BOSTON (CBS) – Airlines have won the loyalty of millions of travelers thanks to frequent flyer miles. Philip Gindi of Melrose says all of his loyalty didn’t mean much to American Airlines. “I went to redeem a ticket for my brother in October only to find out the miles had expired,” he said. This was not just a few miles; Gindi earned more than 777,000 miles after years of weekly business trips to the west coast. That’s potentially dozens of free trips. “I was miffed,” he said.
Gindi insists the Airline never notified him that his miles were expiring. American denies this, but experts like the founder of Airfarewatchdog.com say airlines are not going out of their way to make sure customers don’t miss out. “Why should they?” George Hobica said. “These miles are a liability on their balance sheet. They would like to get rid of as many of these miles as possible.”
According to Hobica, miles should be treated like any other financial asset. “I don’t think that people think of miles as being money in the bank, but they really are,” he said.
The good news is that it’s fairly simple to keep your miles from expiring without actually booking a trip. Experts say just one purchase a year through your frequent flyer account should do the trick. Most airlines have their own online malls where you can actually earn more miles buying things at places like Best Buy or Nordstrom. You can join Netflix, donate to a charity or simply buy one iTunes song using your account.
Philip was able to reinstate his miles for a $600 fee, but he’s fighting to get that money back. “They didn’t have to offer the miles, they offered them. They benefited from them because they won an awful lot of business from me over the years. It’s unfair and deceptive,” he said.
You can use your phone to help keep track of your miles. Apps like Mile Blaster and Award Wallet will alert you when your miles are getting close to their expiration date.
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