“Mileage Runs”: Not Dead — Just More Difficult; and Other Thoughts and Musings

FlyerTalk member UA Insider — also known as Aaron Goldberg, who is the senior manager of Customer Experience Planning at United Airlines — announced this morning the introduction of Premier Qualifying Dollars in order to earn elite status in the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program in 2014 — following the lead of Delta Air Lines earlier this year, whose SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program introduced a revenue component called Medallion Qualification Dollars.
Minimum spend criteria for 2014 to earn elite status in the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program are as follows:

  • Premier Silver: $2,500.00 Premier Qualification Dollars and either 25,000 Premier Qualification Miles or 30 Premier Qualification Segments
  • Premier Gold: $5,000.00 Premier Qualification Dollars and either 50,000 Premier Qualification Miles or 60 Premier Qualification Segments
  • Premier Platinum: $7,500.00 Premier Qualification Dollars and either 75,000 Premier Qualification Miles or 90 Premier Qualification Segments
  • Premier 1K: $10,000.00 Premier Qualification Dollars and either 100,000 Premier Qualification Miles or 120 Premier Qualification Segments

A minimum of at least four paid flights operated by United Airlines, United Express, or Copa Airlines will be needed to qualify for any Premier elite status.
I am not going to delve into more details about this announcement, as you can easily find them in this discussion on FlyerTalk where many FlyerTalk members express their displeasure, to say the least.
Tim Winship also covers the details pertaining to this announcement in his article at FrequentFlier.com.
It is also quite easy to be negative about the latest changes, of which virtually everyone expects American Airlines to follow. For example:

We can all agree that the requirements to earn elite status has become more difficult if you do not spend the dollars required to achieve it next year. Sure, it would be nice to get those bonus frequent flier loyalty program points, the upgrade and that special order in boarding — but if you do not spend the dollars required, do you really need those perks?
Although many portend a massive devaluation of frequent flier loyalty program points in the near future, earning those base frequent flier loyalty program points has not been affected by this latest change. If your main goal is to collect frequent flier loyalty program points to redeem for a trip on which you have always wanted to embark, that is still quite possible to achieve. With that aspect, you are not affected.
You can still go on cheap “mileage runs” — you just need to go on more of them to meet the spend criteria to achieve elite status. However, if the main reason you embark on “mileage runs” is to top off your frequent flier loyalty program account, then you are not affected.
There is a loophole of sorts: other than the use of a specific credit card with a minimum spend requirement to bypass the qualification dollar component or using an address outside of the United States, those who achieve million miler status are exempt from the minimum spend requirements. If you are willing to tough it out on cheap “mileage runs” combined with other flights, it may very well be worth it to you to do some insane amounts of travel now to achieve million miler status for years to come — that is, if you are willing to travel 100,000 miles per year for ten years, or travel between New York and Singapore or Sydney or similar long-haul flights once per week each week in a single year…
…assuming that the benefits of being a million miler member are not diluted — further, in the case of United Airlines — or eliminated altogether.
In the case of the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program, you do not have to meet the spend requirements if you are fortunate enough to be gifted Silver Medallion or Gold Medallion elite status for the year.
Then again, there is also the aspect of finally being freed from the mindset of being loyal to one airline:

  • No more memorizing complicated rules, restrictions and exceptions
  • No more deadlines to meet in terms of qualifying again for elite status
  • No more spending money, time and effort on the relentless quest of renewing elite status year after year after year

Just travel where you want and when you want based on price — if you are willing to “suffer” for several hours in a seat in the economy class cabin or are willing to pay for an upgraded seat.
What are the chances that the premium class experience will be improved once the numbers of elite members have been thinned out?
We may not like these “enhancements” and their outcomes — but it seems there are always ways to work around them or with them if we remain positive despite the disadvantages.
Will you simply accept that frequent flier loyalty programs as we know it have changed — perhaps, forever? Do you intend to “up your game” in attempting to “game” the system despite the “enhancements” being implemented? Will you finally declare yourself free from the lunacy of the “hobby” about which we are all passionate?
What are your thoughts?

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