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United Airlines in business litigation over frequent flier miles

Many people sign up for frequent flier mile programs with airlines that they frequently travel. People using these programs often use the miles they have accumulated to book free flights or hotel room stays. Recently, two residents of New Jersey filed business litigation against an airline over how the company determines how many frequent flier miles a customer is charged for a hotel room or for a free flight.

One of the two litigants was attempting to use frequent flier miles to book a hotel room for an upcoming trip. When the system advised the man that he did not have enough miles to book the room, his traveling companion attempted to use her miles to book the room since she had more miles available. Even though she tried to book the room just moments after her traveling companion, the amount of miles that would have been required for her to book the room was different than the man was told.

The two contacted United Airlines complaining about the situation. They were told that an algorithm determines the amount of miles a customer is required to use. The lawsuit claims that the airline's algorithm unfairly demands that customers with more frequent flier miles to use a higher number of those miles to book either a flight or hotel room than customers with fewer miles.

It is the contention of the litigants in this business litigation that everyone should use the same amount of miles to book hotel rooms or flights regardless of how many miles a person has accumulated. The New Jersey residents are requesting that their lawsuit be granted class action status because if their allegations are correct, there could be a large number of people affected by the outcome of the litigation. Should the two United Airlines customers prevail, it could potentially subject every airline to the same scrutiny. Anytime a business offers customers perks such as this, it may be beneficial to ensure that the redemption policy is fair to every customer in order to avoid customer complaints.

Source:, Suit Claims United Airlines' Frequent Flier Rewards are Rigged, Samantha Bomkamp, Oct. 10, 2013

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