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Middle Age Miles

AA Termination – Update #2 – No Response from AA; Escalation to Executives

american airlines aa aadvantage termination shut down shutdown corporate security citi credit card update email to aa executives
Robert Isom, President of AA [featured image courtesy AA]

Introduction

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:

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):

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:

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.

Background

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
Mr. Isom, Ms. Aiyar, and Ms. Blaise-Shamai [images courtesy 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.

Best regards,

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.]

Next Steps

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.

Conclusion

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!


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34 thoughts on “AA Termination – Update #2 – No Response from AA; Escalation to Executives

      1. Blue

        I know Aiyar gets it; I got a response from her minion that the executive team has “full faith” in Corporate Security!

        That was before we knew they were deceiving their Federal regulator.

        1. Jake Mueller

          AA is willfully committing fraud because getting away is easier, and any financial penalties will still make the whole affair worth the effort for it. Aiyar’s job is only suited for a shady person such as herself.

      2. Jake Mueller

        Meghan Jordan probably knows more about the Citi-AA deal. It might be a good idea to let her know that AA isn’t refunding Citi for the forfeited miles that Citi paid for, even if they were a result of monthly spend on co-branded cards.

  1. Seth

    On future communications you may want to specifically state that the credit card offers made no mention of 24 month restrictions. AA has recently added verbiage that all Citi offers and application pages had the 24 month language and that’s why they’re terminating accounts.

    1. Sad

      If all offers had the 24 month language then Citi made a mistake crediting the points. Nothing in the terms says that you aren’t allowed to sign up for multiple cards, only that you won’t get any sign up bonus.

      I don’t understand AA’s logic.

  2. JB SanDiego

    I keep reading how others use twitter for other reasons with success. Can you use twitter to get a response?

    Certain local news channels in San Diego investigate litigations of all sorts (for locals) and they somehow always seem to resolve it after they send out their camara crew. Not sure if you have something similiar so that you can approach the media in your area?

    With the market meltdown (along with AA stock tanking) and airline capacity down by 70%, probably with jobs on the line (including those photos above), makes this situation look like the small fish or more like a minnow? Hopefully I am wrong and I hope you the best!!

  3. Charlie

    Once again, thank you for posting this. You are in a better position than myself and my wife as far as loyalty goes, however we too did nothing deceptively wrong. We wish you luck with what will surely be a hard fought battle. For now, it’s off to Jordan tomorrow on our REbooked flights… Thanks for your write up on this, it was helpful.

  4. T

    You seem to be in the best circumstances at getting an acceptable resolution from AA. There are countless others in similar situations that are less versed in the intricacies of the law as you outlined. I fear (but hope otherwise) that they will settle with you personally but with no resolution to the majority of us. Perhaps you can be the hero we all need in getting this poorly implemented mass closure overturned for everyone affected and having all accounts reinstated.

  5. Tex

    Interesting to follow along. However, I’m sure AA loves this publicity too. It warns others of their intolerance and heavy-handedness against those that try to take AAdvantage of multiple offers. Reading this certainly deters me from doing anything even slightly suspect.

    1. Jake Mueller

      Ideally, the mailer loophole wouldn’t have existed. Ideally, such an issue would’ve been fixed days after its inception. The way AA is handling things now is downright unlawful. But hey, that’s how they’ll ‘make their millions’ in bonuses.

  6. Jack

    Maybe you can complain to attorney general’s office? I guess at the end, AA will still come back with this is our program and we can decide whatever. But, since they are selling miles to third party/anyone, we can ask AG to not allow them to sell miles in TX. How can you sell something freely and take it back freely? This is truely unfair and deceptive practice. Called them Ponzi scheme. 🙂
    This is where AA will be hit the most. Take away their ability to sell miles and they are done.
    Thoughts?

  7. Chuck Lesker

    This is all well-trodden territory. You will get a boilerplate reply from each of these offices, or from Customer Service if they forward your message to Customer Service. The replies will say, in various ways, that you have to deal with Corporate Security. But you can’t, because Corporate Security won’t reply.

