Reader Question: Email From United MileagePlus Corporate Security?

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A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me an email regarding an issue with United Airlines MileagePlus Corporate Security that blames the reader for violating their Contract of Carriage.

reader-question-email-from-united-mileageplus-corporate-security

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Here’s the email from the reader:

I received this email from United Airlines, and am not sure what to do about it. I’m 1k with them, and one of the benefits for 1k is being able to make award reservations and cancel and redeposit the award with no penalty.

I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong by making multiple reservations and then canceling them when I learned when I’d be able to travel (work schedule is highly unpredictable). Any advice on how to handle this with United so I don’t lose all my miles, bookings, and status? Any advice would be much appreciated.

Here’s the email from the United:

It has come to United Airlines’ attention that on multiple occasions over the last two years, you have violated the Contract of Carriage, by making multiple award reservations on consecutive days on flights to the same destination noting several recent examples below:

United’s Contract of Carriage, page 10 Rule 5H,

H) UA reserves the right to cancel bookings and/or reservations which it deems abusive, illogical, fictitious, which are booked and/or reserved with no intention of flying, or for which the passenger makes a misrepresentation without notice to the passenger.

Record Locator Orig Dest Travel Date
XXX IAD DTW 12/18/16
XXX IAD DTW 12/19/16
XXX IAD DTW 12/20/16
XXX IAD DTW 12/20/16
XXX IAD DTW 12/21/16
XXX IAD DTW 12/22/16
XXX IAD DTW 12/23/16
XXX IAD DTW 12/23/16

United’s MileagePlus general conditions section 2 states:

2. Participation in the MileagePlus Program (the “Program”) is subject to any terms and conditions, rules, regulations, policies and procedures (“Program Rules”) that United may, at its discretion, adopt from time to time. United has the sole right to interpret and apply the Program Rules. Any failure to follow Program Rules, United’s contract of carriage, United’s fare rules, any abuse of Program privileges, any violation of law, rule or regulation, any conduct detrimental to the interests of United, any fraudulent activity or attempted fraudulent activity, or any misrepresentation of any information furnished to United or its affiliates by any member, or anyone else acting on the member’s behalf, may result in the termination by United of such member’s membership, the loss or cancellation of accrued mileage, certificates, awards or benefits, or both, or the loss of other Program benefits. Terminated members shall not be eligible to participate in any aspect of the Program, and members whose accounts have been terminated shall not be eligible to enroll with new accounts.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.  We sincerely hope that no further action will be necessary.

United Airlines here is not closing the reader’s Mileage Plus account but merely pointing that they don’t like the behavior that may lead to adverse action if it continues.

Airlines including United often overbook flights using historical data knowing that someone will miss their flights, simply won’t show up whether nonrefundable or not, or for any other reason.

One of the benefits being a 1K member with United is that one can redeposit and cancel awards without fees.

It is difficult to draw a line where one would intentionally book flights knowing that she/he would not take them. Here the reader booked several flights on subsequent days because wasn’t sure about of her schedule. Nothing wrong with that.

I don’t see why the reader should respond to the email received from United or could just email what was emailed to me.

Conclusion

It would be better if United Airlines would spend the money to fix its systems so that upgrades wouldn’t be denied due to “technical issues” (read more here) than going after 1K members that have made several award bookings.

I can see why United Airlines wouldn’t like behavior such as this. They should, however, clearly communicate what is acceptable and what is not.

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  • sam

    The letter writer actually makes United’s case for them to some extent. The privilege here is to have the mileage redeposit fee waved, not to be able to hold multiple award tickets on the same route for every day of the week until he or she makes up their mind when or if to travel.

    This hurts us all by taking up award inventory that we might want to use.

    I’m loath to agree with the airlines, but what this person is doing is not in the spirit of a loyalty program and United is right to put a stop to it, and protecting the rest of us by doing so. They are also within their legal right to do so. I agree there is no need to respond to United’s message, just stop doing this and the matter is resolved.

