More Changes To United Airlines Frequent Flier Program

Could this be a sign of thawing in the hearts of United Airlines? They announced yesterday that after four months of crediting Mileage Plus members with actual miles flown instead of a minimum of 500, the airline will reinstate the old program for “elite” members.

The change occurs Jan. 1, when United’s “elite” Mileage Plus members will earn a minimum 500 miles for any flight, Robin Urbanski, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message.

United also will credit their accounts retroactively for flights made since July 1, when UAL unit dropped the minimum award for all Mileage Plus members.

The change shows the value airlines place on retaining the loyalty of passengers who fly the most. American Airlines said last week that it would drop a minimum award in favor of actual miles flown for all except its elite-program members, saving money by reducing the number of passengers eligible for free trips.

United opted to add back the minimum guarantee for elite travelers to “keep our program competitive with other airlines and reward our most premium members,” Urbanski said.

The rest of you plebs will, of course, still only get the actual amount of miles flown.

United Airlines restores mileage credit in bid to keep loyal customers [IHT]

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  1. RedwoodFlyer says:

    Makes sense for two huge reasons

    1) The most profitable routes are shuttle routes – short, high frequency routes such as the eastern corridor (nyc/D.C./Boston) – it got the people who pay over $1 a mile on a regular basis riled up that they get 200 miles while someone who paid the same amount for a trans-con gets 10x as many miles

    2) In all reality, the additional cost to fly someone on a frequent flier ticket is about $10… they only make them available on flights with empty seats, so it’s not like you’ll be kicking off a revenue pax….

    3) Tax write-off! That’s one thing we take full and legal advantage of…you write off the miles someone flies on a redemption ticket multiplied by your costs per available seat miles (aka CASM…around 8-13 cents)..so in a way, we actually benefit from someone flying “free”

  2. jpontius says:

    This is great! I’m a United frequent flyer, and I fly from South Bend, IN to O’hare. With the old “new” program I got a measly 84 miles, far short of the 500 mile minimum. When you fly every week like I do, those miles add up quick!

  3. EYESONLY says:

    This “good” news is more than canceled out by the fact that they’re also upping the mileage requirements for a lot of awards–go here and see section 3.

    Some examples (all Saver awards, unless otherwise noted):

    Domestic first-class awards will increase from 60,000 to 70,000 miles.

    Hawaii coach and first class will increase from 35,000 and 90,000 to 40,000 and 100,000 miles, respectively.

    Europe coach and first class will increase from 50,000 and 120,000 to 55,000 and 135,000 miles, respectively.

    South Asia coach and first class will increase from 60,000 and 120,000 to 65,000 and 145,000 miles, respectively…

  4. jdmba says:

    What a hostile industry.

  5. CaliforniaCajun says:

    We hate our customers – and it shows!

  6. vitonfluorcarbon says:

    United “changed” this policy this year, but it never changed the way my shorter flights accrue. I always have gotten 500 miles per short flight. The change was put in place after I acquired Premier Executive status so maybe that was why I was still getting 500?

  7. Meathamper says:

    That sucks. I still use Aeroplan.

  8. humphrmi says:

    I fly United often enough, except I am a member of Lufthansa’s mileage program. So whenever I fly UAL, I get the minimum miles anyway.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @humphrmi:

      Chicago control tower: Lufthansa 727, you are cleared to take off please take off.

      Captain of Lufthansa 727: My manifest does not agree with my passenger count; I will not depart until it does.

      Another pilot from an American airline: (I’ll let someone else finish this joke…me no tengo banhammer!)

  9. missdona says:

    This is a reaction to AA’s announcment that they’re going to actual miles flown, but no changes for elites. It’s simply a reaction to the competition.
    [www.aa.com]

    • jrockway says:

      @missdona: And AA’s policy change was a result of Continental’s policy change. This is pretty standard for the airline business — one airline makes a change, the rest follow.

  10. jamar0303 says:

    And this is why I just signed up for another *A airline’s mileage card. I never fly enough for elite status (well, if I paid for the Premier fast-track I would- an annual round-trip to China is my usual and gets me 15k miles).

  11. coren says:

    United also will credit their accounts retroactively for flights made since July 1, when UAL unit dropped the minimum award for all Mileage Plus members.

    The change shows the value airlines place on retaining the loyalty of passengers who fly the most. American Airlines said last week that it would drop a minimum award in favor of actual miles flown for all except its elite-program members, saving money by reducing the number of passengers eligible for free trips.

    So has this been going on for four months (since July) or last week? I can’t be the only one confused here

    • Myownheroine says:

      @coren:

      United announced its actual-miles-flown policy in July for all members.

      American announced last week that it was going to an actual-miles-flown policy for all but elites.

      This week, United said that elite members would be getting at least 500 miles for all flights.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The big news is that United is now going to be charging fees for upgrading to business class on international flights, in *addition* to the increased mileage requirements. So that upgrade is not only going to cost you 20,000 miles, but also maybe $500. Ridiculous.

  13. Chairman-Meow says:

    “They announced yesterday that after four months of crediting Mileage Plus members with actual miles flown instead of a minimum of 500, the airline will reinstate the old program for “elite” members.”

    Here, let me process this through the business bullshit translator. I’ll just take a sec. Ahh! here it is:

    “We’ve screwed enough loyal customers that the churn is now effecting our bottom line. We will offer this useless gesture as a desperate measure to get you back as a customer.”