9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013
Marianne MacKenzie's US Airways miles have expired, but worse, her son's are gone too. He almost had enough points for a ticket. Is he out of luck?
Q: My 16-year-old son and I have had our US Airways miles taken away from us. He had 27,893 miles and I had 829 miles. They expired a few days ago.
I'm a single mom and recently lost my job. I've been overwhelmed and did not notice the email that warned me about the expiration of the miles.
I called US Airways, but a representative said I was too late. I've been a loyal US Airways customer for years, but didn't sign up for US Airways' loyalty program until recently.
My son almost had enough miles for an award ticket. I don't want him to lose his miles, which he was planning to use when he graduated from high school. I don't want to lose my miles, either.
US Airways says it will reinstate my miles for $150, but I can't afford it. And honestly, we've earned those miles. Can you help? -- Marianne MacKenzie, Lakewood, Colo.
A: I'm sorry to hear about your circumstances. When you called US Airways, it should have shown more compassion toward your situation and considered extending the life of your award miles.
But it didn't have to. The terms and conditions of your US Airways miles are clear: use 'em, or lose 'em. You squirreled away your points as if they were acorns, which unfortunately, they are not. Miles depreciate over time, and often expire when they aren't put to good use.
Not that they are of any use. For many leisure travelers, frequent flier miles have a negative value. What do I mean by that? Well, say your son books an award seat, and you decide to fly with him. If US Airways' flights are more expensive than those of a competitor, and if your son previously chose US Airways over another cheaper airline when he earned the miles -- which is what happens often -- then the miles effectively have a negative value. In other words, they cost more than they were worth.
By now, you already know that you could have easily avoided this by not allowing your miles to expire. All it takes is a little activity on your account, and you get to keep the points.
I think US Airways' offer to reinstate your miles for $150 was a little high -- you could probably buy the ticket you wanted for about that much. What's more, it didn't really take into account your own situation. Every decision to apply an airline's rules should factor in a passenger's personal circumstances. Unfortunately, this one didn't.
I contacted US Airways on your behalf, and it reinstated your miles.
(Christopher Elliott is the author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals" (Wiley). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at email@example.com. Christopher Elliott receives a great deal of reader mail, and though he answers them as quickly as possible, your story may not be published for several months because of a backlog of cases.)
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