What Part of Lifetime Didn’t They Understand?

I received the latest update by e-mail on the british midand Diamond Club program today.

You can no longer earn or spend miles with Europcar or bmi hotels, and you can no longer earn miles with Purple Parking. Spending miles on Gifts and Treats goes away June 17. No big deal, partnerships and offers change. But it’s one small step in the continuing dismantling of the once great british midland Diamond Club program.

I generally assume programs that offer truly superior value won’t last, or at least the superior offerings won’t, but I’ll enjoy them while they do.

What I don’t like — more than anything else coming from a loyalty program — is changes without notice. Members earn their perks, privileges, and benefits. There’s an offer, they do what’s necessary to meet the conditions of the offer, and there’s little more that could be disingenuous than failing to live up to that offer.

This morning’s email, though, declared bmi Diamond Club upgrade vouchers to be dead effective immediately. It’s one thing to say bmi upgrade vouchers cannot be used on British Airways. There was never a promise that they could be, even when plenty of former bmi flying is moving over to BA. But to say that bmi upgrade vouchers can’t be used on bmi, and with no notice at all…

Meanwhile, British Airways is offering current bmi elite members status matches in the BA program. Certainly BA Gold is tougher to obtain than bmi Gold, so it’s not an ungenerous offer. Now former bmi Silvers, as newly minted BA Silvers, even have lounge access on partner airlines.

But British Airways has announced they will not honor bmi lifetime elite status.

I suppose that British Airways really did think they were just buying slots at Heathrow when they acquired british midland, they weren’t especially concerned with acquiring other assets.

Lifetime bmi Gold members are likely captive to BA at this point already, or those that aren’t might not be considered valuable enough customers to alter the structure of the British Airways frequent flyer program.

Still, it’s a brutal reminder that “lifetime” status really refers at most to the lifetime of a given frequent flyer program.

And that realistically it means “until we change our minds.”

At least bmi lifetime Golds presumably retain their status with bmi at least as long as that shrinking airline is still around.

United million milers no longer get systemwide upgrades upon reaching the level, nor annual annual confirmed regional upgrades. Even though United specifically promised in October that:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. T&Cs of almost every program specifically call out that the program can change at any time. Pretty obvious that “lifetime” means lifetime of that benefit until it changes.

  2. There’s quite a bit of litigation to be found in regard to “lifetime” promises of fitness clubs and campgrounds in particular. It’s my understanding that “lifetime” in such situations refers to the “lifetime” of the company, e.g. United Airlines, or of the program, e.g. Mileage Plus.

    There’s also the matter of deceptive trade practice legislation stating that “confusing” the customer constitutes a deceptive trade practice. Color me (and a number of others) confused.

    If the current class action complaint proceeds to court at some point, it will be interesting, to say the least, to learn whether a company can promise lifetime benefits to customers and simply cancel their promises at will.

    A FlyerTalk member posted this link to the amended complaint: https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B0r6nSUMEUnLNWo0bU9SSjM1Umc/edit

  3. I can understand being pissed at United…but I don’t understand being mad regarding BMI lifetime benefits no longer being valid — BMI has come to the end of its life. BA bought the slots & (temporarily) the name “Diamond Club.” As in any other company takeover, the new owner is allowed to keep or discard whatever they please — its their whole new asset to do as they please …even if it sucks for those who had been loyal to the prior incarnation

  4. Another reason why we should be thrilled with the potential US Air takeover of AA…wonder what the headcount of that class would be?

  5. You “don’t understand being mad” Karlyn? Really?? No comprehension at all, “even if it sucks”?

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