American Airlines Decreases Frequent Flyer Lifespan To 18 Months

Effective December 15, 2007, American Airlines frequent flyer miles will now expire after 18 months of inactivity, down from three years. Your account will get reset, at that point, If you haven’t nudged your account since Jun 15, 2006. Apparently, whatever one airline does, either up or down, others follow suit. United and US Airway also recently introduced 18 month frequent flyer lifespans. — BEN POPKEN

Downgrades: American Airlines miles will expire after 18 months on inactivity [Upgrade: Travel Better]

(Photo: ChrisI1024)

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  1. timmus says:

    I saw a Digg “bubbling under” story about this, and went and logged on and found that my 58,000 miles expired in December 2005. I didn’t even know it. Dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit.

  2. Quattuor says:

    Erm, is the headline wrong, or am I just tired?

    Shouldn’t the headline read “Decreases… from Three Years to 18 Months” or something to that effect?

  3. TPIRman says:

    @Quattuor: You are correct, sir. Chalk it up to Ben being (forgivably!) loopy from final exams.

  4. Buran says:

    This is why I use Southwest… there is a time limit on their points as well but it’s much less confusing.

    I’m about to go over the requirement for free roundtrip ticket #2 next week.

  5. saram says:

    I’m with you, timmus. Crap crap crap crap. I don’t rack them up fast enough to spend them in that time frame. I guess its time to start usin’ em before losin’ em. Err . . . rackin’ em to stack em . . .

    Ok, it’s finals week for me too.

  6. yg17 says:

    crap. I’m lucky if I fly once every 2 years. Oh well, I only have like 800 miles right now anyways. How many do you need for a free ticket? Like 246 billion or something?

  7. Naval Patel says:

    I’m going to assume that there is at least someone reading this that gains a majority of their AAdvantage miles through a Citi AAdvantage card. For those in such a position, let me recommend the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card. You earn 1 point for every dollar and those points can be converted to miles of various airlines including American. If you convert 20,000, you get a bonus of 5,000. Also, these don’t expire and are much more versatile.

  8. Killian says:

    Considering how broke airlines claim to be these days, it’s a wonder they offer any incentives at all.

  9. EtherealStrife says:

    I read the title as referring to the lifespan of their frequent flyers.

    False advertising!

  10. Dear customer:

    SCREW YOU.

    Sincerely.

    The Airlines.

    P.S. Next time, pay more attention to us.

  11. formergr says:

    I don’t know AA’s rules, but even though United tightened up to 18 months, they have a very very loose interpretation of “inactivity”. To keep you account “active” you can do as little as using 50 miles to buy flowers or a magazine subscription.

    I don’t think that’s too unreasonable every 18 months; at least they are not requiring you to fly every 18 months, or worse expiring your actual miles after only 18 months. In fact the miles are good for forever as long as you keep your actual account active (though they lose value over the years due to inflation and general ff program crappiness, so best to use them sooner rather than later).

  12. Hawkins says:

    Nobody hates the airlines more than me. In fact, I’m willing to fight anybody who claims to hate the airlines more than me.

    But here’s what I imagine they’re thinking:

    We have two kinds of customers:

    1. Business people, whom we can often ream for ridiculous fares, plus they fly all the time. We love these people.

    2. Everybody else. We really don’t give a shit about these people.

    Anybody that doesn’t fly with us at least once every year and a half falls into category 2. To hell with them. We’ll give their miles, in effect, to the category 1 people.

    Makes sense.

  13. Harlan says:

    formergr is right. I don’t think their new policy is unreasonably onerous. Here’s the text from their email sent out to members:

    Mileage Redemption Opportunities

    * Redeem miles for award travel to over 800 destinations worldwide
    * Redeem miles for hotel stays, car rentals, magazines or merchandise
    * Donate at least 250 miles to an eligible charity

    Any of these mileage earning or redeeming activities will retain the miles in your account for another 18 months.

  14. cabinaero says:

    What formegr said. 18 months is a decent window for what is a Frequent Flyer program. Yeah it sucks for Joe-fly-1500-miles-every-other-year, but the program really was never structured for them anyway. Most of the general flying public is going to save more money (long-term) by booking the cheapeast flight possible, not banking scrip for 3-4 years in the hopes of booking a single, free domestic ticket.

    FWIW, the airlines are doing this with good reason. Outstanding frequent flyer miles need to be counted (in some form) as an outstanding liability in their financials.

  15. TWinter says:

    I suspect this really is a good way to reduce costs for the airlines. There are probably more inactive than active ff accounts out there, and maintaining all of those accounts, esp. the ones that are still getting paper statements, does cost them money.

  16. Pelagius says:

    Apparently part of Delta’s restructuring plan included massive award points inflation. We just dumped all 50,000 miles in our account for a puddle jumper from DC to Atlanta – which will probably just end up getting cancelled or delayed overnight.

  17. Walkallovaya says:

    Consider all of the petty ways to earn points. I just signed up with Points.com and earned 100 free AA miles. It’s going to save my 11,200 miles until I can figure if the best use of them is to save up for a flight or do something else.

    Reminder: If you have truly useless miles, donate them to Make-a-Wish before they expire!

    Thanks for the story, my last activity was 8/21/04 so I just barely saved my account from falling off the cliff.

  18. rlee says:

    @npatel: That’s me to a T. And my company wants us to use the corporate AmEx for travel and other expenses; if they start actually enforcing that, I’ll consider meeting the letter of that law with a Starwood or “Citi Select / Aadvantage” AmEx instead.

  19. MeOhMy says:

    The headline is quite correct. In order to combat overcrowded flying conditions, those that abuse the system by lying too frequently will be “grounded” 18 months after exceeding the points limit.

    And by “grounded” we mean “buried in the ground.”
    Right next to the passengers’ bill of rights.
    Suckers.

  20. MeOhMy says:

    FLYING to frequently.
    But frequent liars will also be treated with equal respect.

  21. spinachdip says:

    Now, I have a Citi AAdvantage card. Am I correct in understanding that a purchase made with the card counts as a mileage earning activity and my 18-month clock resets every time I use the card?

  22. FatLynn says:

    @spinachdip: Yes, you are correct.

    I suspect the ultimate goal here is actually to make more people sign up for the credit cards.

  23. Myron says:

    I flew American Airlines Sunday night. It was raining on the east coast so of course the flight was 3 hours late. I understand that the airline business is hard and to make a profit the airlines had to cut out the expense of a 1/8 ounce bag of pretzles from my $250 ticket. But under unusual conditions, like when its raining and the whole gerry-rigged system shits the bed, maybe the airline could give me a 5 cent bag of pretzles just to say “hey, we’re not sorry but we feel your pain.”

  24. james275 says:

    United – same thing.

    They sent me one of those “order magazines with your miles before they expire” letters. I called – my United miles will expire after 18 months of not flying with the airlines.

  25. dohtem says:

    I dont think Northwestern has followed suit. Have they?

    I have nearly 30,000 miles with them. Don’t want to lose that.

  26. cabinaero says:

    dohtem – I presume you mean Northwest, not Northwestern. NWA miles don’t technically expire but the T&C lets them close your account if you don’t have any activity in a 36 month period.

  27. Android8675 says:

    I don’t fly that often, but I always fly AA because I got my FF#, I can put it in and know my milage will be there. I don’t even want to look, can’t remember the last time I took a flight.

    I guess I’ll have to start flying Jetblue and SW now. What a waste. My family has flown AA for as long as I can remember. We used to custom order our meals all the time (back when they had food on planes), we’d be munching out on Big Macs while everyone else was eating, whatever.