Testing, testing: Will miles be United’s new form of passenger compensation?

Feb 15, 2020

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It looks like United will be testing giving out miles to travelers as form of compensation instead of vouchers starting on Sunday.

This announcement came from a memo posted on Twitter by Skift Senior Aviation Business Editor, Brian Sumers. A screenshot of the alleged memo said that, “Beginning on Sunday, February 16, select Customer Care team members will award goodwill compensation solely in the form of MileagePlus Miles.” TPG values United MileagePlus miles at 1.3 cents each.

The memo goes on to say that customers without a MileagePlus account will essentially be asked to enroll in order to receive compensation in mileage form. United is testing this strategy “for a few months” and promises to “share the results” — although it’s unclear if those results would be shared internally or with passengers.

United is not the first major domestic carrier to offer miles as a form of passenger compensation, but it is the first to test ditching vouchers altogether.

Previously, United offered travelers compensation via electronic certificate vouchers (instead of paper vouchers, which I can say from personal experience, is a win in itself). The vouchers ranged in value depending on the complaint. Unlike other airlines, such as American, United vouchers were not valid for redemption on different carriers within the alliance. For instance, you could not redeem a United certificate on a Star Alliance partner such as Air Canada.

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One of the hidden perks of vouchers is you can use that “free money” to purchase subsequent flights in cash,  earning PQF’s or PQP’s toward United Premier status, as opposed to an award booking. Unfortunately, receiving miles instead of a voucher would make it even harder for passengers to work their way toward elite status.

Additionally, this places those who don’t otherwise accrue MileagePlus miles at a disadvantage since passengers can only book all-cash or all-points tickets, not a combination. With a voucher, passengers could at least put $75 toward a $200 flight.

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I can’t say I’d prefer miles over a voucher, mostly because I’m curious how they will calculate a proper mileage offer.

TPG has reached out to United for comment and will update this post with any additional information.

What are your thoughts on this change — Would you prefer miles or a voucher to redeem toward a cash flight?

Featured photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

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