Does United Airlines Set Higher Redemption Rates For Customers With More Reward Miles?

One might think that the more loyal a customer is, the more likely it’d be for a company to roll out the red carpet treatment. But that’s the exact opposite of how it works, claim two New Jersey residents in a lawsuit against the parent company of United Airlines. The plaintiffs allege that United actually sets a higher redemption rate for the more frequent fliers.

In the lawsuit filed this week in New Jersey District court, one plaintiff says he tried to book at three-day hotel stay for a trip to Japan he and his co-plaintiff were going on together, reports the Chicago Tribune. He didn’t have enough miles, so the co-plaintiff then tried to book the same room a few minutes later, says the complaint.

But when she entered her information, she was quoted more miles for the same room, alleges the pair.

The man says he called United to complain and was told that it uses an algorithm to determine the number of miles needed to redeem a reward flight or hotel room. That system would lead to customers with more frequent flier miles in the MileagePlus program to get a higher rate than their lower-scoring peers.

Consumerist asked United Airlines for comment on the lawsuit and to clarify its policy on redeeming miles and received a statement via email from a company spokesman:

This suit is without merit both factually and legally and we look forward to defending ourselves vigorously. United offers MileagePlus members a broad range of benefits. As we communicate clearly in our program rules, we reserve some benefits, including access to complimentary extra-legroom seating, first-class upgrades and preferential pricing on some awards, for our most frequent customers.

When we pointed out that it was actually a case of a more frequent customer receiving a higher rate quote to redeem miles and whether there was a policy addressing that kind of situation, the spokesman did not have a comment.

Suit claims United Airlines’ frequent flier rewards are rigged [Chicago Tribune]