You’re all getting 1,000 free miles… not!

There’s something at least kind of funny about this. Earlier in the week US Airways sent out an email to a lot of Dividend Miles members which read as follows:

“We know you love award travel…and we love seeing you happy! So, we added 1,000 bonus miles to your account.* We hope these miles get you a little closer to your next award trip. Keep flying and using Dividend Miles partners and you’ll be on your way in no time”

How nice, right? When’s the last time an airline actually loved seeing us happy? Apparently it has been a long time, since tonight US Airways sent out an email to most people that received the previous email, with the following text:

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.

I’m curious to hear what you guys think. On one hand it was an entirely unsolicited offer, so it’s like anyone jumped through any hoops to get the 1,000 miles. So no one lost anything. At the same time, they offered a gift and then took it back several days later. This wouldn’t have been all that expensive for them to honor, and if anything might generate buzz and more interest in their miles.

It’s kind of interesting to compare this to the recent British Midland incident, whereby they offered Silver status to new Diamond Club members, only to demote people from Silver several days later, claiming it was targeted (though their “oops” email was phrased a bit more harshly).

So I’m curious, which do you guys think is worse — directly offering someone 1,000 miles and then taking them back, or signing up for a frequent flyer program with the expectation of Silver status, only to be told you weren’t targeted for the promotion?

Comments

  1. This or similar incidents like it have been on the increase in the last 12-18 months. Another sizable failure of this kind is Virgin Blue (DJ) who sent out an email to a large number of their Velocity members offering them instant Gold status (including some of their existing Gold members).

    My view is that airlines need to handle situations like these carefully. They need to balance the need to retain customer loyalty, the damage such mistakes can do to their brand, and the cash cost of trying to make good.

    Because there’s no way to know how many people received this email, there’s no way to gauge how much it would of cost them to just honour this accidental email. However, there would be nothing stopping them from handing over a smaller amount (say 100-250 miles) to at least try and make good.

    As for the BMI incident, they screwed up their response badly. That email was a PR 101 failure in terms of how to communicate with customers, and would have put a number of people off from even dealing with the airline in future.

    The core issue is the cost on honouring these accidental promotions. If you make the mistake, you need to find some way which isn’t too much of a financial burden to make good with the customer.

  2. I was pleasantly surprised when I received the first email saying I was getting 1,000 miles. Getting the 2nd one tonight just reinforced the image in my mind that US Airways is chintzy. Wasn’t much to simply honor.

  3. bmi is worse — an offer in exchange for action, and then rescinding the consideration given.

    bmi keeps the member the to market to.

    US Airways didn’t require action, it was a unilateral gift.

    Still, I was expected the “I’m sorry” note that showed up in my box to say it was an accident, the miles weren’t in the account when promised, but we’re making good and we’ll be depositing them within 6-8 weeks…

  4. While not PC, I’ll say it anyway: US Airways are “Indian Givers”. I say that even though I hadn’t received either message. I believe had this been done by snail mail, by U.S. Postal regulations, they would have been forced to award the 1000 miles.

  5. Not sure about anyone else, but I checked my account this morning and I had the 1,000 miles. I am CP so maybe this was supposed to be targeted and it got out of hand? I did not get an email reversing the previous 1,000 grant.

  6. MIchael H. sums it up pretty well. If it’s too much of a financial strain to honor the “deal/gift” (and we can’t know on this end if it is or isn’t), find something to make up for it. Even if it’s a smaller thing.

    Like Michael said USAir could have handed out a couple hundred miles, or maybe some dink chits.

    Actually given how US has been monetizing and then handing out miles left and right with some pretty generous bonus promotions, I’m surprised honoring the 1,000 miles would’ve been that difficult.

  7. Signing up for an airline loyalty program promising silver status who then yanks it back is a lot worse than not getting the 1,000 bonus miles another airline was suppose to give you.

    USAirways should have said the email was inadvertently sent out; however that they will honor the miles because they love their customers 😉

  8. I think some of these mistakes are quickly corrected by lower level employees more fearful of loosing their jobs that making customers happy. Top level management would likely see it as many posters suggest–an opportunity to improve relations with your best customers. It’ll be interesting to see if US eventually retracts its “take away”

  9. I, too, thought, “How nice,” and actually did receive the 1,000 miles the next day. Just checked, and they’re still in my account. Hope US Airways does the right thing and honours the offer for everyone else.