    None of these people will step in to oversee Corporate Security. Of course they have their own troubles right now, with the company near collapse, but in any case they will not lift a finger when CorpSec is helping improve their bottom line by eliminating miles liability.

    A DoT complaint is appropriate, but won’t help either. You are limited to 3000 characters, so you’ll have to be less wordy. They will forward it to AA, and AA will have to reply within 60 days. But the reply will be a bunch of boilerplate. DoT won’t do anything beyond that; they don’t get involved in individual cases.

    What I want to know is whether small claims court works. We need data points.

  8. Just a Note

    I submitted a complaint to DoT and responded to the Corporate Security email (note: I did not have the reference to Citi in mine like you did).

    The DoT confirmation was fairly immediate, though a more personalized version took a couple of days (it was a fairly standard response, but it did have some personalized information in it, including the name of an individual handling the complaint).

    The AA confirmation took about a week, and then a personalized version another week after that, where they included my name, (former) account number, referenced the DoT complaint number, etc.

    I’ve responded to their response, but I have yet to hear back from either AA or the DoT thus far. We’ll see what happens. If you want more details, let me know and we can talk about it privately. Good luck on your case.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Just A Note – Many thanks for the update on your situation. I’m glad you’re pursuing it, and it sounds like you’re doing so in a thoughtful, methodical way. I’d be interested in talking further – send me a DM on Twitter @MiddleAgeMiles1 and we can connect. I really appreciate it. ~Craig

  9. DC

    Shaggy defense from Citi in my CFPB complaint:

    Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Case #200215-4755786 Hello , 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.

  10. Corona

    Are there any more recent shutdowns or have they stopped because their planes are flying empty? I have no reason for a shutdown but am paranoid considering their lack of transparency. I’m avoiding AA for business travel until things have settled down.

  11. Pingback: Travel Bans, Virus Mayhem, AA Termination Updates, Clean Smartphones - TravelBloggerBuzz

  12. John

    I feel like we need some sort of code should you receive relief via litigation but are forced to sign an NDA…Can we assume if you make a post saying you’re pursuing litigation and then we never hear from you again (on this topic) that means you were successful but forced into an NDA?

    Ideally you would refuse to sign the NDA in the first place but I understand that you may decide to prioritize your own needs in this situation.

    Lastly, Have you gotten any more clarity on what the threshold is for triggering a shutdown? I’ve seen a lot of conflicting data points.

  13. Steve

    I wish you well and am sorry I did not leave a response earlier.
    What AA needs to know (assuming they are reading this) is that I don’t have any AA cards now (they sent the same mailers to me) and obviously don’t plan to in the future. I plan to open Citi Cards (am relatively new to the miles hobby, only have Amex and Chase so far) without AA co-brand as I don’t want to be considered “gaming” their system. I’ll get reward flights through CSR and Avios, if I must travel on AA. They need to know about the business they are losing through their behavior. It may be a short term win for them, but it will be a long term loss. I recently flew Spirit and had a better experience with them than on my last AA flight.

  14. Kenny

    Craig, as a lawyer you obviously are better placed then rest of us.
    I am in similar boat. Did not use any shady or illegal methods,
    Did use at least one postcard addressed to my child (But had checked by calling AA that I wud still get the miles, They dais yes and kept their word)
    Have lost abut 2 millions between husband and wife. (Most of them from original USAir)
    Having retired, I am not elite. In fact, revenue flying is down to nothing with ANY airlines.

    Even after 2 months of cooling down period, I still feel being mugged by AA.

    Here is a suggestion and if you agree can you suggest that to your readers:

    Given that this is an election year and given that AA needs billions in bailout from the government, wouldn’t getting attention of Senators and Congressmen night be helpful?

    You do not need legal case, just common sense appeal based on AA being fair.

    Just a suggestion.

  15. Kenny

    Hi Craig,

    All of us are eagerly awaiting and wishing for your success.

    Would it be advisable to take PR pressure route through our elected officials?
    a) Its an election year
    b) AA will need govt. bail out

    Just a thought.
    Collective approach to our respective representatives (especially Senators) might get attention.

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