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Middle Age Miles

Terminated by AA – Initial Thoughts on Next Steps

american airlines aa aadvantage program terminate termination shutdown locked lockdown lose steal miles elite status Executive Platinum

Introduction

As regular Middle Age Miles readers know, since mid-December my AAdvantage account has been locked. I’ve been chronicling this situation here, along with providing thoughts on strategy and potential alternatives during my lockdown limbo period as well as in the event my account was eventually terminated.

For those who’d like to catch up or review my situation and prior articles, I’ll link them here for your convenience:

I’ll also recap my personal situation later in this article.

I had initially thought that I had a decent chance of being reinstated, in light of my long and loyal history with AA, including tens of thousands of dollars of paid flights and enough spend and flown miles to earn Executive Platinum status in each of the past 3 years. However, as data points of account terminations continued to roll in, I became less optimistic – especially within the last week as AA shut down more people somewhat similarly situated to me. By the middle of this week, I had become convinced that termination – however unjustified and nonsensical it may be on AA’s part – was inevitable.

Today, AA terminated my account.

Termination Email from AA

During the noon hour Central time today (Friday, February 28), I received this email from Blake Patton, AAdvantage Fraud Analyst, AA Corporate Security:

In case you can’t read the image, here’s the text:

Dear CHARLES CRAIG TADLOCK,

A recent investigation has determined your involvement in multiple violations of the General AAdvantage Program Terms and Conditions, related to the accrual of ineligible AAdvantage miles and benefits. These actions specifically involve abuse of the AAdvantage Program through gaming behavior, used to circumvent the Citibank/AAdvantage card enrollment bonus eligibility restrictions. These restrictions are outlined in the promotional bonus terms, and at the top of each application page. Per the AAdvantage Program governing terms:

* Fraud, misrepresentation, abuse or violation of applicable rules (including, but not limited to, American or American Eagle conditions of carriage, tariffs and AAdvantage program rules) is subject to administrative and/or legal action by appropriate governmental authorities and American Airlines. Such action may include, without limitation, the forfeiture of all award tickets and any accrued mileage in a member’s account, as well as termination of the account and the member’s future participation in the AAdvantage program. If your account is terminated due to inappropriate conduct or while under investigation, you may not open a new AAdvantage account or participate in the AAdvantage Program in any capacity without obtaining the express written permission of American Airlines. In addition, American Airlines reserves the right to take appropriate legal action to recover damages, including its attorneys’ fees incurred in prosecuting any lawsuit.

As such, we must now exercise our right to terminate AAdvantage account # XXXXXXX. All membership benefits associated with this account, including all remaining miles and issued award tickets, are forfeited, effective February 28, 2020. Any tickets issued from these accounts have been cancelled and you will need to make alternative arrangements for any upcoming travel plans. You are no longer eligible to participate in the AAdvantage Program.

Interestingly, AA’s termination email to me specifically alleges that I engaged in “gaming behavior” to “circumvent the Citibank/AAdvantage card enrollment bonus eligibility restrictions.” I do not believe this language has been present in earlier termination letters that AA has been sending to account holders that it has shut down.

The allegations are still vague and do not state any facts, but they at least tell us that AA is focused on credit card sign-up bonuses from Citi (not Barclays, and not any other type of behavior in general). This at least narrows the scope so that AA cannot later claim that I (or others whose accounts were terminated) committed any other violations that were the basis for termination.

AA’s Allegations Against Me Are Incorrect

I did not “circumvent the Citibank/AAdvantage card enrollment bonus eligibility restrictions.”

As I have described in detail in previous articles, there were 4 instances where I applied and was approved for Citi AA Platinum personal credit cards – 3 during 2018 and 1 during 2019. (I also got 1 Barclays AA Business card in January 2018 from a public link, but AA’s termination letter to me makes clear that this is not what AA relied upon.)

For each of these cards:

  • I used a code from a physical mailer to apply. The mailer was sent to my house. The addressee was a Middle Age Miles kid who is an actual human being with a legitimate AAdvantage account and has flown AA many times. I did not create any false AAdvantage accounts (using pet names, imaginary friends or the like), nor did anyone in my household.
  • Each mailer and its corresponding offer terms contained no language restricting transfer of the offer or saying that it was intended only for the recipient.
  • Each mailer and its corresponding offer terms contained no language limiting how often the applicant could be approved or could receive a sign-up bonus.
  • Each time, I applied under my own name, my own SSN, and my own other account details.
  • Each time, AA’s co-brand partner Citi vetted and approved my application.
  • Each time, I legitimately spent the amount required to earn the sign-up bonus for the card. Citi agreed that I had met all requirements to earn the bonus, and Citi and AA credited my AAdvantage account with AA bonus miles.

