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Frontier Airlines deluged with complaints about mileage transfer blunder

Jan 17, 2013 8:16 am

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When an airline offers a promotion, it should honor it. Not very complicated. That’s especially true in a community where Frontier is scaling back service.

— Dennis Schaal

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More than 100 frequent fliers have filed complaints with the State of Wisconsin this week, saying their Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns miles were never transferred to Delta Air Lines SkyMiles although they met the terms and conditions of the offer.

The Journal Sentinel has received more than 50 emails and calls from Frontier customers after two stories in late December and January chronicled other readers’ tribulations trying to convert their miles as part of a promotional program launched in anticipation of Frontier cutting back on its Milwaukee flights this summer.

Now there’s one more reason to be hopeful those problems will finally get resolved: The U.S. Department of Transportation is also accepting complaints. While the agency can’t legally do much about promotional offers, staff does generally ask airline liaisons to investigate complaints and encourage airlines to “do what’s right” and give customers their miles.

“We have received five complaints — four this week and one late last year — from passengers about problems with transferring frequent-flier miles from Frontier to Delta,” Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the agency, said in an email. “We have forwarded the complaints to both carriers for their response.”

He encouraged anyone with mileage conversion problems to file a complaint with his agency.

The Journal Sentinel forwarded a batch of more than 30 complaints to the department Wednesday.

In their emails and calls, readers outlined a pattern of complaints.

Some were told they were rejected because they tried to merge a Frontier and an old Midwest Airlines account, even if the two accounts were merged before the customer tried the final transfer.

Some were told Frontier was missing their email address. In some cases, the customers said the airline already had their address and was still sending them promotional offers. In other cases, the customer supplied an email address, but still received no conversion.

One of them was Joe Kmoch of Whitefish Bay, who filed for a transfer in August.

“When I provided that informa tion in August and followed up in November, why did they tell me the offer was over Aug. 31?” he said. “Frankly they were very disingenuous by not following through since I made contact several times.”

Others were told they used the wrong account number and reapplied with the correct number before the deadline Aug. 31, but saw no transfer.

Among the most frustrated readers were the ones who said a Frontier rep told them the airline had no record that they ever applied for a transfer or who never received an explanation for why their transfer didn’t go through.

Tom Balistreri of Milwaukee said Frontier refused to make a transfer after he merged his Midwest and Frontier accounts, saying the program had expired.

“I’m not sure what the downside is for Frontier,” he said. “They don’t have too many flights left for us to use our miles on. Not a great way to treat loyal customers.”

The Journal Sentinel first forwarded information from about 30 readers to Frontier spokeswoman Kate O’Malley for help in early January. She had helped out two readers in December after their miles never showed up, but would not help the additional customers.

“We’ve determined that customers did not qualify for the promotion for a variety of reasons, including incomplete or inaccurate information, requesting the pooling of mileage from multiple accounts which is prohibited by each program, or the inability to match account information between the two programs,” she said in an email at the time. “The promotion ended on Aug. 31, 2012, and all service exceptions needed to be complete by the end of the calendar year.”

The federal department has a liaison with the airlines whom the department can ask to look at each case. The airline has 60 days to investigate and then responds to the government. The federal government then determines whether there’s been a violation. Officials can encourage the airline to take a certain action, which the airlines normally do, even if something is not regulated by the federal government, a source said.

According to Sandy Chalmers, division administrator for trade and consumer protection under the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the state has the authority to send warning letters, ask for restitution, or issue civil forfeitures if investigators determine that the airlines committed violations.

File a complaint about frequent flier miles

You can file a complaint in two ways — to the U.S. Department of Transportation or the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Include your name, address, phone number and email address if you have one. Include your frequent flier account numbers, the number of miles, the explanation for why your conversion was rejected. You can also submit documentation if you wish.

With the U.S. Department of Transportation

With the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

–Online at http://datcp.wi.gov/Consumer/Consumer_Complaints/index.aspx

–By email to DATCPHotline@Wisconsin.gov

–By calling the consumer protection hotline at (800) 422-7128

–By letter to the Bureau of Consumer Protection, 2811 Agriculture Drive, P.O. Box 8911, Madison, WI 53708-8911.

Got a tip?

Do you have an issue with government or a local business or a story idea for Public Investigator? Contact us:

–Email: PI@journalsentinel.com

–Phone: (414) 223-5385

–Twitter: @GitteLaasbyMJS

–Address: Public Investigator, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 333 W. State St., Milwaukee WI 53203 ___

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