How I lost my 1K status

If you followed this blog last year, you know that my quest to hit United 1K status ended with a December 26th trip from Denver to Washington DC. I left the house around 7:00am that morning and returned home that evening at 6:00pm, happily tweeting about the 30 miles I had to spare. And while I never want to make 1K again (that’s just too many miles to fly – especially back and forth from Denver to the east and west coasts, and in particular considering that I probably had another 20k miles on other airlines last year as well) I was pretty pleased with my achievement.

Fast forward about two weeks. I’m on my way to CES in early January. My (United) flight has already been delayed by two hours. They’ve loaded the plane, allowed us to sit on the tarmac and then pulled us back off the plane to try to locate a new aircraft. I’m four hours into my travel day and I haven’t gone anywhere and it’s not clear that I’ll be getting out at all. I’m sitting in the gate area downloading email when I receive the following from “United Mileage Plus” with the subject line “My Mileage Plus — Your updated account balance, 2009 Error in Calculation”:



Seth Levine







Dear Seth Levine,

On behalf of United Airlines we wanted to thank you for your business and your continued support during these difficult economic times.  I am writing to you with regard to your current Mileage Plus account and an computer error we experienced last December.

Several thousand 1K Members’ Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) balances were incorrectly reported due to a processing error.  Fortunately we have corrected this and our systems are now accurate.  As a result your December 31, 2009 EQM balance was:

93,356 miles

We understand that this balance disqualifies you from the 1K Membership level, however due to the fact that we had a reporting error, we would like to extend an opportunity for you to travel by January 31, 2010 to achieve 100,000 EQM.  At that point your 1K Membership status will be restored

Below is your December 31, 2009 mileage summary. For more information, simply visit the My Mileage Plus home page now.

My Mileage Summary                                                              Premier Executive

Account Summary

Account Number:                                        XXXXXXXX

Current Membership Level:                       Premier Executive

Current Redeemable Miles Balance:        144,996

2009 Elite Qualifying Liles (EQM):            93,356

2009 Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS):      55.5

Lifetime United Flight Miles:                      552,760

Redeemable miles expiration date:          Jun 30, 2011

Again, on behalf of United Airlines we are very sorry for this error and any inconvenience it may cause you.  We hope you will take advantage of our extension offer by January 31, 2010 to achieve your 1K Membership status. We look forward to seeing you on another United Airlines flight soon.



Ted Peters

VP Customer Relations


I’m already steaming about United because of the delay and here I find out that my little trip to DC was all for naught – I’m still 7,000 miles away from my 1K goal. And I had checked probably 3 times with United about my account balance (making sure all of my December flights were in the system, checking to see if there were any other ways for me to get the miles w/o having to take a vacation day trip, etc.). I can’t believe they had it wrong. I tweet about the note. I tell the people around me at the airport what just happened. But I decide to wait until I cool down to actually call United and tell them when I think about their “computer error”. I’m sure that I’ll talk my way back to 1K, but if I call them right now I’ll just end up yelling at them and likely won’t make any friends in customer service.

Eventually my flight takes off and as it turns out I land at about the same time as my partner Brad, so I send him an email to wait for me so we can ride to our hotel together. We sit down in the car and he turns to me to ask if I had called United yet. But with a curious smirk on his face. I tell him I hadn’t – that I was too mad at the time to do it but was planning to do so from the hotel. I guess he felt sorry for me after such a bad travel day, because he looked at me and said: “yah. that was actually me and pete” referring to Pete Sheinbaum, CEO of Mandelbrot Project (and email expert from his days running Daily Candy). Kelly Collins from Foundry had also been in on the act (she has my United creds so they could log in to get the exact mileage amounts). They had planned to tell me later, but he couldn’t let it go any further. I actually didn’t believe him. Of course it had never occurred to me that this was anything but legitimate. And as it slowly sunk in that I had been utterly and completely taken, I literally couldn’t stop laughing.

Brad, Pete and Kelly really really got me.

And I’m still plotting my revenge…

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  • airlines just don't get customer service.

    it doesnt cost them anything to upgrades customers who are close to elite status.

  • the only thing that could have made this better, is had it been on April Fools, or even better if they had convinced you to go to the Customer Service desk and filmed you ripping them a new ass!

  • That's brutal. You'd think Kelly — who seems so sweet — wouldn't be involved. Ouch.

    Of course, the only reason the prank worked is that it was totally believable that an airline would screw you over in that way.

    Still… Ouch.

  • Dool

    Seth – would highly recommend you X out your MP number. United does not have many safeguards against redeeming mileage awards over the phone if you know the MP number and member name (and occasionally zip code).

    BTW – this really sucks, did not they not give you any sort of e-certificate as "a gesture of good will"?

    • i didn’t even think of that… thanks for the heads up.

  • Dool

    Meant to add a :sarcasm: note there btw, since that is United's response to everything 🙂

    • understood. i love when they give you a $25 certificate to make good on their 3 hour delay (oh and by the way – with all the restrictions you won’t even be able to use the certificate anyway!)

  • Aaron

    This is freaking awesome. That's when you know you're loved… 🙂

    • i suppose anyone who would go through that much trouble!

  • That is beyond awesome.

    I had a colleague who used to find out what flights people were on and then adjust their meal and seating preferences in all kinds of unpleasant ways… just a thought 😉

    • it really was beyond awesome greg. and thanks for the prank ideas. keep ‘em coming!

  • Craig Lachman

    That is hilarious! I had respect for Brad as a board member at a former employer, but now I'll think of him in a new light. Recommend you redact that mileage plus number ASAP!

    • now i just need some suggestions on how to get back at him. thoughts?

      took down the mp number as well – didn’t realize they were so lax on using those…

  • Hah! That’s brilliant! I’ve seen some good pranks, but this one’s definitely at the top of the list.

  • Joseamercado

    So did you ever get your 1K back?nnI’m furious because I just found out that I did not make 1K and I missed it by about 1,600 miles.. I flew some flights with Lufthansa and I did not get credit for the flights.. the boarding pass says K Class which is 100% valid for credit but customer service just told me that the class printed on the boarding pass is not always correct!!! How am I suppossed to know that!

    • i did get it back since it was just my friends playing a prank on me. you should call united and beg – sometimes they’ll give it to you if you are that close!