Q: I've been saving my Delta Air Lines frequent-flier miles for many, many years to take my wife on a 20th anniversary
trip this year. I received all of my statements by regular mail. A few months ago, I asked the airline for a PIN number
so I could look at my account online, and when I logged in, I was shocked to see my balance at zero miles. I had - or
at least I thought I had - 101,000 miles.
It turns out that even though I used to have points with no expiration date, Delta had made changes to its program and
because of inactivity on my account my points were
deleted late last year.
A representative also told me that because Delta had gone green" I hadn't received any account statements, which would
have informed me of my expiration dates. We asked the airline to reinstate our miles because we have stayed at Delta
partner hotels in the last year, but it refused.
I feel like our dream anniversary has been shattered, and I am devastated because I can't afford to buy plane tickets.
I would be very, very grateful if you would consider contacting Delta on my behalf. To quote an old movie, Help me,Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope!" - Kenneth Miller,
A: Delta should have told you about your expiring miles. It was wrong to deny your
request. It also was wrong to underestimate the Force.
Like most other airline loyalty programs, Delta's SkyMiles program allows the airline to change its terms any time for
any reason. If that sounds overly broad, if not a little unfair, that's because it probably is. You can review the
terms online for yourself and decide: www.delta.com/skymiles/
You made some assumptions about your frequent flier program that were incorrect. You believed the terms under which you
began collecting loyalty points wouldn't change - that your miles would last forever - even though Delta's terms gave
the airline a license to rewrite the rules.
I can't blame you for thinking Delta would keep its word. It's like buying a knife set with a lifetime warranty, only
to discover a few years later that the guarantee has been cut to two years. If you earned non-expiring miles, then
common sense tells you the miles should never expire. But common sense doesn't apply to this situation.
Here are a few steps you could have taken to improve your chances of keeping your miles. First, you phoned Delta, but I
would have written instead. A quick e-mail to the airline is far more effective than a call, for a number of reasons
that regular readers of this column already know.
In reviewing this case with Delta, you probably could have done a couple of things to keep your hard-earned miles, like
giving the airline a current e-mail address and handing over your SkyMiles number to the hotels where you stayed. Had
you done those two things, you probably would still have your 101,000 miles.
I contacted Delta on your behalf. I also forwarded receipts from your hotel stays to prove that technically, you had
some activity on your account, even though you never received mileage credit for it. As a
gesture of goodwill, and as an exception, Delta returned your miles.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. E-mail him at "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com, or troubleshoot your trip through his Web site, "http://www.elliott.org">www.elliott.org. Distributed by Tribune Media Services.