The American AAdvantage Account Shutdowns Are Being Grossly Misreported; Are Their Auditors Struggling To Justify Their Existence?

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Airlines have audit/corporate security teams to ensure that people aren’t abusing their mileage programs. Historically, airlines have policed the selling of miles and upgrades to ensure that people who would pay cash for a ticket aren’t depriving the airline of revenue by purchasing miles from someone.

American’s AAdvantage audit team has long been the most ferocious about account shutdowns, at a significantly higher rate than other airlines.  Back in the day when George Bartulevicz was their primary auditor he was known as Barto or the Darth Vador of frequent flyer miles. Since then the AAdvantage audit team has expanded.

As the audit team grew, the mission expanded from mileage sales and mileage brokering to other types of schemes, including getting mileage credit for other people’s flights, opening an AA card to get a signup bonus and then refunding the purchases, and circumventing credit card 48 month signup rules by using credit card mailers sent to different people to apply for cards.

The audit department justifies their existence by wiping miles off of American’s balance sheets.

But as people have stopped booking award tickets and as times get tough for the airlines, the audit team needs to prove that they can continue to justify their existence. That means digging deeper to find program abuses.

When you rent a car you get a token amount of miles. If you don’t claim the miles when you rent the car you can claim them afterward by just entering a mileage number.

For many years people who weren’t careful and let their mileage expire have used past car rental receipts to reactivate their miles.

In other words if your last mileage activity was 1/1/18 and your miles expire on 7/1/19, you could reactivate them by requesting mileage credit for a car rental make in June 2019. That credit would retroactively unexpire all of your miles.

If you didn’t have a car rental, there were people who did and they could put down your mileage number to get you mileage credit for their car rental. Or you were able to do that for another family member. There has never been any backlash for doing this.

American is now shutting down the mileage accounts for people who did this without any warning.

Many bloggers have reported that this required doctoring the receipt, using a bogus receipt, or using photoshop to change the name on the receipt. This is nonsense and utter #FakeNews.

All that was required was submitting a mileage number along with a past receipt or just clicking receive frequent flyer miles and entering a number. There was no doctoring of faking anything involved.

A DansDeals reader shares their letter that they got from American on 4/21, notifying that their account was being terminated due to getting mileage credit in this manner (Click to enlarge):

 

A couple of other readers have also shared that they had their accounts terminated this week for the “rents a car” reason as well.

Airlines have long justified terminating accounts as people that sold miles cost the airlines revenue.

American subsidizes the cost of a credit card signup bonus, so they also justified shutting credit card mailer abusers down as that cost them money as well.

In this case, there was no revenue being lost as the car rental company still paid American for the miles. It’s just a pure cash grab by using this as an excuse to confiscate miles to justify the continued existence of an audit team when people aren’t redeeming or brokering awards.

I’m not saying that people who did this are innocent, but terminating accounts for this without warning is egregious behavior from American Airlines. 

It’s also a wake up call that people need to be more careful than ever to make sure that everything they do is on the up and up, as at least American’s auditors are becoming more vicious on what merits an account shutdown.

Ironically, shutting down accounts like these will likely cost American money in the long-term. These were people who participated in the AAdvantage program, which is a money-maker for American.

By telling them that they are banned for life without warning, American is depriving themselves of the long-term revenue they would have made from the relationship. These weren’t members that were depriving the airline of revenue as mileage sellers and brokers do.

That kind of short-term thinking is emblematic of why airlines are in the trouble they find themselves in today.

On Tuesday I wrote about American taking $5.8 billion in bailout funds and turning around to raise basic economy transatlantic checked bag fees to $150 for the first checked bag. American is continuing down a path where they may cost themselves more loyalty than they can afford to lose.

Have you ever had a mileage account terminated? Which airline and what did you do?

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63 Comments On "The American AAdvantage Account Shutdowns Are Being Grossly Misreported; Are Their Auditors Struggling To Justify Their Existence?"

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Hanna

Wow! Egregious indeed.

