I’m thrilled to bring back one of my favorite features: That’s ridiculous! I’ll be exploring some of the more senseless policies, rules and regulations and pointing out their absurdities. It’ll be fun! You can help by emailing me your tips.

Jim Loomis can’t be the only person with this question, so I’m letting him ask it: Why won’t American Airlines take his perfectly valid American currency?

The occasion was the five-hour flight between Maui and Los Angeles, which is probably one of the most boring flights in the world. (Look down! What do you see? Ocean — for five straight hours.)

Loomis, who’s been a member of American Airlines’ AAdvantage program for more than 20 years, had a seat in economy class, booked with award miles. Economy class was completely full, with one passenger standing at the gate hoping for a seat to open up.

Loomis asked if there were any seats available in first. There were two.

Could he buy an upgrade?


“So the flight left with me sitting in economy, two empty seats in first class, and one stand-by passenger still back in the Maui airport trying to get to Los Angeles,” he says.

“Meanwhile, American didn’t get my $300 for the upgrade and whatever they would have charged the stand-by passenger,” he says.

He adds,

I emailed a complaint to American and they replied that it was indeed the company’s policy because allowing those of us traveling on miles to buy an upgrade would lessen the value of the first class experience for the folks up there who paid cash for their seat.

Well, first, how would the rest of the first class passengers know how I had come to be sitting there amongst them? And, second, why would an airline in bankruptcy refuse $500 or $600 in found income?

You really have to wonder, don’t you!

Yeah, me too.

I find it odd that American could tell a passenger that the award miles he’d earned as the result of giving his loyalty and business to the airline were somehow worth less than cash, and indeed, are worthless. I mean, I’m sure the bean counters treat it as value-less scrip, but why would you tell a customer that their Weimar Republic points have no value?

Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?

But beyond that, why on earth wouldn’t you take a customer’s real money when the benefits are so obvious: You get $300 and you also have another passenger, who is presumably paying a fare.

How tricky is that math?

Now I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this which makes sense to the airline and the MBAs in charge of its yield management systems. But telling a long-time customer that his miles — indeed, his loyalty — has no real value is truly self-destructive. Almost as self-destructive as turning down $300, which could further enhance shareholder value.

Then again, when you’re only one of three remaining legacy airlines, you can pretty much do whatever you want to do. Thanks, US Department of Justice. Allowing the merger between American Airlines and US Airways made so much sense. You really had our backs on that one!

Should American have accepted Loomis' money?

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