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United Million Miler Lawsuit Cleared to Proceed

United Million Miler Lawsuit Cleared to Proceed

United Million Milers who lost some of their benefits following the United-Continental merger have reason to celebrate. A lawsuit filed against United by George Lagen of Chicago has been cleared for takeoff.

According to a Reuters report, a federal judge has ruled against United’s motion to dismiss the suit, leaving the way open for the case to proceed through the courts.

It is expected that the suit will be certified as a class action, unless there is an out-of-court settlement.

The nub of Lagen’s complaint is that United was in breach of contract when it downgraded certain benefits associated with Million Mile status. Specifically, elite bonus miles were cut from 100 to 50 percent, upgrade priority was lowered, and annual confirmed regional upgrades were discontinued.

There’s no question that the lost benefits were indeed promised, or that they were subsequently diminished. What’s at issue is whether United had the right to break what appeared to be a promise of lifetime benefits once specified conditions had been satisfied.

The judge ruled that the complaint had merit, at least. “It is undeniable that plaintiff claims he has and continues to suffer an injury based upon his lost benefits. At this stage of the litigation, the court finds it plausible that defendants had a contract with Million Miler members which differed from the contract they had with other Mileage Plus members.”

However the case is resolved, it will shine a light on a key provision of all modern loyalty programs. In United’s case, it reads as follows:

MileagePlus membership and benefits, including the Premier Program, are offered at the discretion of United Airlines and its affiliates, and United has the right to terminate the Program and/or the Premier Program or to change the Program Rules, regulations, benefits, conditions of participation or mileage levels, in whole or in part, at any time, with or without notice, even though changes may affect the value of the mileage or certificates already accumulated.

Reader Reality Check

Are you aware that the airlines reserve the right to devalue your miles and awards at any time, for any reason?

Should such an all-encompassing escape clause be legal?

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  • Landrew

    Yes I’m aware, and no I don’t like it! But it will be hard to argue that such an escape clause, clearly enumerated in the offer, is illegal; all the more so because in this case, the flyer doesn’t even pay any consideration except to pay for travel which s/he presumably already wants to undertake. It would be like any company saying “here’s free merchandise (services, extras, etc.) for being a good customer. We may not always do this, but right now we really like you.”

  • Inna Zelenkova

    What will happen to FF programm participation?They are from defferent teams: Star Allirence and Oneworld.

  • Bret J

    Read the judges comments…. Implied different contract with “lifetime benefits”. This is great news for us million milers.

  • NoelTheOne

    “the flyer doesn’t even pay any consideration except to pay for travel” … unless, of course, if those miles were purchased under programs that all the airlines do, rather than awarded in return for travel. Furthermore, the question of consideration is a lot less simple than you make it out to be. One could at least make a credible argument that FF miles are part of the package when one buys a ticket.

  • May

    I have a new job with a lot less travel, down from 100,000+ miles to under 30,000. I am burning through my stored miles with award travel. Even though I am a million miler, United has so destroyed any trust that it is irreparable.

  • Johnson

    Its funny how adchoices added an add for United Frequent Flier on this article.

  • Roger-feltersnatch

    it does amaze me that as million milers UAL management and board takes great pleasure with stomping in our faces…our benefits for this loyalty is nothing above a 1k, and seems sometimes less…