If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you already know that AA terminated my AAdvantage account recently, as part of their recent waves of account shutdowns. I’ve been reporting at each stage of my lockdown and eventual termination, in hopes of bringing greater awareness to AA’s overly aggressive activities and helping people who find themselves in a similar situation. Many readers have asked me to continue providing updates, so today’s article is another in the series.
We first published three articles during my lockdown period, which are now dated in light of AA terminating my account and other subsequent activities. If you’d like to view these articles, here are the links:
- Middle Age Miles: Locked by AA – My Data Point with Details & Thoughts (January 15, 2020)
- Middle Age Miles: Planning & Strategy in the Face of an AA Lockdown (January 23, 2020)
- Middle Age Miles: AA Lockdown Update – Including Potential Media Coverage and Can I Spend My Way Back Into AA’s Good Graces? (February 18, 2020)
More recently, and more relevantly, we published an article about AA terminating my AAdvantage account. AA based its termination (incorrectly) on alleged “multiple violations of the General AAdvantage Program Terms and Conditions” and stated that my actions allegedly “involve abuse of the AAdvantage Program through gaming behavior, used to circumvent the Citibank/AAdvantage card enrollment bonus eligibility restrictions.” The article also covered our initial thoughts on next steps (including choosing a new loyalty program, dealing with credit cards, planning to file administrative complaints and litigation if needed, and cooperating with reporters to potentially gain more publicity):
- Middle Age Miles: Terminated by AA – Initial Thoughts on Next Steps (February 28, 2020)
We followed up on the termination article with Update #1, providing some general thoughts on our post-termination approach to communications with AA and describing my initial communications to AA to try to resolve the situation agreeably:
- Middle Age Miles: AA Termination – Update #1 – My Initial Communications to AA (March 2, 2020)
In our article today, we’ll update you on what’s happened over the last week, provide details of our follow-up communication escalating the situation to the AA executive ranks, and share some additional updates on alternative loyalty programs, credit cards, and working with reporters.
For those who aren’t already familiar, here’s a quick summary of my situation with AA:
- Executive Platinum for the past 3 years (earned with $10,000+ in spend per year; not matched or given)
- A little over 1.23 million AA miles in my account
- Including more than 950,000 miles earned from activities other than Citi credit card sign-up bonuses
- 1.86 million lifetime “Million Miler” miles
- Lifetime Gold status and very close to Lifetime Platinum at 2 million miles
- Received 4 Citi sign-up bonuses in 2018-19
- 3 in 2018
- 1 in 2019
- All for personal Citi AAdvantage Platinum cards
- All using codes contained in mailers sent to a family member at my home address
- I did not violate any terms of the credit card sign-up bonus offer or application
- Offer & application terms contained no restrictions on how often you could get a bonus
- All applications made using my own name, SSN and other financial details
- All applications vetted and approved by AA’s co-brand partner Citi
- AA did not give me any advance notice that it considered anything I had done to be wrong or violate any AAdvantage Program Terms and Conditions
- When AA terminated my AAdvantage account, it (a) eliminated the status that I had earned, which had nothing to do with credit card sign-up bonuses; and (b) took all of the miles and other benefits I had earned, including more than 950,000 miles that had nothing to do with credit card sign-up bonuses from Citi
Update on Communications to AA
I’d like to resolve the situation with AA cooperatively. Based on many data points from other people whose accounts have also been terminated, it appears that AA has no interest in talking with anyone. However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. The best-case scenario would be to engage in a dialogue with AA that results in my account, miles and status being promptly reinstated. Alternatively, if that doesn’t happen, then any judge, jury or administrative agency looking at the situation can see that I at least tried my best before resorting to more drastic measures.
In Update #1, we provided the full text of my email reply to AA Corporate Security and a recap of our telephone call to the AA Executive Platinum line (which AA re-routed to Customer Service, where an agent told me to reply to Corporate Security via email and could not provide any further information. We called and sent our reply email to AA Corporate Security on Monday, March 2. In our email, we asked for the account to be fully reinstated within 7 days, by Monday, March 9.
I received no response at all to my reply email to AA Corporate Security – not even an acknowledgment. This was unfortunate but not surprising given that AA has not responded to other people either.
