US Airways Spams, Then Insults Members

by on April 9, 2011 · 17 comments

in US Airways

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Earlier this week, I blogged about US Airways generosity in sending out an email promising 1,000 free miles to their frequent flyer program members. Their catchy message teased us mileage junkies with the subject line : “They’re waiting in your account!” and then continued with, “Miles make you smile … and they get you where you want to be.” How cute!

Except US Airways was just kidding and sent these emails in error to hundreds of thousands of people. Doh!

While the miles weren’t in my account, I figured they’d be posted at some point this week. However, this morning when I landed in Stockholm I got the following email, which failed to coherently explain their boneheaded mistake:

“Earlier this week, we inadvertently delivered an email message to many of our Dividend Miles members’ email accounts. Unfortunately, one of those accounts was yours. Worse, this email incorrectly stated that we posted 1,000 Dividend Miles into your account. This was not accurate and the email message was sent in error.

We apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused you and appreciate your understanding.”

Actually I don’t understand, so there’s nothing for you to appreciate. In fact, I don’t appreciate your spam. If “miles make you smile” well, then, no miles makes me angry!

Especially coming off a huge data breach that affected major loyalty programs, I would think US Airways would be sensitive to SPAMming their loyalty program members and honor the 1,000 miles they promised everyone in their cute and obviously well-thought-out email. US Airways already mints miles like they’re going out of style, so what’s an extra 1,000 per member? I could see if it was 10,000, but 1,000 is so insignificant in the scheme of things. In fact, they were just offering new members up to 4,000 miles just for signing up for an account.

Overall, I am disappointed in US Airways’ response to their mistake. Hilton honored their 10,000 point text mistake that a rogue hotel offered in error, US Airways should do the same – especially considering the email ostensibly came from their corporate headquarters. I encourage everyone to email them to let them know your displeasure with their lack of professionalism.

While I don’t want to make a huge deal out of a thousand miles, I do think it’s important that we demand a level of corporate responsibility and respect from loyalty programs. If they email us about free miles and then take 5 days to issue an apology email – how many thousands of people checked their accounts or called to inquire if the promo was legitimate? While it may be a small amount of time per person, multiply that by hundreds of thousands of people and US Airways just wasted a whole lot of people’s time. Heck, I even wrote a blog post about it – and am writing another now. Okay, I need to stop wasting my time writing about a company that enjoys wasting mine!

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    I thought the exact thing about my morning spam from US Airways. I thought why in the world (of all airlines) would “US Airways” want to take a chance pissing off their customers over 1000 miles. Seems like the OLD US Airways is shining through. I wonder what those new 1st class seats in Express are going to cost us? haha

  • KenCT

    This is truly a public relations fiasco. I got my 1,000 miles since I’m a “preferred” member. USAirways is the only airline that flies to my small city, and it’s usually super convenient for me. They never seem to run out of small ways to drive away their customer base. Remember trying to charge for soft drinks?

  • Michael H

    Sorry, but I’m not buying the indignent line and think everyone offended by this just needs to move on.

    Firstly, it’s not a public relations fiasco as KenCT might suggest. Someone accidently sent an email out to more people than a promotion was planned for, and internal controls and systems failed to catch this and prevent the accident. Calling it a PR fiasco is making a mountain out of a molehill.

    Secondly, trying to tie this to the recent Eplison email breaches affecting a number of companies including non-Airline loyalty programs is a really big reach (overreach almost). The data wasn’t breached, it was an internal accident. And in terms of sensativity arising, that’s just balderdash to pad out an article, and your own views alone.

    Yes, there is a need for airlines to manage their reputation and ensure that internal procedures prevent emails being accidently sent. However, for customers to piss and moan about things they think they are entitled to but aren’t is a waste of everyone’s time.

    And as for the email not being coherent, I think you may have been sleep deprived on the Stockholm flight and needed some more z’s before checking your email.

  • mark

    I was waiting for your repose on this. I agree, not a big deal….but just honor the darn thing. It’s only 1,000 miles. I understand this hits the balance sheet (and negative goodwill doesn’t) but this is just petty.

  • Austin

    Wasting people’s time is what US Airways does best. They wasted 2 days of mine because they couldn’t get us to Mexico for our honeymoon. Then it took 4 letters to finally get a worthless $100 voucher. They are the worst airline I have ever dealt with. Good luck getting those miles.

