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OFF BEAT: Million Miler flier says he was stripped of privileges by United Airlines


A well-traveled Chicago man alleges that United Airlines Inc. “stripped away” his exclusive benefits under its Million Miler frequent flier program after it was modified in a merger with Continental Airlines.

According to a class action lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, George Lagen earned Million Miler status with United’s MileagePlus Program after flying 200,000 to 250,000 miles a year on average with the airline.

The designation—which could only be obtained by purchasing airline tickets—came with "lifetime benefits," such as bonus miles, booking and seating priority and upgrades on various flights.

Mr. Lagen's lawsuit says that Chicago-based United downgraded its Million Milers to “third-tier Gold” status under the airline’s 2010 merger with Continental. The move has resulted in a “severe cut in benefits" for Million Milers, according to the complaint.

United's website shows that fliers with 1 million lifetime flight miles receive "Premier Gold" status. A traveler would need to fly at least 4 million miles in his or her lifetime to reach United's "Global Services" status, according to the site.

The lawsuit estimates that United has thousands of Million Miler frequent fliers in the United States. Mr. Lagen is seeking unspecified compensatory damages, attorney fees and interest from United Continental Holdings Inc. for breach of contract and other claims.

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