That meant that as of today (Tuesday, March 10), it was time to escalate the issue to the attention of AA executives. My situation includes business issues, legal issues and loyalty program issues, so I sent an email to:
- Robert Isom, President of AA
- Priya Aiyar, Senior VP and General Counsel of AA
- Bridget Blaise-Shamai, President of the AAdvantage Program and Vice President of Customer Loyalty and Insights for AA
The hope, again, is to resolve the situation cooperatively and try to get my AAdvantage account and benefits reinstated. Other people have tried to escalate shutdown issues without getting any meaningful response from AA (and in many (most?) cases no response at all from AA), but we still think it’s important to try.
Here is the full text of my “escalation” email:
To: Mr. Robert D. Isom, Jr.
President, American Airlines
Priya Aiyar, Esq.
Senior Vice President and General Counsel, American Airlines
Ms. Bridget Blaise-Shamai
President, American Airlines AAdvantage Program
Vice President of Customer Loyalty and Insights, American Airlines
Dear Mr. Isom, Ms. Aiyar, and Ms. Blaise-Shamai,
I hope that this message finds each of you well. My name is Charles Tadlock, and until recently I was a multi-year Executive Platinum member of the AAdvantage program. I’ve been a loyal customer of AA for many years. I’m writing to ask for your help to resolve an issue related to my AAdvantage account that I have not been able to resolve through lower channels. In fact, I haven’t even been able to get a response through lower channels so far.
The issue relates to AA’s improper and unjustified termination of my AAdvantage account. On February 28, 2020, I received an email message from AAdvantage Corporate Security terminating my account. The message is at the bottom of this email string. The message accuses me (incorrectly) of “multiple violations of the General AAdvantage Program Terms and Conditions.” It further states (again incorrectly) that my actions allegedly “involve abuse of the AAdvantage Program through gaming behavior, used to circumvent the Citibank/AAdvantage card enrollment bonus eligibility restrictions.”
The allegations against me and used as the basis for terminating my AAdvantage account are not correct. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve tried to engage in dialogue and get this matter resolved through lower channels, but I have not received any response to date. A little over a week ago, on March 2, I sent a reply email to AAdvantage Corporate Security, which you can see below, and I also tried to call the AA Executive Platinum line. On my call, I was re-routed to AA Customer Service. The agent told me that there was nothing she could do and advised me to reply via email to Corporate Security. In my March 2 email, I explained the issue, explained to Corporate Security why its investigation and my termination were incorrect, volunteered to provide additional information, and asked Corporate Security to reinstate my account by Monday, March 9. Corporate Security has not replied at all to my email.
I won’t bog down this message by re-stating all of the information in my email to Corporate Security, as you can read it for yourself below. The allegations from Corporate Security are simply untrue. There is no legitimate basis for AA to take any adverse action against my AA account, and especially not to terminate it. Even if the allegations were true, termination of my account is grossly disproportionate – AA took away my hard-earned Executive Platinum status and almost a million AAdvantage miles that had nothing whatsoever to do with any credit card bonuses from Citibank. I’ve been a good and loyal customer of AA for a long time. Finally, I don’t understand why AA won’t talk to me at all about this issue. I reiterate here the offer in my earlier email to cooperate with AA and provide additional information and documentation.
I’d really like to resolve this situation cooperatively. I ask that AA please reinstate my AAdvantage account in full, including:
* All of my redeemable AA miles (about 1.23 million at the time of termination)
* All of my lifetime miles (1.86 million lifetime “Million Miler” miles)
* My lifetime status (Lifetime Gold)
* My Executive Platinum status (through 1/31/2021)
* All related benefits of my Executive Platinum status, including 4 systemwide upgrades
* All of my 500-mile upgrades (78 at the time of termination)
I ask that this reinstatement be completed and confirmed in writing within 10 days of this email message (by Friday, March 20, 2020).
I do not want this to become a legal matter against AA, but in fairness, I do want to let you know that I will pursue litigation against AA if necessary, including without limitation claims under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
You may reach me via reply email or by phone at the number associated with my AAdvantage account.
I really appreciate your time and attention to my situation, and I look forward to hearing back from you.
Charles Craig Tadlock
–[This email string also includes the February 28 email from AA Corporate Security terminating my account and my reply of March 2. You can read those emails in full in our Update #1 article.]
