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American cuts life of frequent flyer miles in half

American on Saturday slipped a shank between the ribs of participants in its loyalty program, cutting in half the period during which AAdvantage members must have account activity in order to keep their miles alive. The Saturday news release is a tired old P.R. trick, designed to minimize anticipated negative media coverage, and the very fact that the company stooped to such a sleazy communications tactic in this case tellingly bespeaks American's own ambivalence.

The new mileage expiration policy: "Effective December 15, 2007, mileage balances will expire from AAdvantage accounts that have not had miles either earned or redeemed within the previous eighteen (18) month period. If the last activity in your AAdvantage account was prior to June 15, 2006, all miles subject to expiration will expire on December 15, 2007."

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Compounding the injury, the policy will apply retroactively. So rather than being limited to miles earned in future, it will affect miles already earned, when the old three-year policy was in place.

American's announcement to its best customers ends on an appropriately hollow note, "We appreciate your business," and is signed by the anonymous "AAdvantage Marketing Programs." Clearly, no one at American was willing to have his name associated with this message.

No wonder. This is a consumer-unfriendly policy, and to add insult to injury, it was disingenuously communicated.

ShAAme (sic) on you, American.

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