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As I’m usually more than happy to call out airlines when they’re acting poorly (or like imbeciles) it’s only fair that I give credit where credit is due when an airline does something well. In that spirit, I’d like to point out how helpful the agents at AAdvantage customer services were when I caused a minor issue for myself that need never have arisen.
In the first quarter of this year, American Airlines introduced a new version of its AAdvantage loyalty program and as part of that significant move, the airline started to eliminate its 500-mile upgrade certificates.
These certificates were eliminated completely at the beginning of July and all earned upgrades were converted into American’s new ‘Loyalty Points’.
Here’s part of the text from an email AAdvantage sent out:
Additionally, AAdvantage elite members who had purchased 500-mile upgrades and who still had those upgrades sitting in their accounts were given more options if they asked (this wasn’t publicized):
- Convert the certificates to Loyalty Points;
- Convert the certificates to AAdvantage Miles;
- Convert the certificates to a travel voucher;
- A cash refund equal to the amount paid for the upgrade certificates
While this was going on and while American Airlines was letting AAdvantage members know what their options were (if they had more than one option), I wasn’t really paying attention and I failed to read the emails that were being sent out (I put this down to apathy born out of the large volume of emails that I see from American Airlines every month). That was dumb.
What didn’t help the situation was that after missing all the communications in July, I then spent all of August up a mountain with hardly any access to a working phone (let alone the internet) and so didn’t see any of the discussions surrounding the 500-mile upgrades on the other Boarding Area blogs.
I was completely unaware that as someone with no interest in Loyalty Points and with 10 purchased 500-mile upgrades sitting in my account, there was something that I should be doing.
Fast forward to September (when I was reconnected with the modern world) and I soon found out just how foolish I had been. My 500-mile upgrades had long been converted to utterly useless Loyalty Points and I had no one to blame but myself.
At this point, I had nothing to lose so I contacted AAdvantage to see if anything could be done and a very helpful phone agent said that she’d escalate my question/request and that someone would get back to me.
I wasn’t feeling hopeful but to my amazement, this email dropped into my inbox within a couple of days:
Even a cynic like me has to admit that this was excellent customer service.
It didn’t take me long to choose the 50,000 AAdvantage miles as my preference (I’ll explain why in a moment) and within 72 hours of replying to the email from AAdvantage, the miles were in my account.
Not only were the miles in my account, but I got a very good deal too.
All 10 of these upgrades had been purchased using the $200 annual airline fee credit that the Platinum Card from American Express offers (terms apply and enrollment is required) and they had cost me $400 in total (two years’ worth of airline fee credits).
I was never going to choose a travel voucher (because vouchers come with an expiry date) and while the $400 cash refund would have been a clean way to get my money back, I quickly worked out that if I chose the AAdvantage miles, I would effectively be buying miles at just 0.8 cents each.
As that’s a rate at which I’d happily buy as many miles as American Airlines wants to sell me (and that I could afford!), choosing the 50,000 AAdvantage miles as my option was an easy decision to make.
To say that I was pleasantly surprised by the service I received would be a big understatement and I’m genuinely very grateful to the AAdvantage agents who bailed me out of a mess (albeit a very minor one) of my own making.
Yes, the world wouldn’t have ended if I had been left holding on to some Loyalty Points that have zero value to me, but as someone who is pretty passionate about making the most of the miles and points world, the knowledge that my own laziness and stupidity had cost me $400 or, worse yet, 50,000 miles, would have annoyed me for quite some time. It was a close call 😁.
Only elites had the option to convert the upgrades to anything other than LP. And even then, only if they asked. It wasn’t advertised.
Edited to reflect this, thanks.
I’m no longer an AA Elite. I had 35 PAID upgrades in my account and 50 “free” upgrades. (They were impossible to use) I have my OneWorld status through another airline so I’m not missing by bypassing AA status. loyalty Points are useless.
I wrote to AA and asked for this deal . They told me to pound sand. I wrote again and they told me to pound sand again. I pulled some old purchase transactions and they show up with a ticket number. I filed a DOT complaint and said these were , in effect, cancelled tickets that were subject to DOT rules regarding cancelled tickets. (i.e refunds required)
A week later, AA offered to refund them or turn them in AA points. Don’t be fooled, AA only does what they are required to do.
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