    I have this same benefit with American. I’m not saying that occasionally having a back up reservation on miles is over the line. I did this to get home form Europe during the last years LH strikes. The reason, I think, there is not solid rule on whats ok and whats not is that it all comes down reasonableness. As a member of the “top tier” frequent flyer club, this is unreasonable use of the system to me. I’m curious to know what others think.

    • Ben

      I completely agree: the benefit there is there to allow someone to cancel an award they planned to take without penalty. It is NOT for someone to make 8 separate bookings and then pick one to actually take.

      Making a back up reservation is a murky grey area, and when I do that it is usually on two separate airlines to avoid issues like this.

  • Vincent Verbist

    Hi John, the ‘read more here’ at the end doesn’t link to anything.

  • J

    Seven consecutive days on 8 separate PNRs. Definitely unreasonable use of the system for sure.

  • cscasi

    I definitely side with United on this. He is taking inventory out on several days at a time doing this. Granted, he will eventually settle on one of those days. But, having to change these holds and redeposit miles to his account time after time, does take time and effort; albeit mostly done by computer.
    I would definitely be mad were I trying to use my miles on a route this person had blocked a seat for several days running and no more seats were available. Just my opinion.

  • nostresshere

    To ask them to make it CLEAR is only asking for more rules that people do not want. As to this case, it is abusive. They have taken up a weeks worth of award inventory from others. One or two extra – maybe – but this is wrong.

  • Gary

    Good post, John. I do not believe that this reader should be surprised by United’s reaction here. From a community perspective, she is preventing others to access those often hard to find good reward seats until she decides to release the ones she doesn’t want. Judgement goes to United.

  • as

    Look at the dates…was this guy trying to play the “bump game”? I’m not feeling too sorry for him.

  • David

    By booking multiple awards, this person is removing both award and upgrade inventory from being used by other MP members so I think UA has every right to warn him, if not actually shut his account down for abuse. I’ve often found myself having to cancel award bookings that have been made many months in advance but inevitably been unable to use due to work or family commitments that arose. But I’ve never block booked awards as this fellow has with the intent to cancel most of them, abusing the free cancel/redeposit benefit of my elite status. As for the conclusion above, I think it’s rather clear what’s common sense.

  • Nevsky2

    Although the number of reservations does seem excessive, a related issue is how far out the reservations were made. If it were, perhaps, three or more months before departure date and then all of most of the extra reservations were then cancelled within a short period of time (such as when fine-tuning one’s plans), it might be more reasonable. If this were a month or less before departure, it is a bigger issue.

  • DepartureLevel

    “It is difficult to draw a line where one would intentionally book flights knowing that she/he would not take them. Here the reader booked several flights on subsequent days because wasn’t sure about of her schedule. Nothing wrong with that.”
    ———————
    There is everything wrong with that. Why this passenger is even asking for “advice” is beyond me. Does it take a genius to figure out that he is tying up inventory that others could be looking for ?…..especially pre-holiday travel dates. He’s not looking for advice, he’s looking for sympathetic ears to agree with him and make it right. Passengers like this are why everyone is penalized in many ways.

  • Paul

    In my opinion it appears the reader was abusing the system by taking up all the inventory on eight flights with the intention of only flying one of them. I think United is generous with just a warning.

  • scubaccr

    completely selfish attitude and outright abuse of the generous award miles efree redeposit benefit. OP has definitely booked flights they never intend to travel.
    I have seen where a coleague booked both a Friday noon+afternoon award because not knowing when they would get away from a meeting/conference, which is just about ok…. but to book+hold a whole week, especially busy xmas week is totally selfish, and impacts others needing awards
    OP is totally unrealistically looking for support from other elites. This kind of abuse, and it is outright abuse” of the benefit is what causes such benefits to be withdrawn. OP is lucky it was only a warning email, and not cancelation/loss of either/both of is Status/Banked-Miles