Raising the baggage fees at a time like this is really low. Especially after taking government bailout money (aka our tax dollars)

OD

car rental companies pay airlines for the right to attach frequent flyer number to car rentals?
Is that why car rental companies charge us a small fee to use a FFN? that is how much they are paying the airlines and just passing along same exact fee to their customers?

Shaul Yaakov Morrison

Something more fair would have been re-expiring those miles as it’s a clear violation to use someone else’s rental for that purpose.

KSMH

At least some one is writing this is the way its supposed to be.

ds

after reading your posts on earning lifetime statues on american for credit card spending i wasvery tempted to sign up for those citi cards, you mentioned but since I have hundreds of thousands of miles in my aadvantage account from getting the barclays sign up bonuses a few times and getting both citi aadvantage cards a few years back I am very concerned after reading that american was shutting down accounts just for churning even if you never did those citi mailers. at this point we could genuinely say that as influential and well respected you are in the traveler industry american has decided not to care what you say at all, or their such a lack of communication between all the execs there that no one seems to focus on straightening themselves out. “a classical case of, someone else will do it that his job”

Smay

My entire family had accounts terminated for using mailers. Total loss across 4 accounts about a million miles. Are people having any success filing complaints? Any advice?

Shaul Yaakov Morrison

We’re the mailers fake? If so, what’s your argument?

kenny

Me and spouse only used offers sent to our home, addressed to us (correct spelling, address, FFN) 2 personal citi cards, 1 business citi card , 1 Barclays personal card over 24 months period (Never ever had citi cards before). Mileage balance was over 1 million each.

We were locked out while in middle of foreign trip and terminated a month later.
Based on months of research, pretty confident that we did not violate ANY of even internal AA rules. Have contacted security office, FF program director, AA Legal office, Office of Chairman – absolutely zero response, not even a generic form letter.

Of course DoT complaint was filed. Nothing happened to it.
Have contacted representative as well as both senators.
One of the staffer was able to reach executive office and came back with the response that “only fraudsters have been terminated”.

Most of my miles were from flying USAir and AA in business.
AA have not and will not earn a penny of my business.
If any relative is trying to visit me, not flying AA is a pre-condition.
In clients contracts, we have added the clause that we cud not be required to fly Spirit, Frontier or AA.

In mid 70s, I was mugged in central park in broad day light.
Felt same way when AA terminated without warning AND THEN refusing to do anything to remedy their mistake.

I support AA’s right to terminate actual fraudsters. But I have spent many hours double checking that we did not violate a single known rule or protocol.

SAY NO TO AIRLINE BAILOUT

Feel for ya 🙁

Gary LANDAU

Similar story happen to me, I would love to file charges against AA Can anyone recommend me an Attorney? If I file small claims charges in which state or county should File? for more info: gary@lpmmgt.com

Joe

Any response from AA ? Just found out my account is also terminated without any warning.

g

using someone elses number as your own is fraud.

Steve

Had my account terminated 5 years ago due to selling miles. @dan do you think I can reopen an account under different address/email address?

Shame on AA

I had close to 400k AA that I was using for a business trip to bring in potential clients in business/FIRST class on a domestic flight and they cancelled the tickets and after responding to them they just ignored and kept the miles. Horrible thieves and no surprise they didn’t want to refund tickets from the Corona……Stick with Delta and United, they will treat you like people. I’m not sure why we are bailing AA out

KSMH

Why dont you file a suit in small claims court or superior?

More bang for your buck

FYI, even if the renter collected rental car points when he initially rented, the system still let them use the receipt for AA so you were really able to cash in double.

ari

Now that will surely get you booted

More bang for your buck

I would says that is part of the discussion of you taking advantage of their mistake

E

Well, to echo some of the other posts, I was considering working towards 2MM status this year, but not going to bother. I haven’t stepped over any lines, but this is just not a program/airline worth trusting.

Deltahater

+1. You just can’t trust AA anymore. Something special in the air. No more. Plus, even if I do get 2MM and Platinum, there is no guarantee that they will add 3 tier above Platinum and Platinum benefits now get a free glass of water on flights over 4 hours.

