An Open Letter to United Airlines: Stop Asking for TMI

Oscar Munoz
President and CEO
United Airlines, Inc.
PO Box 06649
Chicago, IL 60606-0649

Dear Mr. Munoz:

I am writing to you today to draw your attention to a burdensome and unfair requirement that United Airlines places on divorcing couples.

The airline industry has successfully made frequent flyer miles a big deal. In fact, many people negotiate a division of premium rewards such as frequent flyer miles as part of their divorce agreements.

Usually, reward points are held in one person’s name. Different airlines have different requirements for splitting them, but in almost all cases, that starts and ends with the couple filling out a simple form. In some cases, the airline charges a fee for this service — but many do not.

United Airlines, however, sets the bar much higher than filling out a form. Your company requires that the actual judgment of divorce specify the division on United Airlines frequent flyer miles in order to make the transfer.

The way I see it, despite a bad reputation and many exceptions, most divorcing people are often trying to be their “best selves” and divide their assets as equitably as possible; they are really trying to be high-minded in the midst of an emotionally fraught situation. And yet, at United Airlines, you require people in the midst of an expensive and stressful time in their lives to have their judgment of divorce specifically direct the division of frequent flyer miles. Really?  

For example, as part of his divorce, one of my clients had agreed to divide his roughly 1.5 million United Airline air miles. Now, months later, we’ve found out that we have to go back and amend not only the separation agreement but also the judgment of divorce. If United Airlines had made my client aware of that requirement when the division was first requested, my client could have saved considerable money, time, and energy.

But even giving notice to divorcing couples up front is not enough. I urge you to end the practice of unnecessarily making windows into your customers’ private lives by demanding to view any divorce-related legal documents. By changing your system, you have nothing to lose. By continuing on the same path, you risk alienating, even more, travelers from taking traditional, “dinosaur” airlines. I hope United will get with the times.

Sincerely,

Katherine Eisold Miller
Collaborative Law and Mediation Offices of Katherine Eisold Miller
271 North Avenue, Suite 812
New Rochelle, NY 10801