American Will Expire Unused Miles, Break Promises

You'd think that American—mired in bankruptcy and fending off an unwanted acquisition push by US Airways—would be doing everything in its power to retain the loyalty and goodwill of its customers. After all, the airline's exit from Chapter 11 and its future independence both depend on its financial well being. Which in turn depends largely on its ticket revenues. Which depend on travelers' willingness to book American. Which depends on loyalty and goodwill.

A newly announced policy change would suggest that such common sense business logic is beyond the ken of American's brain trust. Yes, that would be the same brain trust that managed the company into bankruptcy.

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The airline has declared that what it originally dubbed Miles With No Expiratio—as in, "These miles will never expire"—will in fact expire.

Miles With No Expiration are AAdvantage miles earned prior to July 1, 1989. Thereafter, AAdvantage miles were rebranded as Miles Subject to Expiration. The current policy: Miles expire after 18 months of account inactivity.

Sure, we can all sympathize with American's quandary. They set a policy, circumstances changed, and now they're stuck with two incompatible policies.

The choice is a stark one: honor the promise implicit in Miles With No Expiration, or break that promise.

Cynically, and stupidly, American opted for the latter.

To take some of the sting out of the betrayal, American will add a bonus of 25 percent when the non-expiring miles are automatically converted to expiring miles on November 1.

Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but still a slap in the face. And that at a time when the airline can least afford to be disenfranchising its customers.

Action Item

The conversion will take place on the above-mentioned schedule, with no action required on the part of those with affected miles.

But there is still time to cash in your old miles for awards priced according to the award chart in effect when those miles were earned.

According to the conversion FAQ:

If you have at least 10,000 unredeemed miles that were earned prior to July 1, 1989, you may contact AAdvantage Reservations at 800-882-8880 to claim a "Regular" Award. For a list of awards, please contact AAdvantage Reservations.

Once the miles have been converted, all redemptions will be according to the current award chart.

Reader Reality Check

Do you have Miles With No Expiration in your AAdvantage account?

How do you feel about their upcoming conversion to expiring miles?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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