With Delta starting the trend in February, they announced that their SkyMiles frequent flyer program would be converting to a fully revenue based earnings structure. Not that it wasn’t expected for other airline programs to follow suit, United announce that MileagePlus will be transitioning to a revenue based program starting in March 2015. I guess it is a bit of a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ plan of action.

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The move by United is strikingly similar to Delta’s. Here is the rundown othe :

“As of March 1, 2015, the award miles you earn on most United and United Express® tickets will be based on your ticket price (that is, base fare plus carrier-imposed surcharges) instead of the distance you fly, so members will be rewarded for their travel spending on United. And when you have Premier®status, you’ll earn even more.”

Basically, with United you will stop earning miles based on the distance flown during your flights, but rather on how much you paid for your ticket. That is the gist of it, but there are other factors that will determine your earning rate that include “the actual ticket price, purchased ticket routing, fare class, Premier status, residency and ticket issue date.”

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Starting in 2015 you will earn a different amount of miles for paid United tickets depending on your MileagePlus elite status level:

  • General members will earn 5 miles per dollar spent
  • Premier Silver members will earn 7 miles per dollar spent
  • Premier Gold members will earn 8 miles per dollar spent
  • Premier Platinum Medallion members will earn 9 miles per dollar spent
  • Premier 1K members will earn 11 miles per dollar spent

Note that this is exactly the same earning structure that Delta released when they announced the revenue based program change.

Details of the Changes

The new revenue based earning structure will apply for most paid United flights, including flights by United, United Express and codeshare Star Alliance or MileagePlus partner flights ticketed by United. Under the new earnings system the MileagePlus Premier bonus and class-of-service bonus are now included in the mile earning rate you get per dollar spent on a paid ticket.

You will still earn miles flown for tickets booked on Star Alliance or MileagePlus partners that are not ticketed by United (also not on codeshare flights ticketed by United). On these types of tickets you will still earn Premier® qualifying miles (PQM) based on the distance of your flight, but remember that these won’t go towards elite status (i.e. count as United Premier Qualifying Dollars). For anyone that frequently flies shorter (less than 500 miles) United and United Express flights, you will still earn a minimum of 500 PQMs.

Lastly, on the new revenue based program the maximum amount you can earn per ticket is capped at 75,000 miles. However, there is no minimum number of miles you can earn for a flight. Simply put, you earn more miles the more you spend, and fewer miles for cheaper flights.

The Bottom line

I suppose the change is positive for business travelers with upper status levels who book short expensive or last minute flights at high prices.

For the average traveler, deal seeker, and mile junkie it means that you will not earn nearly the same number of miles on most flights as you used to.

With the new program non-elites will breakeven at around 20 cents per mile. So, it will take paying $1,000+ for a round trip ticket to come out ahead with the new earning structure. It is easy to see how it will affect you but comparing how many miles you will earn on planned flights vs. the number of miles you would have earned with the previous earning structure.

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2 Comments

  • Absolutely ridiculous. United should at least give credit where credit is due since they blindly follow Delta’s loyalty rewards program devaluations. Remember, kids: vote with your wallet and fly American.

    • K2, the scary part is that once a trend starts in the industry others follow. It will be interesting to see how it plays out with AA!