  • Chad

    I dropped US Air a quick email about this. I wouldn’t say it’s a PR nightmare, but it is terrible customer service. The “Oops” email was patronizing and somewhat of a corporate “neener neener neener! you want this?! oh you can’t have it!” I basically just used the “more bees with honey” argument in the email, saying 1,000 miles probably would have pushed people to book flights worth far more than 1,000 miles directly with US Air. Saying “oops” just leaves a bad taste in our mouths and pushes us to search for flights on the clearing house websites rather than on US Air’s.

  • studio253

    The oops part is what pissed me off. I’m formerly Chairman’s with them and currently ExecPlat with AA. USAir has done many things over the years to drive me away so I wasn’t shocked that I had received the e-mail the first time around as a way to maybe show some love and try to lure my business back but when I received the follow up e-mail I have to admit at first I laughed but then was pissed. It shows quite a level of incompetence that this went out in the first place. I find this to be worse than not honoring a mistake fare. This was something completely unsolicited on my part. For all the junk mail they send me on a regular basis they should have honored the e-mail. If my company did the same type of thing we would be trashed in our industry.

  • The Points Guy

    @Charles, the whole thing is very reminiscent of “old school” US Airways disconnect with customers.

    @Ken- I had just left US Airways since the “pay for drinks/coffee/water” fiasco. That decision certainly didn’t work out well for them and they are still dealing with the backlash today. While I don’t think this is nearly as big of a deal, I agree it is negative PR that they easily could have fixed.

    @Michael- My comment was that people were sensitive about spam because of the huge Epsilon breach that happened the day prior. We were all told in numerous emails from companies to be on the lookout for more spam. The next day we get a bizarre, unsolicited email from US Airways telling us we had miles waiting for us in our accounts when there weren’t. Do you really think its an overreach that this US Airways email could have been spam? I know it wasn’t my “view alone” to be suspicious.

    And as for the “apology” email not making sense, I guess I should have said it was poor example of customer relations. They could have offered some sort of consolation, like the bonus if you booked a flight. Saying Oops is unprofessional in my opinion- guess we will have to agree to disagree.

    @Mark- my thoughts exactly. Not the end of the world, but petty of them to make a huge issue out of a small amount of miles per person. They could have used their mistake to their advantage, but shot themselves in the foot, in my opinion.

    @Austin- luckily I never have to fly US Airways anymore, but I still have a significant Dividend Miles balance due to generous promotions. I recommend doing the same, since their frequent flyer program is actually pretty generous- even if you never fly :-)

    @Chad- Comparative to other PR “Nightmares” an airline can face, this is far from the worst. However, I do think its bad PR and they could have been more conciliatory. I agree they could have offered the bonus if you booked a flight or something and actually used it to drive business.

  • Mooper

    I agree that it would have been a wise business move for US to honor the mistake, however, I disagree with the characterization of the error as “SPAM”. A mistaken email does not equate to SPAM ( )

  • http://[email protected] Sharron Mell

    I also received the Oops! email. I understand that perhaps they did not control the verbiage of the original email that gave me 1000 miles but they did in the Oops email. Not only was the tone condenscending but it shows they really don’t value their customers. I should have gotten that hint when they started treating me as”cattle” but now it has become apparent. They have just lost my business.

  • The Points Guy

    Mooper- per your link- Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately.

    Sounds exactly like what US did in my opinion

  • Denise

    Points guy – I agree with you and just emailed US Airways. While filling out the electronic form I chose “complaint” and “not flight related”… which then still required me to enter a departure and arrival city and flight date. WTF. So, I then added that on to my complaint. Something that basic should have been caught in testing. If the complaint isn’t flight related then don’t have them list a flight.

    More than anything I think I’m annoyed that the service sucks on all these airlines now, we pay for everything, the flight itself is usually late, full and unpleasant and then when they could demonstrate a little good will then decide “nah, no reason to do that.” Ridiculous.

  • The Points Guy

    Hi everyone- check out my newest post- US Airways decided to honor the 1,000 miles when I called them today. You all should try doing the same

  • Pingback: Upon Prompting, US Airways Decides to Honor Their 1,000 Mile Promise |()

  • Gloria Gerak

    I called on the phone … and presto … had the miles manually added to mine and my husband’s account. Thanks Point Guy!

  • James

    Thanks, Points Guy–just called and got my 1000 miles. I was going to let the email go, but after seeing your post, I figured 1000 miles was worth a phone call.

  • Vincent

    Thank You Point Guy, just called and got my free 1000 miles! I was going to ignore it too like probably so many others but your post let me see the light

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