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Mark Steinberg

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American Airlines To Frequent Fliers: 'Go To Hell And Don't Expect To Use Your Miles To Get There'

Posted: 07/25/2012 7:00 am

On a recent Monday morning I walked into the Office of the Clerk of the Los Angeles Superior Court, plunked down $85, and sued American Airlines. I was mad. Very, very mad.
Allow me to explain.

On the prior Friday afternoon, just in time to be too late to attract the attention of the press, American sent me an email saying that on October 31, it would convert my AAdvantage frequent flier "Miles With No Expiration," to miles that I'll refer to as "Miles That Can Be Ripped From Your Hands Pretty Much Whenever American Feels Like It." ("MTCBRFYHPMWAFLI" for short.)

On the chance that you had a problem getting your head around the previous sentence, I'll put it another way. American has said something like,"Yes, we've definitely said for about two decades that your Miles With No Expiration would never expire, but the word 'never,' like the word 'is,' can be defined in many different ways, depending upon the circumstances."

To sweeten the pot (more accurately, to blow it in my face), American said in their Friday afternoon sneak attack that they'll give me a bonus on my Miles With No Expiration when they extract them from my "Well-at-least-there's-something-I-can-count-on" file.

While the change sounds like no big deal, to someone who was hoping in his old age to travel in the section of the plane where there's always an empty overhead bin and everybody knows his name, this is a very, very big deal. In fact, American's action is akin to breaking into my house and stealing my dog -- or my wife.

Here's one example of how the new deal American wants to shove up my nether parts screws me to the wall:

Right now, I can use 40,000 of my "old," non-expiring miles to get a round-trip upgrade to business class between the U.S. and Europe. When American has converted my "old" miles into MTCBRFYHPMWAFLI, while I'll be able to make the mileage requirement for the award, I'll also have to shell out $700 that I didn't have to pay when the miles were mine, all mine, forever and ever. And $700 means a lot to me just now, as thanks to American I've to go out and buy a new dog.

About now you're probably saying to yourself, "Why should I care about some one-percenter not being able to sit in Row 1 on his flight to South Dakota to see the Corn Palace?" To your question, I have several replies:

First, the Corn Palace is highly underrated.

Second, I prefer Row 2.

Third, if American's desperate enough to pull this on people who have been flying their now-bankrupt airline for decades, how long will it be before they come for you, the guy who's hoarded his 25,000 miles in the faint hope of getting lucky enough to find a free award seat to go to Ft. Lauderdale on spring break, where you might really get lucky?

I rest my case.

 
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