Dan2

I haven’t done this luckily. I’ve ended up using my cards but Signing up for a credit card that they push you, claiming the bonus miles and canceling it is a reason they can use to cancel an account!?

Gemarakop

All true but at the end of the day if aa is the cheapest option most people would just fly them

David

I’m really not understanding what the above mileage member did wrong. What did American accuse him of? The email that they sent was so unclear and not specific. I’m failing to see how the user violated the program in any way

Ejb

Seems like AA’s strategy is:
1. Create a bunch of loopholes for ppl to abuse the system.
2. Catch those taking advantage of the loopholes and burn them Bc you don’t want to do business w them anyway.

Yitz

Isn’t it clear that only the one who rents the car can claim the miles for it? Why is AA wrong over here? Am I missing something?

HP

If mom book award for married child (diff last name )
1 possible on line?
2 will be an issue ?
Ok to book for immediate family ?

F-U AA

AA can suck it. Their AAtitude in the sky and on the ground made me stop flying them entirely. They lost a year after year EXP. Feels free to be done from the bully.

AA

Sounds like this hit too close to home for Dan….

OD

why would you say that? You know over the years Dan calls it as he sees it!

JohnnieD

Wow. No stone unturned to get millions of miles liability off the balance sheet.

Sammy

Claim that you never knew about the transaction. It’s the car renter who out in your information, so he broke the terms, not you.
I don’t see how they can terminate over a few points. The fact that they got restored shouldn’t affect anything. They can cancel the points and re-expire them, but terminate an account is insanity

MB

Absolutely disgusting. I hope American’s entire audit team contracts COVID-19, suffers tremendously, and dies alone – feeling as abandoned and helpless as the people they fleeced.

Gary LANDAU

I feel your pain, I am willing to start a lawsuit Vs AA I just need an attorney with experience in this line

Joe

Just curious any news? Just found out my account is also gone.

AAFlyer

Not sure how folks can overlook this: “ileage will be credited only to the account of the AAdvantage® member who flies, rents a car, stays at a hotel, or earns mileage utilizing other participating companies. No mileage credit will be awarded for canceled flights and/or through being accommodated on another airline.” Pretty black and white. The person requesting mileage credit must have been the one earning credit.

markie n

Dan the notion that you justify putting someone elses mileage number on a rental when the intent is positively fraud is what is wrong with all this gaming the system. you certainly wouldnt tolerate this if it was your loss. mileage expiration is part of the equation when miles are sold by an airline in the first place . (much like gift cards sold up front at discounts). clearly finding this line of fraud (it’s not about the rental per say it’s about the likely hundreds of millions of miles they wrote off and suddenly retroactively appear.) provide your service without egregious gaming of the system. would you book your Fairmont suites with someone else as a second guest and they show but you dont where you were risking YOUR lifetime status ? of course not…..

Dave

Shut down a few months ago with gold status and over 500k miles for having opened too many cards. All mailers sent to us at our home. It’s absurd. Screw American Airlines.

yujie

i have AAdvantage Account for over 5 years, i cancelled my citicard on March 2020, just find out the AA locked out my account on March 2020, called customers several times but still didn’t resolved it

yujie

my husband and i have separated AAdvantage account for over 6 years, my account have over 300,000 mileage and my husband have over 150,000 mileage, we had a initial opening account bonus credit on both account, after that all the mileage we got were from spending and we only using one time mileage bought a air ticket 5 years ago, since then didn’t using it at all but both the account are active. just find out on June 2020, my account was locked and my husband account was terminated. i called AAdvantage account service several times and talked to the manager and each time the manager told me she send the email to cooperate security department and let them to contact me but no one was contact me so far.
how AAdvantage can illegally shout down customer account ?
what the steps should customer take can re-claim the account ? what’s the things customer can do to violate their role ? I do nothings but only used my AAvantage credit card to earning mileage and my husband account were shopped eshopping mall to earning mileage, why they shout down our account ? i think that’s illegal. anyone want to group together to fight this case against AA ?

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