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Lawsuit filed over Million Miler status

May 25, 2012

Ever wonder just what “lifetime” means in the case of an airline program? Someone has taken to federal court to find out. A disgruntled customer has filed suit against United Airlines, claiming that the changes to the lifetime Million Miler program represent a breach of contract and that “United … intends to continue its denial of the Class’s bargained-for benefits.”

I suppose it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The filing, in the Eastern Division of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, is seeking class action status on behalf “thousands of others” who are also affected by the changes in the program.

The actual filing can be read here. Here are a few choice excerpts:

14. The second to top tier in the Mileage Plus Program was the Million Miler
status (sometimes referred to as the “Million Miler Program”).  To obtain this status, a
United customer needed to actually fly one million or more miles on United flights only. 
In other words, unlike programs today, one could not reach the Million Miler status
through any non-flying means, such as an airline credit card, or by flying on any other
“partner” or “code share” airline.
15. The Million Miler Program was not simply a gimmick or give-away product
under which United could change the rules any time it wanted.  It was a bargained-for
program whereby consideration was given – and taken – by both United and the Million
Miler members.

17. The lifetime benefits Million Miler members paid consideration for included:
a. A one-time award of three system-wide upgrades;
b. Two free regional upgrades every year;
c. A 100% bonus on the miles the customer flies every year; and
d. Lifetime Premier Executive status  in United’s Mileage Plus program,
providing extra benefits and priorities such as booking availability,
pre-boarding advantages, upgrade possibilities, and seating priority.

The claims are interesting, to be sure. But they seem to be lacking in a certain amount of fact that is usually required to win a judgment. It seems a lot more like the suit filed claiming that it was illegal to only accept credit cards on board, a claim that was summarily dismissed, than a proper claim to me. Then again, I’m not a judge in the US District Court in Illinois, so clearly my opinion doesn’t really matter.

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