This was not a glitch, as if there was a loophole that would let you buy AA flights for a dollar, or if a software issue automatically awarded people 10x as many AA miles through the shopping portal than they should have received. Rather, the credit card application and sign-up bonus system was working exactly as it was designed by AA and Citi:

  • AA and Citi carpet-bombed AAdvantage members with mailers
  • The express terms and conditions on the mailers did not contain any limitations on the time frames or the number of sign-up bonuses
  • When AA and Citi wanted to restrict the time frames or number of sign-up bonuses, they knew how to do so; there were other offers that were only available if the applicant had not opened or closed a Citi AA co-branded card in 24 months (or later, 48 months)
  • The mailers did not contain any restrictions on transfer – there was certainly nothing to indicate that they couldn’t be used by members of the same household, and the application interface allowed people to put their own information into the application even if the mailer was addressed to someone else
  • When AA and Citi wanted to restrict transferability, they knew how to do so; there were other mailers on which the application interface only worked for the addressee of the mailer (these applications did not allow the applicant data to be changed from the mailer addressee to anyone else)
  • The applications were not fraudulent – the applicant entered their own name, social security number, address, financial data and AAdvantage number
  • Citi vetted and approved each of the applications
    • By doing so, Citi confirmed that the applications, if approved, met all banking requirements and all requirements of Citi and AA
  • Citi had its own time restrictions on how often applications could be approved (such as 2 in 60 days)
  • In each case where a sign-up bonus was received, the cardholder had met the spend requirements to receive the bonus; Citi agreed, and Citi and AA issued the bonus AA miles in accordance with the terms of the offer

The truth of the matter here is that AA is trying to enforce terms and conditions that simply did not exist, and do so retroactively. But beyond that, even if I or others had done something wrong with respect to the sign-up bonuses, the punishment would not fit the crime – AA could simply re-capture miles (at least for accounts that still have them) and issue a stern warning. Terminating accounts is absolutely a disproportionate response here, even if the account holder had actually gotten one or more sign-up bonuses improperly.

Remarkably, before terminating my account, including when it was locked for 2½ months, AA (a) did not notify me that I was under investigation; (b) refused to communicate with me regarding the investigation; and (c) gave me no opportunity to explain my situation or defend myself. And, of course, AA gave no advance warning or notice that multiple card applications and sign-up bonuses that were approved by Citi were problematic in any way.

AA Has Improperly Taken Almost 1.25 Million Miles and Other Valuable Benefits that I Spent Real Money to Earn

At the time AA terminated my account:

  • I had 960,000+ AA miles in my account
  • I also had award tickets totaling 270,000 AA miles that I recently canceled
  • Thus, the total number of AA miles improperly taken was a little over 1.23 million

Lest readers think that AA only took miles that I earned from sign-up bonuses, let me dispel that notion: AA took from me more than 950,000 miles that I earned through activities other than Citi credit card sign-up bonuses.

AA also took many other valuable benefits that I spent real money to earn, including:

  • Executive Platinum status (and related benefits such as 4 systemwide upgrades)
  • Lifetime Gold status
  • 1.86 million lifetime “Million miler” miles
    • I was on pace to reach 2 million miles easily by the end of 2021, which comes with Lifetime Platinum status and 4 additional systemwide upgrades
    • According to The Points Guy’s analysis, AA Platinum status is worth $2,220 per year

I had spent tens of thousands of dollars over the past few years to earn these benefits, including spending at least $10,000 with AA in each of the past several years.

Preparing for Termination

As I mentioned earlier in this article, I had become more convinced over the past week that AA would terminate my account. There were several recent data points of people being terminated who had high elite status, plenty of paid flights with AA, and a small number of sign-up bonuses – the likes of which we hadn’t seen in the earlier days of the AA lockdown/shutdown saga.

Thus, we made every effort to distance family members’ accounts from mine, such as bringing all the Middle Age Miles kids’ addresses up to date with their actual current addresses. We also canceled all award tickets where I was booked on the same itinerary with a family member.

In addition, we booked alternate flights to replace our award tickets so that our future travel plans could remain intact.

All of these steps seemed prudent to hopefully isolate the impact of my account termination to just me. None of my family members had any worrisome activity in their accounts, but we wanted to be overly cautious in light of some data points where family members’ accounts with low Citi activity have been terminated along with those of the person actually under investigation by AA.

Finally, I also recently took screenshots of my AA account and all of my activity for the past 2 years, to use as needed in any action I take post-termination.

If your AA account is locked but not terminated, we strongly recommend that you consider some or all of these preventative steps.

What Happens Next?

