Is There a Rogue Airline Employee Shutting Down Frequent Flyer Accounts Without Reason?

Last month I wrote about how airlines combat fraudulent tickets and what airlines look for to crack down on the sale of miles.

And in perhaps one of the most important posts I’ve ever written on the blog, What To Do If Your Frequent Flyer Account Gets Audited.

Selling award tickets, tricking their systems to generate miles you don’t deserve, and sometimes ‘abusing’ the programs completely within their rules can draw extra attention to your frequent flyer account.

Over the past several years American and United have probably been the most active in policing accounts. Occasionally US Airways has frozen accounts but after a month-long review period has generally been open to reasonable argument and restored miles. IHG Rewards Club has shut down tons of accounts for bonuses earned. Historically Delta’s “Revenue Protection Unit” (RPU) was very active.

Most of the time, though, programs play it pretty conservative — by the time they go after you it’s because they already have substantial evidence of wrongdoing. And they only pull the trigger on shutting down an account, or even making their investigation public, when they’ve got you dead to rights.

I’ve rarely heard stories of accounts being suspended unfairly. Whenever those stories have surfaced, initial details shared will usually point in that direction but when the whole story comes out there’s almost always the sale of miles, or some kind of fraud against the program. It’s almost universal, people share stories in the best possible light to themselves, and only with limited information. But in the end I’ve rarely seen the airline or hotel program truly in the wrong.

Until now…

I’m hearing stories of one rogue employee at a major airline, who seems to get it wrong and who won’t let go.

One of my readers who had dealt with this person, and who was getting absolutely nowhere, has escalated things with a lawyer and is now dealing with the airline’s legal department.

This reader is a multi-million miler with the airline, buys paid premium class tickets, and uses the airline’s co-brand credit card. And while there was some unusual account activity, it appears innocent, and it also doesn’t appear that the airline was hurt by it or the member benefited from it at all. The allegations made, as well, are almost incoherent. They do not make logical sense. And when rebutted, new allegations which make equally little sense surface.

I’m interested in hearing from readers who may have had a similar experience recently with a frequent flyer program. Please, be candid and honest or leave out your story if you did indeed do anything remotely against a program’s rules. I’m interested in hearing from people who really did nothing wrong and had their account suspended or closed anyway.

Please share your story!


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 InsideFlyer.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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  1. […] we're going to steer clear of this – the last thing I want is to deal with their fraud department (Is There a Rogue Airline Employee Shutting Down Frequent Flyer Accounts Without Reason? – View from …). And thankfully AA seems to have pretty good award availability on OKC-LAX so another chance to […]

Comments

  1. @jay I believe you missed the point about my earlier comment on trust, I laid out what American AAdvantage needed to do in making changes as it synced up its program with US Airways in order to be trustworthy and what it had done on April 8th wasn’t that. If they repeated April 8th they’d be completely untrustworthy.

    And comments in this post notwithstanding, I have indicated there is one employee at one airline that seems to be problematic and I was looking for other examples of that.

    Commenters have shared some of their frustrations which may or may not be in any way related.

  2. @peachfront Sorry for possibly missing the sarcasm – but are you serious? You can’t possibly see why someone would use their miles to travel with friends? You sound like the Scrooge McDuck of miles and points. Isn’t the point of all this (at least for me) to travel the world with family and friends who otherwise couldn’t afford premium cabin tickets?

  3. I would think that in most cases airlines do have an ironclad case before they shut people down.

    But it seems that their ought to be an appeal process, perhaps a sort of ombudsman, in cases where the fraud manager has abused his or her power or reach an erroneous conclusion. It might even save the airline some litigation expense.

  4. I wonder about motives. With US/AA merger, the AA revenue protection “police” might feel the need to collect more scalps to justify their continued employment at high salaries. That might require reducing prior standards for how severe an offense needs to be and how much proof is needed. It might also require increasing the severity of penalties applied.

    In a bureaucracy, job security is a much higher priority than treating the public properly.

  5. There’s always a suit that can be made if the closure is completely invented out of “whole cloth.”
    I use miles for friends all the time in international premium classes of service.
    You can file a lawsuit against an individual personally.Whether that person is protected by the corporate entity could always be an issue.

    If it were me, and I did nothing wrong, I’s spend money on a publicist. Bad publicity , when the company is truly wrong, is a nightmare.
    I’d likely file suit as a matter of principal against the company AND the individual.

    Maybe some attorneys on this blog have a better idea or can shed light on tactics to use. As I understand from DOT you can maintain a state court action for enforcement of the Federal statute, using federal laws and procedures, but I could be wrong on that.

    I ‘d spend a LOT more than the cost of the ticket, but that’s just me. I recognize others take a cost/ benefit approach because it appears to be logical, but I’m sort of like the company that defends every suit instead of settling if they are right…regardless of cost.

  6. Is there any contact information for George @ AA? I would like to discuss my account closure with him.
    I would be grateful for anyone to assist

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