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American Accuses Flyer of Fraud in DOT Complaint Response

An American Airlines flyer is facing accusations of fraud, filed in a response to their complaint against the carrier. The flyer says the airline did not refund their AAdvantage miles after a flight was cancelled – but the airline claims the passenger illicitly obtained their AAdvantage miles.

Frequent flyers are always trying to get the most out of airline loyalty programs. But what happens when someone takes it too far? American Airlines is accusing a flyer of acting “in bad faith” in a response to a complaint revolving around unrefunded AAdvantage miles.

Accusations of Earning Miles Fraudulently “Is Completely False”

The situation began on April 30, 2020, when American AAdvantage flyer Maria Borges filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation. In her eight-page complaint, Borges said she booked two business class award flights in 2019 for her daughter and son-in-law from Miami to Kahului Airport (OGG) on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

After booking the flights, Borges says she had to cancel her AAdvantage account “due to a security concern,” and was forced to open a new one. During that time, there were several flight changes which resulted in the two flyers being booked on different flights. Her claim suggests airline agents said they should cancel the reservation and start over.

In repeated phone calls, Borges both she and the son-in-law’s father both contacted American about getting the miles back to rebook flights. Each time, unnamed airline agents allegedly told both people the miles would be re-deposited into the new account, so they could rebook the flights.

However, the buck-passing seemed to stop on April 30, 2020, when Borges spoke to an AAdvantage supervisor. During their call, Borges says the supervisor investigated her accounts, and made a question about her credit history. The supervisor allegedly told Borges the miles on her account were “fraudulent,” because she received bonuses from multiple Citi AAdvantage credit cards. In a subsequent call later in the day, Borges accuses airline agents of saying her AAdvantage account was “being reviewed by corporate security for fraud.”

Borges asked the DOT to force American to give her back the used miles, and “impose appropriate civil penalties.”

American Says Flyer “Violated the Terms and Conditions” of AAdvantage

The Fort Worth-based carrier fired back in a 53-page response of their own. In the opening paragraph, American alleged Borges, her daughter and son-in-law worked together to open multiple Citi-backed AAdvantage credit cards to earn their miles.

“The Complainant and such individuals used various means of manipulation over a span of 20 months to improperly obtain bonus miles,” American writes in the complaint. “To which they were not entitled, for deposit into multiple AAdvantage accounts.”

The airline says all three opened multiple AAdvantage accounts with the goal of receiving credit cards with mileage bonus offers attached. In December 2019, the accounts of the daughter and son-in-law were frozen during a security sweep. American suggests that act may have lead to the booking of the two flights from Borges’ account.

“Unhappy that American detected and put the kibosh on the scheme, the Complainant now attempts to leverage the Department’s third-party formal complaint procedures to reinstate fraudulently accrued miles from a voluntarily terminated frequent flyer account,” the airline writes in its response. “As will be demonstrated herein, there has been no violation of any Departmental statutes or consumer protection regulations in American’s handling of the Complainant’s AAdvantage account or this matter.”

American’s evidence included posts written on Reddit and the FlyerTalk Forums, asking about potential resolution avenues for an account investigation and shutdown. The FlyerTalk thread is currently closed by moderators.

The docket is currently open on Regulations.gov, under docket ID DOT-OST-2020-0046. The complaint is still pending before the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Dubai Stu July 23, 2020

I noticed that four days after American Airlines filed their answer, the Borges (now by counsel) withdrew their Complaint.

azmojo July 15, 2020

Would be nice if they would detail the customer's fraud allegation. Getting multiple AA credit cards is not fraud. I have several myself.

jrpallante July 13, 2020

This article makes me suspicious of the complainant, but I know from personal experience that Citi encourages customers to get multiple cards. I'm that OCD guy who actually reads the fine print for each credit card. Citi's rules state that you can only earn a bonus on one personal card. Many years ago, a few months after applying for my first Citi Platinum card, they sent me an invitation by snail mail for a pre-approved Gold Card with another bonus. They knew very well that I had already received a bonus on the first card, yet they actively pursued me to get another card. Am I at fault for accepting the unsolicited offer?

SUPERTRAVEL July 12, 2020

Not sure how AA was harmed in passengers opening up multiple credit cards over time, probably under slightly different last names. Perhaps Citi was harmed, but not the airline. And presumably the spend requirements (Spend $3000 during first 3 months) were met to get the bonus miles too. Citi purchased the miles at a profit to AA, so I don't see how AA can claim fraud.

dlvete July 12, 2020

Elite Status cannot go down for 2021. From AA website: https://www.aa.com/i18n/aadvantage-program/aadvantage-program-updates.jsp "If your current elite status expires on January 31, 2021, we’ve extended the expiration date until January 31, 2022. You’ll continue to enjoy all the benefits that come with your status, and you can earn a higher status through lower elite qualification requirements this year."