Million frequent flier mile points disappear from couple's account

October 2, 2013 8:02:52 PM PDT
Saving up frequent flyer miles can save you thousands of dollars on your travels. One couple planned their whole retirement around using nearly a million miles they had saved. However, when it came time to take a trip, their miles were gone. 7 On Your Side got on the case and got them back.

This was a very big deal because a million points is worth tens of thousands of dollars. For this couple, it meant they could travel the world during their retirement. However, with most programs, miles will expire if you don't follow the rules. This couple was very careful to meet all requirements and still lost all those precious miles.

Stephen Zalan of Monterey County gave us a glimpse of his worldwide travels. He took photos with orphan chimps and wild animals. His job took him to the Congo and New Guinea, exploring for oil with the Chevron Corporation.

He and his wife, Beverly, toured Italy, South America and the Orient flying for years on Air France and when he retired, Stephen had racked up nearly one million frequent flyer miles.

"We had been looking forward to using those miles," said Beverly.

The couple planned to explore more of the globe using their free time and all those miles, until Beverly tried to book a trip.

"I was like, 'Oh my god, there's nothing in here!'" said Beverly.

She checked their Flying Blue account with Air France. It showed a zero balance -- all 947,000 miles were gone.

"So I was like, 'We have a problem.' So, it was quite a shock," said Beverly.

Turns out the miles had expired, all because Flying Blue requires members to fly on a qualified flight at least once every 20 months. The couple was sure they had flown more than enough times, but Flying Blue said no, the flights they took didn't meet requirements.

"I basically said, 'What can I do here? I've been a loyal customer for all these years,'" said Stephen.

Flying Blue made a deal -- if he flew a qualified flight within six months, it would restore his miles. So, Stephen got on the phone right away and the airline to confirm that a flight to Salt Lake City did qualify. So he took it -- then waited and the miles never came back. Flying Blue would not restore his miles after that trip. The airline said the fare he paid didn't satisfy requirements.

"It was maddening and the fine print in their program is just maddening!" said Beverly.

The couple contacted 7 On Your Side and we contacted Air France and its partner KLM Airlines. KLM tells us the eligibility rules had changed, but not until after Stephen had booked that Salt Lake City flight.

A KLM spokesperson said, "As Flying Blue updated the eligible booking classes after Mr. Zalan had booked, we retroactively considered Mr. Zalan's booking as an eligible booking and reinstated his miles.''

All 947,000 miles now put back in their account. Now the couple is back to plotting their next trip.

"We were very grateful to 7 On Your Side," said Beverly.

Frequent flyer programs often have complicated rules you have to follow or you'll lose your miles. It's important to stay up to date on the rules so you can save up your miles and save a lot of money on your travels.


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