  10. I sent US Airways an email back saying that their marketing mistake made me lose faith in their company and I requested 2,000 miles to earn it back.

    I don’t expect a response.

  11. Hello,

    I, like many others, received the email stating I was getting 1,000 miles in my DM account just because you liked me. 🙂

    I now see it was an error. I would be willing to drop this, except some people DID get them and still have them.

    I trust I will see mine soon.

    Greg Myers
    CP# XXXXXXX

  12. I took a transatlantic flight from Germany to Boston this past December. It was an 8.5 hour flight and the row I was sitting in did not have working television monitors. Go figure. I assumed Us Airways would do something nice for all of us that had very little to do for 8 hours. Instead, they offered a “free” pair of the headphones they sell for a couple of dollars on their flights. A) What were we supposed to do with the headphones since our televisions and radios didn’t work? B) that’s all they could do? I’ve been on flights where people have been offered a free beverage or two b/c they were kind enough to give up a seat to a family or something like that. They clearly are lacking in the customer service realm.

  13. Weird. I just checked my account and it shows 1,000 miles posted on April 8 as a CUSTOMER APPRECIATION BONUS.

    I agree that it is ridiculous for them not to honor their promise.

  14. It shows a lack of organization in a company. Before any offer goes out it should be checked and approved by several people who check the terms of the offer and what emails it should be going to. Obviously you can’t get every single email address but they should have various categories of addresses (preferred vs. non-preferred, top tier, mid tier, low tier, etc.)

    I think it just shows how little oversight and control a company has. I’m guessng IT is one area where some of these companies keep trying to save money on but considering that most customers now deal with web pages it should be considered one of the most important areas. It is much more cost efficient to have a customer using a web page than having him/her getting frustrated and having to call in to speak with a person.

    (I received the first email and also received the miles.)

  15. Someone wrote the initial e mail, and someone hit send???

    USAir took a nice thing, and managed to leave a bad taste in my (our) mouth.

    Things like this need to go into a business marketing class on how not to do things. SInce USAir has been without ‘class’ for multiple years, I’m not surprised. Whatever were they thinking in reversing the 1000 mile gift that cost them next to nothing?

  16. I didn’t get the e-mail, but I did get the 1K Customer Appreciation Bonus. Go figure…

  17. Why not leave this alone and fufill the 1000 mile offer? Awarding 1000 miles is inexpensive anyways, so why generate ill will among your customers.

  18. @ Greg Myers, I agree with you. This incident wouldn’t be as much of an issue for me had US Airways been equal in how they recovered their service here. I also got the ‘love’ email but did not get any customer appreciation points even though others clearly have. I honestly don’t think 1000 miles would kill them. At least I know where I stand with them now … and will think twice before flying US Airways or trying to get their miles on any hotel/car reservation.

  19. It’s hard to judge how much it would cost US to honour this without having some idea of just how many people got the e-mail erroneously, but on the other hand even if it went to occasional US fliers it’s entirely possible the miles will eventually expire unused. And for customers who use US occasionally but might be inclined to use them more, it leaves a bad taste.

    On the other hand, at least the “sorry, but…” message was handled with a little more tact than the BMI incident – I didn’t have any problem with the actual rescinding of the offer, but the e-mail communicating the error was just unacceptably rude.

  20. They should have just given the 1000 miles.

    The BMI Silver downgrade was a ploy to obtain people’s private data. After the downgrade, BMI still had the rights to the data, or so they claim in their terms and conditions. The only way to wipe the slate clean is to send “written correspondence” to the UK, requesting that your account be closed.

    “Consent under clause 10.1 will be deemed to continue until a member writes to

    bmi Diamond Club
    PO Box 5050
    Annesley, Nottingham, NG15 0DL

    to withdraw consent. Withdrawal of consent may mean that certain services and benefits may no longer be provided to the member, and also entitle bmi to terminate membership immediately.”

    Pretty underhanded if you ask me. Now how many people who were downgraded are actually going to take the time to do that? Personally, I HATE bmi for doing this to people. I will send the darn letter and never use them for travel, ever.

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