TORONTO — Tariq El-Nograshy was planning a vacation to the Philippines this fall using the 115,000 miles built up in his Aeroplan account during years of frequent flights across Canada on business working for a food company.
Then, he got the bad news: the loyalty program had taken away all of his miles.
“I feel like someone at Aeroplan opened my wallet and took $1,500,” the approximate value of the miles, said El-Nograshy at his Pickering, Ont., home.
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El-Nograshy fell victim to Aeroplan’s terms and conditions which stipulate a customer must accumulate or consume some miles during a one-year period in order to keep current.
“Expiry policies are very common in the loyalty and frequent flyer industries as they play a role in reminding members to stay active,” Christa Poole, senior manager of external communications for Aeroplan said in an email to Global News.
“Engaged members bring value to a program; their level of engagement drives the business, which in turn, helps the program attract partners that provide high value accumulation and redemption opportunities,” Poole wrote.
READ MORE: Most offers from loyalty programs fail to inspire members, poll says
The policy is not brand new. Every year, Aeroplan customers face the same fate as El-Nograshy, either because they are unaware of the policy or forget to patronize a partner company or to cash in some miles.
At issue for many consumers is: how hard Aimia, the company behind the Aeroplan brand, works to inform members they’re about to lose everything.
“Aeroplan proactively sends a 12-month expiry notification to inactive members 10-12 weeks prior to their account’s expiration date,” according to Poole. “These are sent via mail or email if the member’s account has a valid email address.”
But how much value is getting a single warning email three months before the points expire? El-Nograshy says he didn’t even see the email, although Aimia told him it was sent. He says a series of emails, or a letter in the post, or a telephone call from Aimia would have been warranted under the circumstances.
“It’s sad that it’s loyalty program — the company business is loyalty!” he said.
El-Nograshy says he waited two hours on hold with Aeroplan to ask for an explanation before the line went dead. He says written appeals to the company have not produced a response.
Aeroplan customers who want to avoid losing their miles need to make sure to make even a small purchase, once per year. Make sure to keep a receipt from the partner as proof.
Alternately, members can redeem any number of miles from an account to stay active.