The Days of Miles Automatically Not Expiring are Over

If you have American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program miles in your account which you earned prior to July 1, 1989, they had no expiration — but as of November 1, 2012, they are subject to expiration if you do not keep your account active.

However, you will automatically earn a 25 percent mileage bonus for every unredeemed American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program mile earned prior to July 1, 1989.

While some FlyerTalk members are unhappy about the 25 percent bonus — thinking that compensation is too low of an amount in exchange for this change in policy — members of the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program would beg to differ, as absolutely no compensation at all whatsoever was given when the miles from the old Delta Air Lines Frequent Flyer loyalty program were converted to SkyMiles back in 2006. Oh, well — at least Delta Air Lines gave notice of the policy change approximately 16 months in advance.

In both cases, the “old” miles were originally eligible for award redemption rates which were significantly superior to current redemption rates — and usually without capacity controls. For example, FlyerTalk member milesrus posts “I will loose about 600,000 miles we use the 75,000 for two First Class Tickets, now it is 150,000.”

FlyerTalk members are currently devising ways to use the non-expiring American Airlines Advantage frequent flier loyalty program miles to their — ahem — advantage before November 1, as quite a few FlyerTalk members still have those “old”miles in their accounts.

My guess is the that the main reason this new policy is being implemented is to flush out old American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program accounts which have not been accessed in years and yet still contain miles. There is probably also an extra expense in maintaining two separate accounting methods for two different types of American AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program miles, and this policy change will most likely help streamline things and ultimately reduce costs. I do not know how many “old” miles are currently outstanding, but even with all of the FlyerTalk members who still have these “old” miles in their accounts, I cannot imagine that the combined total of these “old” miles in and of itself are significant enough to implement the policy change. Again, I do not have access to specific information as to the reasons behind this policy change.

Now FlyerTalk members are divided, as some feel this policy change is fair, reasonable and equitable; while others believe that the policy change is unfair. As FlyerTalk member scubadu posted in response to a claim that this policy change is unreasonable, “…you’ve only had TWENTY THREE FREAKIN’ YEARS to figure out how you were going to use these miles. Do you need another 23?

While there are many ways to keep your American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program account active — as all you need to do is earn or redeem American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program miles once every 18 months — my recommendation is to simply download the search toolbar where every three legitimate searches earns one American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program mile. This method of keeping your account active costs no money and takes very little time — especially if you conduct searches anyway on the Internet.

This is not the first time American Airlines has changed the terms of a lifetime benefit, as demonstrated by the demise of the AAirpass lifetime pass — but then again, the termination of that program is certainly understandable from the point of view of American Airlines, given the circumstances resulting from alleged abuse and fraud.

While the United Airlines frequent flier loyalty program is certainly not perfect, they did honor to keep the Continental Airlines Infinite Elite lifetime elite status earned back in the early 1990s. Even though some FlyerTalk members claim that the new United Airlines after the merger with Continental Airlines is really Continental Airlines with a United Airlines identity, the merger was a golden opportunity to abandon the Infinite Elite lifetime elite status — but they chose not to do so, although some modifications were implemented.

In both cases with American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, should they be held to their original promises of “no expiration” for a “lifetime” with access to the old benefits — or do their disclaimers generally stating that they have the right to do anything they want at any time outweigh those promises? Is there anything unethical about what they did? Could an equitable compromise have been reached?

What do you think?

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