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I admitted yesterday that I might have been more annoyed than normal at United removing bonus miles awarded early/incorrectly from a promotion due to the crummy day I was having. However, in hindsight, I think I actually was less annoyed than I normally would have been. Judging by the growing Flyertalk thread on the topic, others seem to agree.
Let me explain what happened as simply as possible. Many United flyers, myself included, were targeted this spring for a promo that was called either “Map Your Dreams” or “Explore the World” (does it have two names?). Anyway, the way it worked was the more roundtrips you flew, the more bonus miles you received.
There were a few versions of this promo, but my version was:
One roundtrip = 5,000 bonus award miles
Two roundtrips = 10,000 bonus award miles
Four roundtrips = 25,000 bonus award miles
The terms of this promotion stated that (bolding mine):
Terms and conditions: 1. Offer valid only for original recipients of email or direct mail invitation. 2. To qualify, register for the offer before travel, then purchase and complete paid qualifying roundtrips to any destination worldwide on United– or United Express®–operated flights. 3. Ticketing period: 04/15/12 through 07/15/12. 4. Travel period: 04/15/12 through 07/15/12, excluding 07/03/12–07/05/12. 5. On specific number of paid qualifying roundtrip flights (as outlined in the offer) members can earn 5,000 bonus award miles, 10,000 bonus award miles or up to a maximum of 25,000 bonus award miles. 6. Bonus award miles do not count toward Premier® status and do not apply to class-of-service, Premier bonus miles or promotional Premier qualifying miles (PQM). 7. Offer is not valid on United-marketed codeshare flights operated by other carriers. 8. Offer is not valid on government fares. 9. A roundtrip is defined as travel from an origin city to a destination city with return travel beginning in the destination city back to the origin city. 10. Offer is not combinable and can be earned a maximum of one time. Bonus is credited 6–8 weeks after promotion end date of 07/15/12. 11. E-Ticket® purchase required. Tickets purchased in the US through United Reservations are subject to a $25 ticketing fee, and tickets purchased at airport ticket counters are subject to a $30 ticketing fee. Fees subject to change. 12. Flight activity must be posted to the member’s MileagePlus account in order to qualify for this offer. 13. Offer is subject to change without notice. Other restrictions may apply. 14. Miles accrued, awards issued and bonus offers are subject to the rules of the United MileagePlus program. For complete details about the MileagePlus program, go to united.com. See additional MileagePlus terms and conditions.
What was happening in actuality is that all roundtrips flown during the defined 4/15 – 7/15 travel period were counting toward the promotion regardless of when they were ticketed. This started almost three months ago, and United didn’t give anyone warning that there was a glitch occurring and to ignore any miles incorrectly posting as they would be adjusted in accordance with the terms of the promotion. Without spending too much time going through receipts, I think I actually paid for and flew two UA trips in the time period – maybe three. However, I flew five UA trips in the time period, so I had been awarded (incorrectly) the full 25,000 miles before they took the miles back yesterday. Most likely I will only receive 10,000 miles when they re-credit the miles in a few weeks.
When some people realized that they were just one flight away from the next threshold, they booked a flight primarily or solely for the purposes of this promotion. They were awarded the miles and thought everything was great. However, now the miles are all taken back, and if you were qualifying by the way it was working, as opposed to what the official terms stated, then you are now up a creek. Naturally, it could be argued that it was clear what was supposed to count, and anyone who was trusting that the incorrect bonus miles being awarded would actually stick was just being silly. Part of me agrees with that, but UA had almost three months to fix this error and let people adjust their plans accordingly. Changing it now just days before the end of the promotion seems less than ideal.
In fact, some folks have already spent the bonus miles and now have accounts with a negative balance. United’s IT department seems to have a recent track record of multiple mishaps. Mishaps happen, but my feelings is that when they do they should be fixed promptly, and any errors should benefit the customer, not hurt the customer. Even the miles that were earned legitimately through the promo are now gone for a few weeks, and some folks had plans to use those in the immediate future to book reward trips.
I’m a little bummed that 15,000 miles that I thought I had safe in my account will likely not return, but since I didn’t spend any extra money one way or another to get the bonus miles, it doesn’t actually hurt me in the long run. I can earn those miles back relatively quickly through strategic use of the Ultimate Rewards program. However, I still think this whole thing could have been handled much better. When I originally posted about this issue yesterday I had not received any notification from United about the missing miles, so it took me a while to realize why my balance had dropped. A little later I did receive an email from United about what had happened. It is good that they sent the email, but it would have been better if my MileagePlus account reflected what had happened. United erased any record of the bonus miles being deposited or removed. I could have saved some time searching for what had happened if they simply would have added a line in my statement that said: Map the World Promo Error -25,000 miles.
United is my airline of choice (mostly due to geographic location), but this just doesn’t sit well with me. I write about this mess not because I dislike United and want them to look bad, but because I really want them to do better. I know they can do better. It shouldn’t be that hard to design a promo and implement it as designed. In the event something goes wrong, it also shouldn’t be that difficult to do right by the customers. Then again, I may tend to have an overly simplistic view of things. 😉