Choosing a New Loyalty Program

From a practical standpoint, I need to choose a new program where I can credit miles from future AA flights. In light of the recent announcement that Alaska Airlines is renewing its partnership with AA effective immediately and joining Oneworld in mid-2021, Alaska Mileage Plan seems like the most likely choice long-term.

[Remember, we’re in DFW, and I’m largely hub-captive to American. For most of our flying needs, AA is by far the most convenient – and convenience is extremely important to us given our current life circumstances. To the extent possible, we’ll certainly book away from AA. We’d love to cut AA off completely, but we’re not going to cut off our nose to spite our face.]

That said, (a) the AS-AA program is not up and running yet, so I need somewhere to credit AA flights in the short term; and (b) I need to study other Oneworld programs such as British Airways, Iberia, Finnair and others to ensure that I make the long-term choice that best suits my needs.

Right now, I’m changing the loyalty program number on all of my Oneworld flights to British Airways, so I can at least earn some credit in a program whose currency is useful to me. I’ll readjust later as needed.

Dealing with Credit Cards

Right now, I have 3 AA co-branded credit cards:

  • 1 – Citi AA Platinum card (primary cardholder) – This card will have its first anniversary in late March. I expect to keep it until then but not put any spend on it. Once the anniversary date passes, I’ll product change it to a different Citi card.
  • 2 – Barclays AA Aviator Silver card (primary cardholder) – This card is currently up for renewal. The annual fee posted about 2 weeks ago. Ironically, in one way this card becomes more valuable to me post-termination (even though I won’t get free checked bag or Group 5 boarding benefits since I no longer have an AAdvantage number). The card has a benefit of $25/day in AA in-flight food & beverage credits. Previously, when I’ve flown with AA in coach, I’ve received a snack and drink for free as an Executive Platinum benefit so the benefit has been virtually worthless. Now, though, it becomes useful. I can use the credit to purchase the snacks and drinks that I want, up to $25 per day. In addition, I spent enough on the card last year to earn a 2-person companion pass. The value of that companion pass will exceed the card’s $199 annual fee. So, somewhat oddly, this card is a keeper, at least for this year.
  • 3 – Citi AA Executive card (authorized user) – This card is also a keeper. As an authorized user (AU), I will continue to have access to Admirals Clubs as long as I have a same-day boarding pass on AA or another Oneworld airline. The AU lounge access benefit for this card is not tied to the AU’s AAdvantage number.

Coordinating Flight Reservations

Because Philly still has Executive Platinum status, many benefits also extend to her travel companions on the same reservation. At times in the past, we’ve split our reservations to pay for them using different methods or some other reason. Going forward, we’ll be more cognizant to make sure we’re both on the same record locator so that her “companion” benefits will extend to me.

Contacting AA to Ask for More Detail

In the message boards on AA terminations, conventional wisdom seems to be to contact AA to ask for more detail before taking further action. To me, this seemed like a solid and reasonable step when AA’s termination letter was more vague.

In my termination letter, though, AA specifically referenced Citi cards. At this point, I’m not necessarily keen to open the door for AA to dump any additional allegations into the mix. In my case, there shouldn’t be anything else that AA could complain about, but I don’t see why I’d give them a reason to look.

My initial reaction is to contact AA, respond to their allegations as set forth in the termination letter, and ask for immediate reinstatement. I believe this can be done in parallel with actions in administrative agencies and litigation against AA.

Preparing and Filing Administrative Complaints

Initially, I suspect that the first step along these lines is to file an administrative complaint against AA with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT). I understand that a number of people terminated by AA have already done this. The basis for the complaint would be a violation of 49 USC §41712, which prohibits air carriers from engaging in unfair and deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition. It’s important to understand, though, that the DoT has no power to award damages, so this avenue is limited.

I will also consider whether to file a complaint against Citi with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). I haven’t studied this procedure yet. I see some potential use for a CFPB complaint, to the extent it causes Citi to provide a response that might help a case against AA.

Preparing for and Initiating Litigation

At this time, I anticipate that I will file a court case against AA. My initial research suggests that claims against the airline are somewhat limited by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Northwest v. Ginsberg. However, there still seem to be meaningful avenues of relief potentially available under Texas law. Some claims may require actions to be taken in advance of filing a lawsuit, so I’ll investigate these requirements and get started on them.

Cooperating with Reporters Who Are Interested in This Story of AA’s Overaggression

Last week we communicated with 2 reporters who were considering stories on this topic. One seemed to have serious interest in a story, and we spent a fair bit of time working with them. Hopefully a good story will be forthcoming soon. I’m certain that the reporter, like most of the world, has been overwhelmed with coronavirus-related work this week.

We’ll continue to work with reporters who express genuine interest in publicizing AA’s overaggression and deceptive conduct.

