Lawsuit filed over United’s “lifetime” elite benefits

I suppose it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. A customer upset with the changes to the MileagePlus lifetime elite program has filed a lawsuit seeking financial damages as a result of those changes. The filing, in the Eastern Division of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, is seeking class action status on behalf "thousands of others" who are also affected by the changes in the program.

The actual filing can be read here.

I understand the frustration with change. I can even understand to some extent the desire to seek restitution for supposed damages incurred. At the same time, however, reading the claims makes me wonder just what version of reality the plaintiff is living in. Here are a few choice excerpts:

14. The second to top tier in the Mileage Plus Program was the Million Miler
status (sometimes referred to as the “Million Miler Program”).  To obtain this status, a
United customer needed to actually fly one million or more miles on United flights only. 
In other words, unlike programs today, one could not reach the Million Miler status
through any non-flying means, such as an airline credit card, or by flying on any other
“partner” or “code share” airline.
15. The Million Miler Program was not simply a gimmick or give-away product
under which United could change the rules any time it wanted.  It was a bargained-for
program whereby consideration was given – and taken – by both United and the Million
Miler members.

17. The lifetime benefits Million Miler members paid consideration for included:
a. A one-time award of three system-wide upgrades;
b. Two free regional upgrades every year;
c. A 100% bonus on the miles the customer flies every year; and
d. Lifetime Premier Executive status  in United’s Mileage Plus program,
providing extra benefits and priorities such as booking availability,
pre-boarding advantages, upgrade possibilities, and seating priority.

Here’s the thing: The definition of what the program was (¶ 14) is wrong. So are the defined benefits as listed in ¶ 17. And, despite the willingness to believe otherwise, the suggestion in ¶ 16 that it was not possible for the company to change the program, that explicit detail was actually granted to the company in the T&Cs of the program and it has been since the inception of the program.

The claims are interesting, to be sure. But they seem to be lacking in a certain amount of fact that is usually required to win a judgment. It seems a lot more like the suit filed claiming that it was illegal to only accept credit cards on board, a claim that was summarily dismissed, than a proper claim to me. Then again, I’m not a judge in the US District Court in Illinois, so clearly my opinion doesn’t really matter.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. What a croc of Batman. I guess some people are just over-entitled!

  2. Might there be merit to a lawsuit about MM? Yes.
    Does this merit anything? Maybe a frivolous lawsuit fine.
    My first thought when reading this was that it was written by a ten year old, it’s just so poorly written.

  3. T&C only cover a company so far, UA specifically said these were lifetime benefits, not benefits for as long as the program was in place. Also the post on FT where the question was asked and answered with these benefits are for life.

    That said, an FT’r would have been better starting the loss suit or talking to the attorneys to get the complaint amended so that it is correctly worded. Just because the T&C say they can amend at any time, there are still some rules they have to follow.

  4. Incidentally, the Continental in-flight credit card only suit was filed by someone we know here in town. I always thought it was a bit crazy, though we refrained from mentioning that around here…

    1. There is nothing to join yet as the suit will first need to be certified as class-action by a judge. Once that happens, I’m sure information will be forthcoming.

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