We’d like to think that AA would engage in a dialogue with us and work things out. As we’ve mentioned, though, that appears quite unlikely. If we don’t hear from AA by March 20 or if AA rejects our reinstatement request, the next steps will include:
- A complaint against AA to the US Department of Transportation (DoT), alleging a violation of 49 USC §41712, which prohibits air carriers from engaging in unfair and deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition
- We understand that a number of people have already filed DoT complaints, and we’re happy to add our voice there
- Potentially, a complaint against Citi with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
- Again, we understand that a number of people have already done this; it may be helpful if Citi provides a response that could help a case against AA
- A formal presentment demand on a breach of contract claim that complies with Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code chapter 38, which would then entitle me to attorney’s fees if the claim is successful (30-day period after the claim is “presented”)
- Formal notice under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (Texas Business and Commerce Code chapter 17) that complies with the notice provision of Section 17.505 of that law (60-day notice period before filing suit)
After the requisite notice periods have run, then I would proceed to litigation against AA if there has been no resolution.
Unfortunately, to prepare for what seems like inevitable litigation, doing things the right way takes time. I’ve heard from many supportive people that they’re anxious to see if we can pave the way with successful action against AA. Be patient; we’ll keep reporting on our efforts. We truly appreciate all of your kind words and support.
Choosing a New Loyalty Program
We’ve done a bit of research into finding an alternative loyalty program. Unfortunately, being based in DFW, AA remains the most convenient option for the vast majority of our flying (we’re hub-captive). Thus, I’d want to use a program that includes miles-earning and potential status benefits when flying on AA.
After doing some research, we’re confident that the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program will suit our needs best, at least soon. Alaska has announced that you’ll be able to earn AS miles on all AA flights beginning sometime during Spring 2020 (which should mean sometime in the next 3 months). In addition, Alaska will become a Oneworld member sometime during 2021, so that Alaska elites will also become Oneworld elites with benefits on other Oneworld airlines including AA.
Other programs that we thought had good potential for earning redeemable miles and Oneworld status were the Finnair Plus program and the Royal Jordanian Royal Club program. Each of these programs presented a workable path to at least mid-tier Oneworld status (Oneworld Sapphire). But Alaska’s program is more relevant and useful to us, because (a) we actually sometimes fly on Alaska and could benefit from having elite status on those flights; and (b) AS miles seem to be much more useful for our likely future travel, and we already have a decent stash of AS miles in our accounts.
The British Airways Executive Club was also a leading contender in this analysis. BA Avios have been very useful to us over the past few years, and we could use more of them. But the biggest downside to BA is that obtaining an elite status level that equates to Oneworld Sapphire (BA Silver) or Emerald (BA Gold) requires at least 4 segments on BA metal. We could potentially do this, but it would require special effort and probably modified behavior; 2019 is the only year that we’ve ever flown 4 BA segments, and our organic plans for 2020 don’t currently include any flights on BA metal.
In the short term, though, until Alaska Mileage Plan implements earning on AA flights, I’ll probably credit my flights to BA so that I at least earn a few useful miles.
Credit Card Update
In our termination article, we discussed the ironic situation with respect to my Barclays AA Aviator Silver card – that is, the card has value to me in excess of its $199 annual fee because of the $25 per day AA in-flight food & drink credit and the 2-person companion pass that we earned through spend in 2019.
It was time to pay the annual fee last week, so I made a retention call to Barclays in hopes of getting some sort of offer to help offset the annual fee. Unfortunately, Barclays didn’t offer me anything.
Regardless, it made sense to keep the card, so I went ahead and paid the $199 annual fee for the new cardholder year.
Working with Reporters
Unfortunately, at the moment, reporters are overwhelmed with coronavirus-related coverage, pushing any AA story down the priority list.
We remain hopeful for a major news outlet to publish a helpful article as soon as circumstances allow. In the meantime, we’ll continue to work with reporters who express genuine interest in a story that highlights AA’s overaggression and deceptive conduct.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on relevant developments in the AA termination saga, especially if we receive a response from AA. In the meantime, we wish the best of luck to all others whose AAdvantage accounts have been terminated or locked when they didn’t violate any AAdvantage terms and conditions.
What are your thoughts on the AA shutdown situation? Any other helpful data points? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
At Middle Age Miles, we love to bring you travel, credit card and points-and-miles information that you can use to help make your travel dreams come true. To see all of our tips and insights, please Like and follow us on social media at:
Please share and re-tweet our posts and tell all of your friends about Middle Age Miles! Thank you!