These miles got lost in the merger … or did they?

Since the American Airlines-US Airways merger, many travelers have been holding their breath waiting to feel the effects of the complexities of merging two legacy carriers.

Lucjan Zlotnicki and his wife are feeling the brunt of those complexities now.

On March 24, 2015, American Airlines and US Airways merged their frequent flier programs and presented accounting of miles to loyal fliers. On March 27, Zlotnicki signed into his account and saw a balance of 2,485,649 program-to-date miles. However, on or around April 1, he was granted just 1 Million Miler status (as opposed to 2 Million Miler), and the balance dropped to 1,154,869 miles.

What happened to the missing 1.3 million miles?

Zlotnicki did his own digging into the mysterious situation before reaching out for help. He found that airline policy dictated that all miles earned prior to December 2011 would count towards the total number of merged miles, no matter how they were earned. This includes credit card purchases, flights, and bonuses. After December 2011, only miles earned by flying would count.

Zlotnicki is quick to point out that the majority of his miles were earned by flight prior to December 2011. To be rejected, the missing 1.3 million miles would need to have been charged to a credit card between December 2011 and March 2015. In his own words, “this would require me to have a lot of money — which I do not have.”

Unfortunately, that’s about as far as he got.

He ran into roadblocks at every turn when trying to inquire as to the discrepancy with American Airlines. He says he spent countless hours on the phone, even requesting copies of written rules about the program merger, to no avail. All he was able to uncover was the breakdown of his remaining balance — 888,882 miles from US Airways and 265,987 miles from American Airlines.

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After three months of trying to get a straight answer, Zlotnicki was informed by American Airlines that a “specialist” (to whom he was never allowed to speak directly) determined the rejected miles were earned prior to December 2011 on the US Airways program.

What?

He asked to see a written explanation of why these miles were rejected.

Nada.

Furthermore, Zlotnicki’s wife had more than 2.3 million miles from US Airways, of which approximately 2 million were earned prior to December 2011. She was granted 2 Million Miler status by American Airlines when the programs combined on March 24, 2015 — complete with the associated benefits, like four one-way system-wide upgrades. However, just like her husband, on or around April 1 her status was changed, the benefits were gone, and she was back to 1 Million Miler status.

What the heck is going on here?

The best “explanation” the Zlotnickis have received is that their miles were earned on US Airways. But that’s not good enough. As Zlotnicki lamented to us, “Every description I have ever read led me to believe that they would treat US Airways miles as if they were American Airlines miles for the purpose of lifetime status.”

We’ve written before about the issues associated with loyalty programs and lifetime miles. A quick search to see whether others have run into situations similar to the Zlotnicki’s shows that some fliers lost their US Airways miles because they hadn’t flown in the last 18 months — and so the account was considered dormant.

We’re not sure when the Zlotnickis last flew with US Airways, but it shouldn’t matter. They are rightfully upset. The couple is approaching retirement and would like to enjoy the benefits they earned after a lifetime of loyalty to US Airways and American Airlines.

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Mr. Zlotnicki summed it up best:

Anyone can make an error. Maybe American Airlines realized that they had misinformed the public about the merger of the programs since 2012 (with the added benefit of keeping customers from moving to the competition by promising benefits…) and in April 2015 quietly tried to rectify their mistake. Are they really afraid that promised benefits (the majority of which never get monetized) are more valuable to them than keeping loyal customers happy? What differentiates good customer relations from bad?

I would like my 2.4 million miles recognized in 2 Million Miler status, and I would like my wife to get her four systemwide upgrades that she was already given and which were taken away without any explanation or apology.

Is my dream frivolous compared to other $400 complaints? I think not.

Should we help the Zlotnickis get to the bottom of their missing miles mystery?

Should we advocate for the Zlotnickis?

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Heather Dratler

Lover of all things travel and hospitality, both from a personal and professional standpoint. A PR pro by day, I've represented a wide variety of clients in the travel industry since 2008. Sharing my passion for and knowledge of travel makes me happy. Cornell University graduate. Follow me on Twitter @HeatherLori7.

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