Warning: Fishing for Compensation Could Lead to Status Revocation

While the lawsuit has been going on for a few years, It has popped up in the news, and gives me a chance to share my thoughts on it.  There is a lawsuit against Northwest Airlines about a former Platinum who had his status revoked and miles removed from his account.  In the letter he received from Northwest he was told that:


Northwest in a 2008 letter told Ginsberg he had contacted the airline’s office 24 times in roughly seven months regarding travel problems, adding that he “continually asked for compensation” and had already been awarded nearly $2,000 in travel vouchers, 78,500 bonus miles and $491 in cash reimbursements. The letter also apologized for service issues.

While many of us United fliers do tend to fish for compensation, we do so because the airline gives us the opportunity.  These are seemingly minor issues (I got a $150 voucher for being ignored for 20 minutes at the international check-in desk at my own airport while I was waiting to check my bag).  There are genuinely issues that need resolution, and United has a record of being good in compensating.  It is people like this who are obviously gaming the system that cause airlines to remove their generosity and become much colder.

Personally, I am glad that Northwest got rid of this customer from their elite program.  He is only an elite at complaining, and nobody deserves to constantly have to deal with a DYKWIA elite passenger.  I am sure some of his complaints are genuine, but there is a point where complaints go from being legitimate to seeking to fleece the airline.  The airline is completely within its rights to terminate someone's status within the frequent flyer program as long as they do not do so because someone is in a protected class.  Although the complaintent is a rabbai, his status was not revoked because he is Jewish, but because he is a pain in the ass.  With this number of complaints, can you imagine him sitting next to you in first class, and then complaining that they ran out of his meal choice?  I do not look forward to that opportunity.  

While we can wax philosophical about the justification about such actions from a frequent flyer program, one thing we do need to focus on is that this is being litigated as a case about what level of consumer protections apply to the airlines and their frequent flyer programs.  As such, it means that we are most likely looking at a case that will go on for years.  This is one of those times that I hope Delta wins, because otherwise the airline industry could be litigated into oblivion.