to vanish. But they don’t always succeed.

Consider what happened to Karen Saper, who has been a Delta SkyMiles member nearly two decades.

She had accumulated enough miles to fly to Europe, and she planned to use them for a special occasion. But it wasn’t meant to be. A few months ago, Saper received a letter informing her she could buy back her expired miles. She was floored.

I didn’t know that my miles had expired. I called Delta a few different times and each time got a different story.

The last story I received was that I would need to write a letter to Delta SkyMiles as you wouldn’t respond to these concerns via the phone. I was also told that you had sent me many warnings that my miles were about to expire.

I never received any such letters and when I told your representatives that, I was told that Delta never received any non-deliverable mail from me. When I asked how the letters were mailed, I was told ‘Third class mail’. I don’t believe that 3rd class/bulk mail even forwards mail that is not deliverable?

Saper went to great lengths to make sure her miles didn’t expire. She even signed up for the Delta Dining program, but it appears that none of her activity got reported to Delta. She says she recently updated her email address to ensure the airline could reach her with any important announcements.

I’ve written about the value of loyalty programs a hundred times, including a few weeks ago when I suggested the loyalty may go only one way. But if Saper wants to participate in them, the least Delta can do is give her a straight answer about her missing miles.

Delta didn’t respond to her faxed letter. Months went by. She appealed by email to a customer service executive, but apparently because of some reshuffling at the executive level, the company didn’t respond. I helped her get in touch with the right person through On Your Side, the new customer service wiki that I edit. It worked.

I just wanted to share with you some good news. I don’t know if you remember, but I contacted you about my Delta mileage – I sent you my email exchange with Delta’s customer service – it was lengthy. I did as you suggested and sent an email to Alison Ausband, VP of Customer Service for Delta. I got this response from her-

“Karen: I greatly apologize for the ‘going back and forth’ that you have experienced with us in an effort to get your miles reinstated. This is not acceptable from our team. Please know we have reinstated 140,691 miles to your account. I hope that you and your daughter have a wonderful trip; and again, I am sorry we made this difficult for you. Allison Ausband”

Just thought you would like to know that they came through with flying colors – it did take 7+ months to resolve but was well worth it.

Lesson learned? Sometimes your miles expire despite your best efforts. When that happens, only persistence can get them back.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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