There is a very important lesson, that’s easy to forget sometimes. Your frequent flyer program is lying to you (although some lie more than others). There’s no purity here, so the offenses are all relative and need to be kept in perspective.
Still, United coming right out and saying that they don’t keep their promises and don’t need to should be galling.
Despite explicitly promising in late 2011 not to take away benefits or confirmed upgrades from million mile flyers, United did exactly that in early 2012.
A lawsuit was filed for breach of contract, with one suggesting being that the million miler program was separate and apart from MileagePlus itself and the latter’s claim that members have no rights and United could do whatever it wished wasn’t a get out of jail free card.
Back in January of this year United’s “our fingers were crossed” defense succeeded, the lawsuit was dismissed, with a Court holding that United couldn’t be kept to its promises.
The dismissal was appealed, and Wandering Aramean summarizes the proceeding.
Under any claim against United, a Court can’t read state contract rules into the dispute (such as a covenant of good faith and fair dealing) under Northwest vs. Ginsberg. United basically says that they can do whatever they wish, ending the lifetime status program whenever they wish. United’s position is that the consumer remedy is to complain to the DOT, which doesn’t regulate frequent flyer programs.
Lifetime means lifetime ‘unless we change our mind’:
Judge Hamilton: To understand the difference between lifetime and fingers crossed? That lifetime doesn’t mean lifetime?
United: That lifetime means lifetime unless…
Judge Wood: Unless we change our mind.
Judge Hamilton: Unless we change our mind.
United: Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s the case.
I did love seeing what I dubbed back in January as United’s “but our fingers were crossed” defense showing up at oral argument! That’s a great way to capture United’s unfair behavior and their legal position, I think.
Judge Wood makes this important point more broadly:
I feel as though maybe they should say “Don’t rely on anything we say at the top of every page” and people would probably be well advised to probably take that thought.
Put another way, they should just stick this at the top of every page of United.com.
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