American Express clawing back points, JetBlue hiking Spirit fares by 40% and American Airlines upgrading pilots before passengers (Saturday Selection)


The American Express Rewards Abuse Team (RAT) is on the prowl, JetBlue accidentally tells the world that it plans to hike airfare on Spirit and American Airlines will begin upgrading pilots before customers. All that and more in this week’s Saturday Selection, our weekly round-up of interesting tidbits from around the interwebs (links to each article are embedded in the titles).

JetBlue botches redactions, reveals plans to hike Spirit airfare by 40%

a man with a beard covering his eyes with his hand
Head of JetBlue’s legal department

We’ve all had bad days at work. You’re a little foggy mid-afternoon, lunch is digesting, your attention lapses because you remember that the new season of “Only Murders in the Building” is out and…whoopsy-daisies, you accidentally send out information that could block a merger and causes your company’s stock to drop 5%. That’s what happened this week to some unfortunate soul on JetBlue’s legal team. The airline is currently trying to complete the purchase of Spirit Airlines. The feds are trying to block it because they say it’s non-competitive consolidation that will result in increased prices, while JetBlue contends that it creates more competition for United, Delta and American. At the same time, there’s a consumer lawsuit the company is involved in that required it to submit some internal documentation earlier this week. Evidently one document was incorrectly formatted and, when it was copied and pasted, all of the redaction was removed. This allowed the plaintiff (and soon the rest of the world) to find out that JetBlue plans to raise airfares on Spirit by up to 40% post-merger and that Spirit leaving a route that it serves causes airfare on that route to go up by 30%. None of this is terribly surprising, but it does make it, um, tricky to argue against the Justice Department’s assertion that the merger will increase airfares for US customers.

The American Express Rewards Abuse Team (RAT) is at it again

a black silhouette of a dinosaur
The long arm of the RAT continues to cast a shadow

The RAT is loose again…and I don’t mean Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The American Express Rewards Abuse Team haunts points miles collectors and is responsible for making sure that we aren’t amassing our rewards fortune in an untoward, “gaming” fashion. Even when we don’t hear about them for awhile, we’re still suspicious in that “things are quiet, but maybe too quiet” way. We know they’re still out there. Recently, the RAT has been making itself felt again, harshing our Membership Rewards buzz with oddly-targeted clawbacks and increasingly stringent card approval rules. Miles Earn and Burn summarizes what we’ve seen in the past couple of months and, while it’s far from scorched earth, it is a signal that the points parade of the last couple years might be slowing.

American Airlines will begin upgrading pilots before customers

a man in a helmet holding a cigar
American Airlines pilot celebrating his upgrade with a cigar

When I was a kid, my brother and sister had jobs at a grocery store and everyone who worked there, including the owner and managers, would park in the back of the parking lot. The reason? They wanted to leave the spaces closer to the store for customers. Maybe that’s what American Airlines was trying to convey with their tagline, “You Are Why We Fly.” AA’s pilots, on the other hand, have decided to take a different tack. They just approved their newest contract, which includes a 21% immediate raise and a 46% raise over four years (I need to get ahold of their agent). Not only that, but it allows pilots to have top first class upgrade priority, above paying customers, when flying between two segments that they’re working, or “deadheading.” Flight attendants doing the same still have to slum it in the back with the legions of un-upgraded AAdvantage elite members. Evidently, only 73% of the pilots voted for the deal, which leads to my biggest question: what the heck did the other 27% want?

Skiplagged is sued again for the very first time

a field of lavender with a mountain in the background
…and United’s not the only one

“Skiplagging” is the practice of booking a connecting flight but only flying the first leg and skipping the second. This is done because sometimes airlines actually charge more to buy a non-stop flight from one city to another than they do for a connecting itinerary with the exact same direct flight attached. Airlines say that it violates their terms and conditions while threatening dire consequences if they catch folks doing it. Some have actually tried to sue repeat offenders (unsuccessfully). There is a website called “Skiplagged” that sells cheap airfare by using the practice. It’s quite successful and gets over three million visits/month. The site has been sued by United and Southwest without success and actually uses the United lawsuit as a tagline on its landing page. American Airlines is currently in the process of trying to crack down on skiplagging (maybe to make more room for pilots). A couple of weeks ago, they made an example of a 17-year old boy whose father had purchased him a ticket using Skiplagged, refusing to let him board a plane and calling his parents to demand more money before he could complete his trip. Now, evidently inspired by all the racketeering charges in the news, they’ve decided to become the third airline to sue the ringleader of all this funny business, Skiplagged. Some say insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. AA says “hold my beer.”

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The Skiplagged part is inaccurate.

Southwest settled out of court with Skiplagged. That doesn’t mean that Skiplagged won. Most likely, Skiplagged actually paid Southwest to drop the lawsuit.

Completely separately, though, Southwest’s lawsuit was not about skiplagging per se. It was about the fact that Skiplagged was displaying Southwest flight prices without the permission of Southwest, which is also the reason that you can’t find Southwest flights on other online travel agency sites.

So just a lot of misleading writing in that section.


@tim You might want to check your JetBlue info. That was hypothetical information published but the plaintiff lawyers in a lawsuit. JetBlue had nothing to do with it, it is NOT FACTUAL INFORMATION.


I had a rewards adjustment from Bank of America to all my cards. They adjusted my cash back balances up by quite a bit. Has anyone had this experIence. Just happened this week.


Thanks for the update on American Air contract and first class priority for pilots. I just received the offer from AA to “buy” Gold status for next year for over $500 but this news about pilot priority tipped the scales for me against buying the Gold status.


I read this and though, “surely you must be able to get gold status directly from one of their cards?” Sure enough, you can’t! Good thing I fact checked myself…


Points parade from amex keeps going for me. I keep getting 150k Mr points offers even though I already have 3 business plats. Guess they value my spending .


I’m not going to lie. AA (and other airline) pilots get zero sympathy from me. They already made boatloads of money and didn’t have the same COVID risks that flight attendants did. And their practices of calling in sick (or whatever) to gain bargaining leverage at the cost of customers having flights cancelled was disgusting. Now putting themselves on the upgrade list ahead of regular passengers – sorry guys, but I’m not going to feel bad the next time there are massive layoffs.


I would like to have my pilots rested and feeling well when they have to fly their next segment. If they need to sit in those cramped back seats, with the rest of us peasants, they likely won’t feel their best when flying the next bunch of us.


Ditto.. the “ghost” strikes that AA pilots participated in this spring using paying customers as leverage was the last straw for me. Multi year Exec Plat here taking advantage of Delta’s status match – I can’t get far enough away from both AA corporate and their pilots.