Friday, January 24, 2014

'Million Miler' Lawsuit Against UA: Judge Issues Summary Judgment In United's Favor

We wrote about this case nearly one year ago. As legacy United Million Mile Flyers, the title United bestowed prior to its merger with Continental Airlines on those flying one million 'Butt-In-Seat' miles on United 'metal'  (planes), we have followed the developments in this case, or lack thereof, with interest.

We did so because United changed and in some cases removed benefits that it had previously claimed would be our 'lifetime benefits.' In fact, in announcing the changes on FlyerTalk, a company representative wrote 'Here are the new lifetime benefits...', which sounds a lot to us like 'Forget about our previous promises because we have some new promises to make to you.'

We were disappointed to learn that the presiding judge issued a summary judgment in UA's favor yesterday.

For many years since deregulation, airlines have been exempt from state laws, including those covering false advertising.

As far as we can tell, the plaintiff's main argument in this case didn't center on the statements UA made to us regarding 'lifetime benefits;' rather, the claim was that the 'Million Miler Program,' as the post-merger UA now describes it, was something of a separate program from the airline's mileage program and thus the terms and conditions that UA advertises as being final did not apply.

That argument failed and we infer from this that an airline can make virtually any claim, commitment, or promise to customers, yet change it at any time with impunity.

Gary Leff, one of the best known travel bloggers, wrote about the decision as follows in his View from the Wing blog:

United Lies to its Elites

United’s “My Fingers Were Crossed” Defense Succeeds in Court: The lawsuit by United’s million milers over program changes has been dismissed. There was not really a dispute that United devalued the benefits offered to its million mile customers, even almost immediately after they promised not to do so. But United hadn’t promised not to break its promises, so its customers can’t sustain their suit.
 Caveat Emptor, to say the least.

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