Veteran frequent flier stripped of 46,000 AAdvantage miles — are they gone forever?

American Airlines knows how to contact Mary Ann Hall. And it does. Often. She gets fare sale notices and credit card pitches from the airline regularly, which doesn’t surprise her — she’s been an AAdvantage member since almost the very beginning.

But a funny thing happened when her miles were about to expire: American said nothing. And so, without so much as a warning, 46,000 of her hard-earned miles expired.

Here’s what happened to Hall, in her own words:

I have been an AAdvantage member for many years. I took my first trip on American in 1947 and I was one of the early members of their Junior Stewardess Club — a bit embarrassing, now that I am 75 years of age, but it shows the immense loyalty and affection I have had for American all of these years.

When I went to check on my mileage, which should have been around 46,000 miles, it showed that I had zero miles in my account. I called them up and was told that after 18 months of no activity, they cancel the miles. Then, I asked them why they didn’t let me know of such a “rule,” and was told they sent it to me in an e-mail, to which I responded, “If I ever would have received something like that in an e-mail, I would have taken care of it right away and not let my mileage lapse.”

I then told them that they send me all sorts of advertising at least two-to-three times each week, why couldn’t they have contacted me the same way?

Do you think that you would be able to help me?

Yes, I can.

I realize that I’ve been taking some heat in the comments of my site for helping people who should have known better, and that’s fine. But I, for one, buy Hall’s argument that American could have done a better job letting her know her miles were about to expire. I believe airlines intentionally say as little as possible about expiring miles because they want miles to expire. (And for good reason — the industry has trillions of unredeemed miles out there.)

I contacted American on behalf of Hall, a loyal and longtime customer. A few days ago, I got the following email from her:

I have had a couple of telephone calls from American Airlines today, the last one was at 7:08 this evening and was from Terra Clark, from their AAdvantage Desk. She was wonderful, Chris, and even will see that I receive my mileage back (a one-time thing, as she explained it).

Heaven knows my level of appreciation for your work in my behalf knows no bounds right now. How does one simply say, “Thank you,” to a non-emotional computer screen, when I am positively jubilant!?! Thank you, Chris.

I’m happy to help, and grateful to American for reversing its decision.

American could have done a better job of letting her know her miles were about to vanish, but beyond that, the airline certainly should have been able to see the value of returning 46,000 miles to someone who had been flying American for more than 60 years, when she initially contacted the company.

And Mary Ann, I’d recommend using your miles as soon as possible. Next time they expire, American might not be so generous.

(Photo: Anke L/Flickr Creative Commons)

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 the new forum.

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