SEA GIRT, N.J. — Joe and Marilyn Woerner from Sea Girt, New Jersey had planned to take a trip for Joe’s 75th birthday using points they’d saved in their United Airlines Mileage Plus accounts. Joe said “We had over 300,000 points and expected to go to France.”
But when they went online recently to check the balance in their accounts, they were shocked at what they found. “The points were gone”, said Joe. “270 points under my name and 52,000 under Marilyn’s name.” The statements said the miles had expired, leaving them with a zero balance.
Joe called United Mileage Plus and says “they said after 18 months of inactivity, if there isn’t something done with these points, they just vanish. They’re taken away.” Joe says he had never been notified about that 18 month expiration policy. He says he was told “we don’t have to notify you. This was a self-managed account.”
A United Airline spokesperson told PIX11 the 18 month expiration policy on points or miles has been in effect for years and account holders usually do receive reminders when the expiration deadline is near. But Joe insists neither he nor his wife ever received such a reminder.
When Joe wrote to United to complain, he was informed that United Mileage Plus has a program in which account holders can buy back their miles. Joe says “So we would have to pay money, over $500,to buy back the points we had already earned, which to me was just ridiculous.”
Fortunately, Joe did not give up. He wrote to PIX11 asking for help. He also wrote another letter to United explaining that he had been in the hospital having a back operation during some of that 18 month period and so was unable to travel during that time. He sent in a note from his doctor as proof, and United agreed to reinstate his 270,000 miles.
As for his wife, Marilyn, after PIX11 contacted United Mileage Plus, they examined her case and decided to reinstate her 52,000 miles. The couple is now back to planning Joe’s birthday trip to France.
While they have learned they’ve got to keep an eye on the miles in their account Joe says he believes that expiration policy on points is wrong. “It just seems to me once you earn them, you ought to be able to keep them”.