United Moves to Revenue Frequent Flyer Program for 2015

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Airlines are big copycats when it comes to negative changes and it looks like United and their un-creative folks in the MileagePlus program are proving that once again. Today United confirmed that starting in March 2015, like Delta, they will be moving to a revenue-based frequent flyer program in 2015. Simply put, they’ll stop awarding you miles based on the distance of your flights, but instead based on how much money you spend per flight. There will be a number of total factors taken into account including: “..the actual ticket price, purchased ticket routing, fare class, Premier status, residency and ticket issue date.” Simple, right? Ha.
United Revenue Mileage

The amount you earn depends mostly on your elite level.
General members: 5 miles per dollar
Silver Premier: 7 miles per dollar
Gold Premier: 8 miles per dollar
Platinum Premier: 9 miles per dollar
1k: 11 miles per dollar: 11 miles per dollar

I wonder where they came up with these earning amounts. Actually, never mind, they just copied them from Delta’s earning ratios, which are the same for their general and 4 elite tiers:

Delta's revenue earning tiers
Delta’s revenue earning tiers

If you book tickets on Star Alliance partners (and they are not ticketed on United as a codeshare) you will still earn miles flown, but remember they will not count towards United Premier Qualifying Dollars, which is the revenue elite status program that is already in place. This may still be an option though if you are a United credit cardholder who spends $25,000 or more and is exempt from the Premier Qualifying Dollar program (note: 1k Members cannot spend on the credit card for the revenue exemption- they must spend $10,000 or more on qualifying flights).

Redemption Side
United is touting “exciting new ways” to use your miles in 2015 as well, including Economy Plus upgrades, subscriptions and checked bags. I don’t suspect these redemption options will offer remotely decent value (of more than 1 cent per mile), but we will have to wait and see because no details were given. Hopefully United is satisfied with their massive devaluation in February 2014 that they won’t need to water down their program even more in 2015.

Bottom Line
This change is good for those of your who spend huge amounts on tickets and fly shorter distances. For the general traveler, this is a reduction in value earned from the program, but to see whether you come out on top or bottom, calculate how many miles you earned from flying last year and how much you spent. It isn’t an easy calculation and I’m pretty confident that most people are not on the winning end of the equation.

I’m very happy that I am an American Airlines elite member who doesn’t have to deal with revenue requirements and now revenue based mileage earning. Will that change? Potentially, but until then I’m going to give American my business and I suggest if you’re a United flyer and unhappy with these changes, you let United know via letter, call, Twitter and Facebook or simply vote with your wallet and status match/challenge to an airline that better rewards your loyalty.

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