George Lagen, a top traveller from Chicago, is protesting United Airlines after the airline company took away some of the “perks” that he became accustomed to while flying.
The man isn’t complaining about a lack of baggage room or having to pay for snacks, however.
George Lagen is one of the insightful few to buy an unlimited lifetime travel ticket that came fully-loaded with bonuses.
The tickets, originally sold by American Airlines in a push for instant cash, were bought by 66 passengers before they stopped the offer.
After paying $350,000 for the ticket in 1987, George Lagen and one other passenger were able to travel the world in first class on as many of the airline’s flights as he desired.
That he did, George Lagen took 1,000 trips to New York, 500 to Los Angeles, San Francisco and London. Another 80 of his trips landed in Sydney and 50 more in Hong Kong.
All told, George Lagen estimates that he has earned 40 million miles, deservedly earning him the status of a “Million Miler”.
Those select few to gain that elusive title were treated to seat upgrades, early boarding, and the second-highest status given to travellers: “premier executive”.
Additionally, for every flight Million Milers took, they were given the same amount back in frequent flier miles that they could then use towards future flights.
George Lagen told ABC that he is now suing the airline because a number of those perks, to which he had become accustomed, were taken away after United merged with Continental Airlines.
The Million Milers are now handled by the MileagePlus program which has demoted them to the third level of flier (called “Premier Gold” rather than “executive”), fewer upgrades, and half of the frequent flier miles per flight.
The suit alleges that the merger with Continental caused “immediate and significant retroactive demotion of benefits to Million Milers”.
“In stark contrast to the gutting of promised and bargained-for benefits for Million Milers, the new MileagePlus Program perversely and arbitrarily rewards former members of Continental Airlines former Continental One Pass frequent flier program.
“United’s egregious actions, if left unabated, will result in its unlawlly, not to mention immorally, retaining the millions upon millions of dollars it received from Million Miler members.”
In spite of the breach of contract, good faith and fair dealing suit, the company maintains that they have done nothing wrong and that the suit is meritless.
“We greatly value our Million Milers and are continuing to deliver valuable and highly competitive benefits with our lifetime program. One Million Milers receive benefits at the 50,000-mile premier status level – the same as before,” a spokesman for United Airlines said in a statement.
That means little to George Lagen, who puts it simply: “A deal’s a deal.”