Conclusion

It’s a sad day at Middle Age Miles. We genuinely believe that we’ve done nothing wrong here, and we’re prepared to fight to set things right. We also genuinely feel for other people who find themselves in a similar situation with AA. We hope that our articles help people who have been impacted, in addition to informing others about AA’s corporate bullying.

What are your thoughts on the AA shutdown situation? Are there other things we should be doing at this time to increase the likelihood that we and others can recover from AA or be reinstated? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!


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68 thoughts on “Terminated by AA – Initial Thoughts on Next Steps

  1. Lord Dima

    Seems like you do have a very good case on your hand and a thought-through strategy on how to proceed. I’ll be very interested in hearing how it unravels from here. Are you thinking of going at it alone or teaming up with the fellow terminaties?

    1. Jake Mueller

      ValueAct Capital Partners is an activist investor with a large stake in Citigroup. Make it investigate why Citi isn’t recouping millions of dollars from AA (value of forfeited miles which were paid for by Citi). This ought to make AA Corp Sec rethink about defrauding Citi. If they’d have to refund Citi, they can’t simply take off the amount from their balance-sheet.

    2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Lord Dima – Many thanks for the comment and support. You ask a great question. I have plenty of thoughts and rationale in response, but I’m not ready to reveal my litigation playbook publicly where AA can read it, as I’m sure you can appreciate. We’ll continue to post updates on progress here, as we did in our follow-up article yesterday, so that everyone can follow along if they’d like. I hope it helps others who have been impacted by AA’s overly aggressive actions here. ~Craig

  2. Blue

    Bigger issue for AA—they are not a party to the contract between you and Citi! There’s no basis for them to enforce Citibank’s conditions under ANY circumstances!

      1. JF

        I also got terminated last month, and the two biggest points I come back to are what Blue pointed out in that AA is not a party between Citi and its cardholers. They therefore have no right to decide or enforce if someone was eligible for a bonus.

        The second point is that people are sent 1099’s for Citi’s checking account bonuses. Checking bonuses work differently than credit card bonuses, for sure, but the point is that if people are sent 1099’s for AA miles it implies that the miles are 1) belonging to them since they have to pay taxes and 2) have an assessed value.

        I responded to Citi’s email asking for more information because my letter wasn’t as specific as yours, and have been trying to decide if small claims court is worth the trouble or not. I’ll be following your story, good luck!

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hi JF – Thanks for the comment. I’m really sorry about your shutdown. You make 2 very good points, for sure.

          I really appreciate your support! ~Craig

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Thanks so much, my friend. I appreciate the support and kind words. I’m glad you’re enjoying the articles, and I hope people find them interesting and helpful. ~Craig

  3. Beechy

    Craig,
    I feel so bad for what you and your family is going through. I hope that AA has to pay for what they have done to you. It sounds like you have a great case if it comes to that. Know that you have support and we are rooting for the good guys !!
    Hang in there,
    Beechy

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Thanks so much, Beechy. I very much appreciate your support. We’ll keep fighting the good fight here and hope it turns out well in the end. ~Craig

  4. Sideshowbob233

    As expected they are shutting everyone down. Unreal. Seems awfully shortsighted to lose your business over such a small amount of miles. I hope they end up bankrupt like they belong.

    The fact they are not warning any of the minor offenders implies they are doing this to get back the miles due to financial problems. Why else would they lose such high paying customers over something like this?

    1. Bob

      Craig: So sorry for your troubles. What AA is doing makes no sense. They are shooting themselves in the foot. I’m taken by how inactive Citibank has been. Could this be as much an issue between AA and Citi as with you? Why penalize (and cutoff) a longstanding highly profitable customer over this? Is there something else in my play between Citi and AA?

      1. Jake Mueller

        Bob, ValueAct Capital Partners is an activist investor with a large stake in Citigroup. Make them investigate why Citi isn’t recouping millions of dollars from AA (value of forfeited miles which were paid for by Citi). This ought to make AA Corp Sec rethink about defrauding Citi. If they’d have to refund Citi, they can’t simply take off the amount from their balance-sheet.

        As we saw recently, people can turn a blind eye towards things to put their kids into Stanford. We don’t want that to happen here

    2. Jake Mueller

      If the value of those miles for AA is higher than the value they can gain from a customer short-term, they’d go ahead & terminate accounts. That probably holds true for all AAdvantage customers with multiple SUBs. The impetus seems to be to make their books look good for a while. The ‘record redemptions’ they mentioned in their 2019 Q4 conference call are probably because of the miles they forfeited.

    3. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey SSB – Many thanks for the comment. Agreed, clearly AA is not pursuing the shutdowns with a long-term business-focused view.

