United Makes Changes to 2012 Mileage Plus Program

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United just announced the key changes for their 2012 Mileage Plus program and there’s some good and bad news depending on the type of flyer you are. In general, if you are a 25,000 mile a year flyer who likes the ability to select exit rows and Economy Plus seating, you are going to see less benefits in the new program. Per the website, 25,000 mile a year flyers (newly named Premier Silvers) will only get to select premium seats at check-in. I know that will be far too much of a gamble for many elites to mess with – especially on long flights. Delta and American let all elites select premium seats at booking.

Economy Plus benefits chart

Another devaluation is with respect to elite bonuses. This mostly affects mid tier flyers – 50,000 mile a year flyers (Premier Golds) only get a 50% bonus vs 100% on Delta and American. United is also creating a 75,000 mile a year tier (Premier Platinum) which gets 75% vs 100% that Delta gives their Platinum flyers. At the 100,000 mile a year level, United Premier 1ks get a 100% bonus vs. 100% at American (Delta has a 125,000 mile a year tier that gets 125%).

United Elite bonus miles structure

If you are a premium flyer who purchases business and first class, you’ll see the class of service bonuses increase to 150% for first on 3 cabin airfcraft, 75% for first on two cabin aircraft and business class, 50% for discount business and 25% for full fare economy. American offers a 50% class of service bonus for first and 25% for business. Delta gives 50% for all premium fare economy, domestic first and business class fares.

United class of service bonuses

Upgrade clearing windows will also slightly change, with Premier Silvers clearing on the day of departure vs. at 24 hours for Delta Silvers (American does not offer complimentary upgrades for their Gold flyers).  Another huge change in upgrade strategy is that those using miles will trump those with elite status. So if you elect to use miles to upgrade, you will trump someone who has a higher elite status, but wants to use their status to upgrade.

United upgrade windows

Baggage is also decreasing for Premium Silvers – down to 1 checked bag at 50 lbs vs. two bags of up to 70 lbs each on Delta for all elites and two bags of up to 50 lbs on American for all elites.

The good news is that all lifetime United and Continental miles will combine towards lifetime status, however going forward only flown miles will count (not any elite bonuses or credit card elite miles).

For more information, there’s a post from United’s head of Mileage Plus on Milepoint and an ensuing lively discussion. And as always, I also appreciate Gary’s insightful analysis over at his View from the Wing blog.

As a non-elite member of United, I’m not really impacted by these changes, but I can imagine there will be a decent number of mid-lower tier United elites contemplating status matches to Delta, American and US Airways.

What are your thoughts on the changes?

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