United responds to “lifetime” benefits lawsuit


Sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly. In other cases things can progress quite quickly. In the case of a United Airlines MileagePlus member seeking compensation over changes to the Million Miler program, things seem to be moving surprisingly quickly (yes, 2 months for a reply is pretty quick). United filed a response to the case last week.

The United response is not particularly surprising; they’ve asked for the case to be dismissed for a variety of reasons. The filing suggests that the airline is free to change the terms of the program because the T&Cs of the program allow them to do so. It also claims that the Airline Deregulation Act preempts all the claims made. Most notably, however, is the first claim they make: The claimant has no actual damages.

First, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Because plaintiff has not alleged that he suffered any injury in fact, he lacks standing to bring the claims he has alleged. Plaintiff merely alleges that supposedly improper changes have been made that impact his status as a member of United’s frequent flyer program, called MileagePlus. But he does not allege that this changed status has injured him in any way. Absent an injury in fact, plaintiff has no standing to bring suit.

Whoopsie.

The other thing which came out of the filing, something that is way more entertaining to me, was that United filed copies of the Mileage Plus program brochures from 1993 and 2006. The 1993 one is a great look back at the history of the program. It mentions partnerships with Ansett Australia, Alitalia, Aloha, Air France, KLM, Sabena and Iberia and also notes the routes from those carriers available for award redemptions. Seeing things like Miami to Guatemala City on Iberia is a lot of fun.

The other interesting bit is tracking the rate of change for award travel. North America to Europe used to be priced at 40/75/100K. Today it is 60/100/140K. Asia and the South Pacific used to be 50/75/100K. Today the rates vary but they are at least 20-40% higher. Given that those rates are nearly 20 years old I’m actually rather surprised there hasn’t been more inflation, especially given the increase in earning rates.

Obviously this claim for dismissal isn’t necessarily the last straw in the case. Maybe United gets lucky and this gets tossed out. Or maybe the case plods on. We’ll see soon enough, I suppose.

Thanks to the Colonel for grabbing the filings from Pacer and sharing them.

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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.

6 Comments

  1. I think that it will be the planiff will be the lucky one if this gets thrown out. I don’t envision him getting anything from United and the longer it goes on the more time/money he spends for nothing.

  2. “Finally, Lagen complains that all MileagePlus members can now more easily attain Million Mile flyer status due to the recent program changes (id. ¶ 28), putting Lagen in the curious position of bringing a consumer class action by arguing that United has made the program more consumer friendly.”

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