      And yes on your comment that they are shutting everyone down. There have been some DPs in the past few days that are really surprising to me. AA made a really hard cut here. ~Craig

  5. Grant

    Hi Craig, I’m really sorry to hear that you got the ax today. You did you best to think outside the box on ways to save your AA account, but AA was not willing to bend their rules. In additional to the things mentioned above, I think you should write a comment on the BBB website, I think those go straight to an executive who should respond soon.

    Another thing that is equally important is that this sets a bad precedent for other airlines who issue airline CCs: United, Delta, Alaska, Southwest, etc. I wonder if we will see another airline go down a similar route to terminate accounts for “gamers”.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Many thanks, Grant. I hadn’t thought about the BBB – interesting angle. I like it.

      I hear you on this potentially emboldening other programs. I surely hope that doesn’t come to pass.

      Have a great weekend! ~Craig

      1. Carl WV

        On the BBB site it specifically says that complaints don’t factor into the BBB rankings. I personally question their legitimacy. I was looking at a company dragging their feet on refunding improper COBRA charges (like mine) They have over a thousand complaints in the past year and are A+ according to BBB.

        I guess it can’t hurt, but I’m not sure how much BBB or AA care.

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Thanks for the comment and input, Carl WV. Interesting data point re BBB ratings. ~Craig

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi ABC – I’m definitely planning to litigate if AA doesn’t reinstate/properly compensate me first. I think the value of each redeemable mile, 500-mile upgrade, etc., will be subject to dispute in the case. I’m not ready to reveal the entire litigation playbook in advance, but I will say that AA’s standard selling price for the redeemable miles seems like a reasonable value for purposes of the litigation. Some people would even say that they could redeem the miles for more than that. ~Craig

  6. P

    That sucks. I myself had over 400,000 unused Aadvantage miles when they sent me the email. I could have used the miles earlier when first reports started appearing but didn’t need them for flights and did not know they could be used for hotels as well.

    Do you think it would be ok to book AA award flights using BA avios or any of their partner miles programs? I have avios and the only airline I can redeem it on Hawaii-mainland US is AA.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi P – Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m very sorry to hear about your shutdown. Great question. Yes, I think you can book AA award flights using Avios or other partner currencies without any problem. Just include our FFN from the partner program in the reservation (or no FFN at all). Best of luck with your bookings and in any action you take to try to recover the miles! ~Craig

  7. Michael

    Thanks for the updates. I, like many of your readers, read your ongoing story with great interest. This could easily happen to any or all of us with any loyalty program at any time. AA’s approach in your case was a dramatic overreaction and you appear to have a solid case for reinstatement. I hope that you can obtain rapid resolution and do so in the absence of a non-disclosure agreement. Good Luck.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Michael – Many thanks for the comment and support. I hope you’re right about me having a good case! I’ll certainly do my best, and I’m happy to report progress along the way in hopes that it helps other readers as well as raises awareness of AA’s over-aggressive actions here. ~Craig

  8. Gary Leff

    There was never any mystery that this was about Citi-issued cards and use of mailers, and not Barclays cards. The code on accounts under audit, review or shutdown was “CITI2019.” I posted the memo about this some time back.

    It’s worth reminding of course that AA’s terms specifically “disclaim any duty of good faith and fair dealing” so there ya go.

    1. Blue

      That does not cover actually deceptive trade practices like selling miles to Citi and then enforcing a contract that a) doesn’t exist and b) they were not a party to.

    2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Gary – Thanks for reading and commenting here. I’d say that while we “knew” it was about Citi, AA’s actual termination letters had been extremely vague and didn’t mention Citi at all. The news of today (and maybe yesterday for a few folks?) was that AA is now expressly saying in the termination letters that the issue is Citi.

      Yeah, there’s nothing that screams “I’m actually going to act unfairly and deceptively” like that actual disclaimer. I of all people surely understand where that language came from and why some AA lawyer insisted on including it, but it’s still pretty remarkable that AA comes right out and says that it’s not going to act in good faith or fairly! ~Craig

  9. Nun

    Sorry to read this. For what it’s worth AA stock just retraced back to its post merger price. I’m sure cutting off their bread and butter customers isn’t going to help.

    1. Jake Mueller

      Yikes! I remember selling mine at $34 because I don’t trust AA’s leadership. Now it’s down to $19.05! Feeling lucky

      1. John Williams

        Sorry to hear about the shut down, really sucks.

        “There were several recent data points of people being terminated who had high elite status, plenty of paid flights with AA, and a small number of sign-up bonuses – the likes of which we hadn’t seen in the earlier days of the AA lockdown/shutdown saga.“

        Can you share what those data points are? And where you are getting those data points from?

        Also, do you have a clearer sense of where AA is drawing the line (I’ve seen some people say 3 bonuses in past 2 years, some say 4 bonuses in past 2 years, etc.)

