Relax, your miles don’t expire? Yeah, right, American Airlines

By | December 31st, 2016

Carol Weiss’s frequent flier miles “never expire.” Except that they just did. Can our advocacy team save them?

Question: I have an American Airlines AAdvantage account. I also had 14,000 miles earned with US Airways. When I signed up for the account, the airline said, “Relax. Your mileage doesn’t expire.”

Last year, American sent a “Countdown to a Single Loyalty Program” notification saying the US Airways and American programs would be merging. I sent an email to American asking them to confirm that those 14,000 US Airways miles would be added to my AAdvantage account. American sent an email saying my message had been received, and then I never heard from them again.

I’d like to recover my 14,000 US Airways miles, which I value at $500. — Carol Weiss, Cambridge, Mass.

Question: I have some bad news: Your missing miles are not worth $500. Award points are typically valued at around 1 cent each, which makes your loss worth $140 — and that’s being extremely generous.

Of course, the situation is more absurd than that. US Airways no longer exists, so any promises it made when you signed up for the program are pretty much null and void. But even if they weren’t, the original program agreement allows an airline to change the rules at any time, for any reason, without even notifying you.

Oh, and one more thing: The miles technically never belonged to you. They are the property of the airline, even though you earned them fair and square.

This is the reason our advocacy team usually stays far, far away from mileage cases. They are ridiculous and largely unwinnable.

Related story:   Hey Spirit, why can't I use these vouchers?

You could have appealed your case to someone higher up at American Airlines. I list the names, email addresses and phone numbers for the executives on this site. But something tells me it would have generated another meaningless form response.

Our advocacy team reviewed your paper trail with American and also reached out to the airline on your behalf. It seems your US Airways miles never transferred to your new account — not during the latest merger, but way back US Airways merged with America West.

As a gesture of goodwill, American issued a credit of 2,500 miles to bring your current AAdvantage balance to over 15,000.

As you know, the rules governing loyalty programs are written to favor the airline, not the consumer. American could have given you nothing, and it would have been well within its rights. My advice would be to use these miles quickly.

Then cut up your card, and don’t look back.

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