CHICAGO (CN) – Lifetime members of a now-defunct United Airlines senior discount program want a refund, claiming the airline no longer offers them the promised discounts.
Howard Neft filed a class action against United Continental Holdings and United Airlines in federal court on Tuesday.
In 1999 or 2000, Neft bought a Silver Wings Plus program lifetime membership, a discount program specifically offered to seniors, according to the complaint.
The Silver Wings Plus program, launched by United in 1986, offered members low, fixed-zone fares in exchange for a one-time fee of $225.
The airline discontinued the program in 2007 as part of cost-cutting measures, but did not offer members a refund – “perhaps recognizing that it would spend hundred of millions of dollars if it provided a refund to lifetime members,” Neft’s lawsuit claims.
Instead, United said it would continue to provide existing members with access to substantial travel discounts.
Before the program was terminated, Silver Wings offered members domestic fares for as low as $118 roundtrip, and international fares for as low as $475 roundtrip, according to the complaint.
“For at least the past two years, however, plaintiff has been unable to book a zone fares flight with United, either by phone or online,” Neft says.
United’s website instructs Silver Wing lifetime members to search for zone fares online by entering “silverwing” in the offer code box.
Neft says he has followed these instructions, but never found any available discounted fares.
“United’s agents have no knowledge of the program and/or zone fares, United’s website does not retrieve any searches for zone fares flights, and directs plaintiff to call United’s agents,” the complaint states. “The remaining Silver Wings lifetime members have experienced, and continue to experience, the same or similar difficulties in booking a zone fares flight with United.”
Neft claims United’s conduct has essentially cancelled the program, and he seeks to recover the $225 fee he and other class members paid to join the program, plus interest and compensatory damages.
He is represented by Robert Stein III with Alvarado Smith in Santa Ana, Calif.
United did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment sent Wednesday afternoon.
Neft’s lawsuit was filed less than two weeks after the Seventh Circuit ruled that United frequent flyers could not recover damages for benefits lost when the airline changed the value of miles awarded in 2010.
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