        Lastly, would also be interested to see future blog posts about steps that you are taking as you prepare to pursue some sort of legal recourse!

  10. JB SanDiego

    I am deeply sorry! I was confident and certian this was nothing more than a suspension. You are correct about the carpet bomb, to say the least.

    I suspect these companies (banks, airlines, etc.) are using travel blogs and reddit to obtain information on loopholes and are now taking action. Therefore, moving forward, we now have to tread water carefully. I believe this is the beginning of the carpet bombs?

    Also, I believe AA is taking this out on you since there stock has been carpet bombed by the market?

  11. Andrew

    Terrible! Can’t imagine losing that many miles. This is an unfortunate saga in AA’s history that’s of their own making (the lawyers must’ve had the day off when the mailers were being written). Good luck fighting!

  12. DC

    This article seems extremely well thought out and highly motivated, I’m interested to see where this goes.

    I was also shut down and got a response today from the cfpb when i asked “Please detail exactly what fraudulent, abusive, or exploitative practice that I have engaged in over the past several years (2016-2020) in my relationship with citibank, specifically regarding Aadvantage promotions or bonus miles.”

    Citi essentially said they had no part in the termination
    “You recently reached out to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regarding your concern about your Citi®
    / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® accounts, and we’ve reviewed your request.
    Although you earned miles using your Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® accounts, we did not take part in
    the termination of your account with American Airlines. Citibank, N.A. and American Airlines have a co-branding
    agreement, which allows you to earn AAdvantage® frequent flyer miles with qualifying transactions or
    promotional bonuses on your Citi AAdvantage® credit card accounts. However, the AAdvantage® program is
    owned and operated by American Airlines. To discuss any concerns related to your AAdvantage® account,
    you will need to contact them. Their toll-free telephone number is 1-800-882-8880. ”

    Legally speaking, can AA retroactively claim this from a contract between two different parties?

    This is like if I bought a car from a dealership then later sold it to you. At some later date the dealership steps in and claims the price you paid was not fair, and is hurting their business so they take possession of the car. You would probably take them to court (maybe small claims) and demand damages for the value of the car.

    1. Mike S

      Hi Craig,

      Sorry to read this. I think DC made a very good point. Do you think if this can be used as a valid argument in your litigation?

      Please kindly keep us posted

      Good luck

  13. wiivile

    AA’s disclaimers in their terms will not save them from the unfair and deceptive statute. The Airline Deregulation Act/Northwest v Ginsberg will not save them in court.

    My recommendation is to go to the DOT and focus on the unfair and deceptive statute- you earned the miles under the terms of the offer and AA is trying to retroactively (and unfairly and deceptively) add new frequency/transferrability restrictions to the offer and dispose of you as a customer.

    If the DOT fails, I would go to court. Northwest v Ginsberg should not apply here if making claims based on state law. Samuel Alito noted in the unanimous SCOTUS opinion that miles earned through methods other than flying (or redeemed for non-flight awards) may not be subject to the Airline Deregulation Act.

      1. wiivile

        “Respondent and amici suggest that Wolens is not control­ ling because frequent flyer programs have fundamentally changed since the time of that decision. We are told that “most miles [are now] earned without consuming airline services” and are “spent without consuming airline ser­ vices.” Brief for State of California et al. 18 (emphasis deleted). But whether or not this alleged change might have some impact in a future case, it is not implicated here. In this case, respondent did not assert that he earned his miles from any activity other than taking flights or that he attempted to redeem miles for anything other than tickets and upgrades. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 47–48.”

        https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-462_p8k0.pdf

  14. Neal

    Hi, first time commenter. I discovered your blog after your first AA freeze article and subsequently went back and read many of your other posts – good articles, I enjoy your writing style and content. And I read these particular AA articles knowing that I lucked out of this nightmare only because I was late to this particular game. Like many who haven’t been shutdown I’m lucky, not pure.

    Very sorry about the shutdown – I’d been hoping you’d somehow get through with a warning. To the degree AA would be taking individual circumstances into account I figured your history would give you as decent a chance as anyone.

    You (and commenters) have summarized our best arguments why this is unjustified. I assume AA’s response will be something along the line that anyone who used a mailer not explicitly made out to them knew exactly what they were doing. I would imagine in nearly all cases they could show that had an individual not used a mailer they would have otherwise been ineligible for the card signup bonus (I forget the precise Citi rules but presumably most or all people who were whacked for using a mailer had gotten a “legitimate” bonus at some point in the past two or four years, whatever the rule).

