Back in March a good friend had 60k points yanked from his AAdvantage account for supposed “seat blocking.” In case you missed it, here is the summary. He is Platinum on American, flies 2-3 times per month, and had a big international vacation planned for March. He got on the upgrade list for both ways, and his return trip cleared immediately. In the months leading up to his trip, he checked AA.com repeatedly to see how many biz class seats were available. The day before departure his AA accounts were locked. After repeated, frantic phone calls he finally got an email stating that he was being penalized for “seat blocking,” and that they were taking 60k miles and kicking him off of the upgrade list for the outbound flight.
He tried for weeks to call and write to American to explain what happened—that while he was overeager, he was certainly not malicious. Eventually he decided the only way to resolve the situation was to file a formal complaint with the Department of Transportation (which can be found here). The gist of the complaint is that the AA.com system is flawed, as someone can inadvertently make a reservation without ever clicking “Hold” or “Reserve”. Therefore my friend’s actions were not intentional, and the 60k punishment too severe. He is requesting that the DOT investigate these unfair practices, and that American must turn over all notes surrounding their investigation of him and train their corporate security staff about their website design flaws.
Soon after, American contacted him and offered to give him his 60k miles back if he would drop the complaint and sign a non-disclosure agreement. He refused—for him, this is not about the miles, but that his integrity has been challenged. American’s response on file, one month later, spent many pages calling him a “computer expert” deliberately blocking seats to increase his chance of getting an upgrade, and about three sentences stating that their system is totally fine.
At this point, the DOT has not ruled on the complaint. However, it recently started receiving some notice on some big sites—FlyerTalk (page 116 of the thread, post number 1733) and Traveling Better both have threads talking about the complaint, and Gary Leff recently wrote about it on View From The Wing. Evidently there are also some closed Facebook groups discussing it, although I don’t have access to those.
If you think my friend was treated unfairly, I urge you to go the DOT site where the complaint was filed and write a comment. I have been assured that the DOT takes comments very seriously, and if others share that either they were unaware of the “View Available Seats” link on AA.com or that they think American’s system is flawed, it may have an impact.
There have been some good discussions around this issue when I’ve posted about it previously. Click here to read the original post, the second update, the third update, and the fourth and most recent update. As always, I will keep you posted with new information as it unfolds!
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