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.
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Reactivate this: After airline cancels miles, frequent flier promises “I’ll never fly American again”

aaparkedWhen American Airlines stripped 43,000 miles from Peter DeForest’s frequent flier account because of “inactivity” it offered to return them if he signed up for one of its email offers.

It seemed like a reasonable deal. But the miles never came, and when DeForest checked the American Web site to see how he could reclaim his lost award points, he was shocked to find the airline driving a much harder bargain with some of its customers.
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Is American Airlines shortchanging frequent fliers?

If you’re an American Airlines frequent flier, you might want to check your last mileage statement. There’s evidence the airline is shortchanging its passengers by a mile or two per flight — a potential savings of tens of millions of points a year to the company.

Here’s what’s happening, according to an AAdvantage member, who requested anonymity for fear of a reprisal from the carrier.

If you download the American Airlines PDF timetable, or if you use its TravelDesk software, you will find that it lists the mileage for various flights.

For example, San Juan to Miami is 1,046 miles. But I was credited only 1,045 miles. San Juan to Dallas is 2,166 miles. I was given 2,165 miles. Boston to San Juan is 1,680. I only got 1,674 miles.

Now I know that the airlines reserve the right to determine the mileage — but it seems to me that when they’ve published the miles, they have determined it and they should apply it in accordance with the miles they’ve posted.

That seems sensible. So I asked American Airlines. Marcy Letourneau, a spokeswoman for the airline, responded:

I’m not sure your reader’s source of mileage calculation for the AA timetable, and I’m also unaware of the “AA TravelDesk” software he mentions.

However, for the purpose of calculating AAdvantage miles and posting them to member accounts, we use the Great Circle Mileage Calculator (Google great circle mileage). The best way [t]o determine the number of base miles between point A and point B is on AA.com. When a flight segment is selected, click on the flight details (left hand side under flight number).

The link expands to show the number of base miles between points A & B. We checked a couple of your reader’s examples, and the miles he was awarded are the same as the miles listed on AA.com.

My frequent flier source is not convinced.

He says it’s “pretty amazing” that an American spokeswoman wasn’t aware of the company’s application, which can be downloaded here. Indeed, it loads up as a program called “TravelDesk.”

He also believes the mileage information provided by American is confusing, at best. Oh, and there’s one other thing you need to know about my unhappy frequent flier: he’s a trial lawyer.

If American Airlines were my client in this type of situation and had not yet been sued, I would tell it to immediately issue an announcement that it might have issued confusing information regarding the calculation of mileage and that it was correcting the problem.

Depending upon the complexity of doing the recalculation, it would either recalculate everyone’s miles for the last 12 months or if that were not practical, simply choose a number of credited miles that it deemed reasonably appropriate but give each individual flier the right to submit information showing that he or she was entitled to a higher credit.

This would end the issue and keep the lawyers out.

So is American Airlines skimming miles? Should we start referring to this program as “NetShAAvers”?

It’s not an easy call.

Certainly, the airline should ensure that the mileage it lists on its schedules match those awarded to its travelers. I’m not convinced the airline is shaving miles for malicious reasons. More likely, it’s just one hand not knowing what the other is doing.

But I could be wrong.

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