    The “solution” AA seized upon is disproportionate and the one size fits all treatment of the affected accounts both reeks of unfairness and is almost certainly on the margin a poor business decision (as you mention there are certainly some high revenue passengers who have been fired). I do assume the AA legal team reviewed and approved the shutdown plan – I doubt it is totally without legal merit but I’m guessing it will ultimately be in their interest to settle with those who choose to fight. Best of luck!

    (Sadly, to the degree anyone settles with AA I’m guessing they’ll be signing NDAs so I fear we’ll never get final posts titled “Victory!”)

    1. HS

      Craig, just catching up on this and, yeah, sad day for Middle Age Miles. Even if you saw it coming — even if you have assessed things with all the equanimity possible (as Neal, above, makes clear, which is why I’m posting under his comment) — it’s a kick in the teeth.

      And all so unnecessary! Although there are those commenters (in particular, on Flyertalk) who see AA as a paragon of corporate rectitude and efficiency, I think that the evidence is against this. The evidence, to me at least, is that management is more akin to a mean-spirited clown car. I can almost see the C-suite meeting six months ago: Upper managment was looking at the lousy balance sheet and lagging share prices. Since there was no mirror in the room, they cast about for somewhere else to fix the blame. Some bright folks from somewhere (“Security”? Legal?) came up with the asset seizure scheme that you and others have fallen victim to. As in all classic group-think situations, they egged each other on, convincing themselves that because they could do it, they should do it.

      Except that the looting of some thousands of “high-value” miles accounts was predicated on the notions that (a) something had to be done — desperate times require desperate measures; and (b) in a rising economy, the customers generated through frequent flyer schemes were less and less necessary. But with the collapse of the stock market in general and AA stock in particular, even this point grab won’t be enough to paper over the longer-term weaknesses in AA corporate management. The conditions that gave rise to the points game and the clearly enunciated rules that you and many others of us have followed were those arising from the 2008 economic collapse, and the several years afterwards in which businesses with comparatively high fixed costs and wasting assets (airlines, hotels) were desperate to generate any kind of cash flow. Hard not to notice that such days may be on us again, at least for a while. The irony, such as it is, is that the biggest stumbling block to your getting recompense for these arbitrary seizures may end up being AA bankruptcy protection.

      Anyhow, kudos for keeping your equanimity in the face of inanity.

      1. Jake Mueller

        Well, yes, we’re in a country where civil rights violations happening in organizations are condoned by those organizations because they consensus is that economically-weak victims can’t afford to sue them if federal district court judges favor those organizations.

        So, yeah, AA seems to have some folks who think AA can get away with everything.

  15. TravelBloggerBuzz

    Well, we tried to warn you that this will happen eventually.

    And I had no doubt that you will take the legal route on this.

    On the positive side, it sure creates content and clicks!

    Quoting and linking to TPG I think is ridiculous and violates the principles of my blog linking practices so no link for you.

    Good luck, get these mother frackers!

    1. JBTx

      Thanks for sharing your high moral principles with the world. Good to know how much better you are than everyone else and just how utterly you lack empathy. Not sure anyone forced you to read this blog.

  16. Just a Note

    Hi Craig –

    Sorry to hear that you have finally been terminated. I was shut down a month or so ago, and would be interested in comparing notes on what seem to be some differences in the letter itself if you have the chance, time and interest.

  17. Jake Mueller

    Craig, ValueAct Capital Partners is an activist investor with a large stake in Citigroup. Make them investigate why Citi isn’t recouping millions of dollars from AA (value of forfeited miles which were paid for by Citi). This ought to make AA Corp Sec rethink about defrauding Citi. If they’d have to refund Citi, they can’t simply write off the amount from their balance-sheet.

  18. VABanks

    I’m not surprised by what happened to you, and it worries me that having controversy with AA could lead to termination and losing Aadvantage miles! I have had “Restrictions” placed on my account: In 2019, I attempted to combine my miles with my husband’s miles for one 1st class ticket. I was repeatedly asked to call back because the transfer wouldn’t go through. Just in case, AA said, pay for one ticket (mine) at full price because we cannot hold your seat, and we’ll move your miles into your husband’s account once our computers are working. During the THIRD callback to AA, a supervisor came on and said the reason the transfer of advantage miles wouldn’t work was not due to their computer system. She said my account had restrictions placed on it because I disputed an AA charge 3 years earlier. I was so surprised and couldn’t remember all of the details of that transaction, but tried to explain to the supervisor the AA agent credited our account because, as I recalled, she made the reservations for 1st class and after the fact said not all of the seats were available in first class. The agent said the credit would show up within X number of days and she immediately helped me book and pay for a new ticket. When the credit did not appear on my statement, it was disputed and AA credited us the money with no hesitation. I was NEVER informed there were restrictions placed on my account (no sharing miles/no purchasing miles) and to this day, I continue to receive promotional emails regarding purchasing miles. AA would not refund the purchase of the 2019 first class ticket (over $1000 dollars) and I can never purchase or share miles. We will be ending our 25+ year relationship with the AAdvantage program as soon as we use the miles we have individually accrued (the sooner the better I think after reading about your experience).

