United Prevails in Million-Miler Lawsuit

By Paul Riegler on 24 January 2014
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United's terminal at JFK

United’s terminal at JFK

A Chicago-based frequent flyer who had accumulated more than a million miles in United Airlines’ frequent flyer program lost in his bid to file a class action suit against the airline accusing it of improperly and “immorally” rescinding program benefits for “Million Milers.”

An Illinois federal judge held on Thursday that flyers who had reached “million miler” status were subject to the same contract as other members of the program.

In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber granted United Continental, the airline’s parent company, summary judgment.

The judge, quoting the Book of Job, cited “vague” evidence and noting that “[T]he Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” rejected plaintiff George Lagen’s claim that he and other million-miler members should be subject to a different set of terms and conditions from the one that governs the current United MileagePlus program.

Lagen had claimed in the original suit that United’s 2010 merger with Continental Airlines had led to an “immediate and significant retroactive demotion of benefits to Million Milers.” He had sued for breach of contract, good faith, and fair dealing, and had tried to attain class action status for the action.  He had contended that United had promised Million Miler flyers certain lifetime benefits on its website, including two regional upgrades every year as well as Premier Executive elite status, which would provide for a 100% mileage bonus on flights, and that United had breached its contract with pre-merger Million Milers by taking these benefits away.

“United’s egregious actions, if left unabated, will result in its unlawfully, not to mention immorally, retaining the millions upon millions of dollars it received from Million Miler members,” he said in the court filing.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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