Senator Wants Investigation Of Frequent Flyer Programs

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is calling for a probe of frequent flyer programs to determine whether they deliver the value that they promise. In particular, he wants the Department of Transportation to look into the issue of evaporating miles, a relatively new phenomenon brought introduced via expiration dates in recent years.

“As the holiday travel season approaches, we cannot let airlines and credit card companies continue to fly off with hard-earned frequent flier miles,” Schumer said in an announcement scheduled for Sunday. “When a consumer accumulates valuable frequent flier miles, they should not have to constantly worry that they are going to expire with little or no notification from the airline.”

[...]

Frequent flier model programs began 20 years ago, most with no expiration dates for the benefits. In the last decade, airlines have created three-year windows for consumers to use the miles, Schumer said.

The Air Transport Group, a industry trade group, defended its member companies by pointing out that “the system hasn’t been targeted by regulators.” Well, yeah. That’s probably why Senator Schumer is raising the issue.

“It’s time to probe frequent-flier accounts, senator says” [USA Today]
(Photo: Kossy@FINEDAYS)

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  1. ecwis says:

    This is clearly the most important issue for Congress to address.

    While it’s annoying that they expire after t3 years of non-use, it kind of makes sense since they’re called Frequent Flyer Miles.

    • working class Zer0 says:

      @ecwis: Doesn’t Senator Chuck U. Schumer have bigger fish to fry?

      If the airlines changed their policy and customers don’t like it, they should protest. Why is congress involved?

    • Rachacha says:

      @ecwis: Hey come-on, don’t forget Baseball…Congress wasted awhole week debating the use of steroids by baseball players a couple of years ago.

      • TouchMyMonkey says:

        @Rachacha: There’s actually a pretty important, but underlying, labor issue associated with this. Namely, should players be compelled to take steroids in order to remain competitive because Big Mac and Sammy Sosa were taking them and MLB tolerated it? Well, should they? Would you knowingly take something or do something to yourself that’s bad for you just to keep your job?

  2. crabbygeek says:

    Finally our tax dollars focusing on a worth while issue!

  3. jdmba says:

    American Airlines mastercard will refresh that 3 year window with every charge. For those who want to respond about there being an annual fee, then American dining (which is free and links to any credit card) will post miles to your american airlines account after each dine, which will ALSO refresh that 3 year window.

  4. VidaBlueBalls says:

    Yup, this is priority No. 1. Passengers’ Bill of Rights, arbitrary fees, bumped passenger compensation, drunk pilots, and loss of flight ammenities are all way, way, way below Frequent Flyer Miles on the list of things airlines do to irritate consumers. Thanks Chuck, when you’re done with this perhaps you and Arlen Specter can champion more steroids hearings instead of working on health care.

  5. wjamny says:

    Great job Chuck – cherry pick a non-important issue to get yourself in the news. Just more proof that all of these multi-term incumbants need a reality check and need to be voted out of office.

  6. FatLynn says:

    There are many ways to keep your FF miles active other than actually flying. They are a reward, not something the airlines are mandated to give, and Schumer should worry about bigger issues.

  7. ben says:

    As long as the airlines are disclosing their policies, then I really see no reason for Congress to be involved in this at all. Frequent Flyer programs are a perk that airlines provide. If someone doesn’t like the way one airline runs their program, they’re free to use a different airline.

    • friday3 says:

      BUT, the airlines change the rules on your past miles. It is like telling somebody they would be rewarded fortheir work at a rate of $10 per hour, then AFTER you did the work telling them, we will be rewarding you only if you continue to work for us at least once every three years. Otherwise we are taking away that reward

  8. bhr says:

    Shouldnt they be treated about the same as grocery store promotions and coupon books? They are an add-on to the service provided, and they can pretty much make their own rules as they go. As long as they aren’t changing them without notice why should I care?

    (To be fair, I never have enough miles to get squat, I fly as little as possible, and never stick with a preferred carrier).

  9. stopNgoBeau says:

    Dear Senator Schumer, find something better to do with your time.

    • magic8ball says:

      @stopNgoBeau: As many people have already noted, such issues might include the Passengers’ Bill of Rights, or the numerous and outrageous fees the airlines charge, which make it difficult to comparison shop and also allow the airlines to avoid paying taxes on what is essentially a fare increase by another name.

  10. swearint says:

    Personally, I don’t find frequent flyer miles all that useful and mostly a pain in the backside. Well at least on American Airlines. The last time I used any flier miles, the only eligible flight was at 6:00 am, meaning I had to get up around 4:00 am to make the flight. Anyways, about 30 minutes into the flight, there was a mechanical issue and we had to return to the airport. They were able to put all the passengers onto the 8:00 am scheduled flight. So if the 8:00 am flight was so empty, why could I not have used my miles for that flight?

  11. Scamazon says:

    Frequent flier miles have been bitten by the shrink ray. American airlines have cut most of their low mile 35k seats and push 70k mile seats which are always available. So roughly they have doubled the miles required for a flight…

  12. eaglearcher says:

    This happened to me. I had about 100,000 miles with United Airlines. I used to fly international a lot. A couple of months ago, it went poofed. They did give me a warning about 3 months in advance that I need to use it, or else they’re gone. But I seriously don’t have any thing I want to spend it on. So, it poofed.

  13. BIim says:

    The airline should be able to handle their frequent flyer miles however they want. It sounds like he’s upset that he didn’t get to use a few of his miles before they expired.

  14. RogueWarrior says:

    Oh sure, the moron won’t set up a lottery for departure times at NYC airports so the traffic doesn’t suck but he’s got to screw people over for the frequent flyer miles. That’s what will happen. Congress tells a company or industry to do something but they don’t bend over and take it up the a$$. They just pass the cost on to the consumer who can’t pass it on to anyone else. In this case, they’ll just sh*tcan the whole frequent flyer program. Thanks a bunch, (up)Chuck.

  15. econobiker says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: Or one of Schumer’s extended family, for whom he can’t wraggle a seat on a gov’t jet, complained to him about this horrific problem of expiring frequent flyer miles…

  16. RedwoodFlyer says:

    @Rachacha: They actually do have cash value – AA, for example, makes well over $100 million selling miles each year

  17. bhr says:

    @HurtsSoGood: hahahaha

  18. nybiker says:

    +1.