  19. Jake Mueller

    Craig, ValueAct Capital Partners has an Information-sharing agreement with Citi. They’re likely to investigate because they’d probably want Citi to change the terms at which it buys miles from AA, if the current terms preclude Citi from receiving a refund. Moreover, the customer acquisition cost Citi incurred while buying miles for new accounts resulted in a loss, so they’d probably want to know why Citi didn’t ask for a refund for the value of forfeited miles.

    I hope that the bonuses the AA Corp Sec team got for defrauding us & Citi will become their severance packages.

    1. Nun

      Exactly. AA is unjustly enriched. Citi bought a product from them to acquire a customer account.

      What I can’t understand is why AA didn’t just zero the account for real customers like Craig or why they’re making up terms that didn’t exist on the card application.

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  21. docntx

    Craig,
    I did mention the bizarre, Kafkaesque way this was executed comes across as an organization that makes up the rules as it goes.
    Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) might be a good description.
    This is a very bitter pill.
    Our thoughts are with you

  22. blue

    Craig,

    Sorry to hear that AA terminated your account. I feel the pain as my account is also terminated. Given the number of and magnitude of shutdowns I’ve seen (and presumably a lot more I have not seen), I wonder if it makes sense to start a class action against AA. What are your thoughts on that?

  23. WrightHI

    More than anything else, this just seems so damn dumb on AA’s part. By any rational measure, you’re a customer they should want to keep. Someone like me, who did just slightly less than you did (two mailer signups just over two years ago now, maybe eight total Citi and Barclay in a five-year period), but with very little revenue flying credited to AA, is a more logical candidate to fire as a customer. Yet I was able to burn off my last few miles recently and you’re terminated. It’s just a bizarre way to run a business.

  24. Kyle

    This is so stupid. Will you be keeping us informed of your legal pursuits, at least up to the point they inevitably settle with you and make you sign an NDA?

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  26. Amy S

    Sorry you’re going thru this. However you have a great argument, well thought out plan, and seem the best person to fight this!

    What Citi card will you product change the Citi AA Platinum to?? (I have to do the same thing and need your insight.)

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Many thanks, Amy S. I appreciate your support!

      I’m still deciding on what Citi card for my PC. It’s kind of individual-dependent. But let’s do a quick walk-through of some important considerations: If you don’t have a Double Cash card, that’s probably the front-runner. No AF and very valuable with its new ability to convert cash rewards into ThankYou Points, especially if you can pair it with a Premier card for TY portal redemptions and TYP transfers. A Rewards+ card can potentially be another good no-AF option, especially if you already have TYPs, in light of its 10% rebate on TYP redemptions (up to 10k TYPs rebated per year). Another possibility could be to convert to a Premier card, although if you’re eligible for a sign-up bonus on Premier you’ll want to go that route instead of the PC.

      Thanks again for your comment and good question! ~Craig

  27. debit

    Hopefully you don’t settle and don’t sign NDA. You are a blogger. Don’t look for your immediate personal gain. You should look for throwing as much light on the issue as possible for others affected and your readers.

    I personally think you engaged in questionable behavior but i probably would have done the same in a moment of weakness. In any case that is for a court to decide. Anyway hope we get a public judgement in this.

  28. Jeff K

    Those darn mailers are the thing that triggered all of this, for you and for so many others. Honestly though, to get that many miles in your account AA must feel that some of your activities just don’t add up. I am being honest here. As for the fight you are going to wage against AA, I believe the deck is stacked against you. Your story kind of reminds me of the stories of the people who fought the lifetime AA, what was it, first class program that was supposed to last forever. They lost. Took them years and years, but they still lost. I have been at this game at least 25 or more years now. I have churned and churned with AA for hundreds of thousands of miles and tons of trips business class or first class all over the world. My wife and I have 2 business class tickets on AA right now for Japan at the end of April in fact. She still has 60,000 in her account and me 240,000 in mine…….and we do pretty much most of it via the credit card churns, some spends, some shopping on line. But, had I known about the mailers, I would have likely done those as well! I would have jumped on it. I would have been in the same boat as everyone else. I have sympathy for you but I do not believe you will win in a fight against AA. As for the future, you can really rip and roar with Ultimate Rewards and they transfer to BA as well as United. I just got the United Business 100,000 mile offer and finished my 10K manufactured spend mostly and now got my wife one as well. Try that. I use my BA miles for AA flights often, but they are not always available when you need that flight. Good luck.

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