Given my backlog of cases, it’s unusual to cover something I just heard about a few hours ago. It’s even more unusual to redact the name of both the passenger and the airline.
But as you’ll see in a minute, this is a highly unusual problem with an imminent deadline. At stake? The highest-level elite status and several million frequent flier miles.
Oh, and the fate of our republic.
We have two choices here: pay up or fight. And by fight I mean I’ll go to bat for this customer.
So why no names? Because the airline alleges — and some of you will probably allege, too — that this customer did something he knew he shouldn’t. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It all started with an email from the airline’s “corporate security” department notifying the customer that his frequent flier account had been suspended because of “fictitious bookings.”
It included a spreadsheet outlining about half a dozen reservations in business class that were not real. Rather than explain the problem, I’ll refer you to another case that involved an airline that may or may not be the one we’re discussing today.
The airline notes,
Our investigation indicates that on the dates above, you, or someone acting on your behalf, created the fictitious reservations detailed above for Business Class seats on flights in which you were ticketed in coach class and upgrades were requested.
The creation of these fictitious bookings is a clear violation of the Site Usage and General [Loyalty Program] Conditions provisions.
The Site Usage agreement clearly prohibits the use of the website to book false reservations. In addition, the General Program Conditions prohibit, among other things, fraud, misrepresentation, abuse, or any other violation of the airline’s applicable rules, including but not limited to the conditions of carriage, which specifically prohibit creating bookings to hold or block seats for the purpose of obtaining a seat that may not otherwise be available.
The rules are clear, the letter added. The airline may exercise its right to terminate a passenger’s program membership and confiscate his miles. Unless he accepts a settlement.
You will compensate [the airline] for the aforementioned fictitious bookings in the amount of $14,000 and refrain from making fraudulent bookings going forward.
We value your business and years of loyalty. […] Our offer will remain open until close of business (5PM CST) Friday, November 15, 2013.
Yikes. Now what?
Our passenger searched for past cases and turned up the one I linked to a few paragraphs earlier. He contact me to see if there had been any other cases, and whether they settled. Also, could he donate some miles to charity as penance for his crimes instead of paying the airline?
“Your suggestions are greatly appreciated,” he told me.
Well, as you can imagine, my first question was: didja do it, and if so, was this your first time?
“Yes,” said the passenger. “They have identified the only times that these speculative booking occurred.” The fake reservations were for clients who they believed would join him on a trip and then changed their mind. But, he assures me, he wasn’t trying to game the system.