MileagePlus Program to Change Based on Revenue Instead of Miles for 2015

Regional jet airplanes operated by United Express are parked at the gates at Newark International Airport. Photograph by FlyerTalk member cysnows. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by cysnows.

Effective as of March 1, 2015, the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program will change to base rewards on the airfares paid by customers of United Airines rather than the miles — more accurately, “butt-in-seat” miles — being traveled.

This was expected and definitely no surprise, as similar changes occurred with the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program by Delta Air Lines as announced on February 26, 2014.

Members of the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program can earn anywhere from five to as many as eleven MileagePlus miles per United States dollar paid for the base airfare and surcharges imposed by the airline, depending on your Premier elite status level:

MileagePlus Program Medallion Elite Status Level
MileagePlus Miles Per United States Dollar Earned
MileagePlus Miles Earned Per Dollar With Credit Card on United Spend
Total MileagePlus Miles Per United States Dollar Earned
General Member Five MileagePlus Miles Plus Two MileagePlus Miles
Seven MileagePlus Miles
Premier Silver Seven MileagePlus Miles Plus Two MileagePlus Miles Nine MileagePlus Miles
Premier Gold Eight MileagePlus Miles Plus Two MileagePlus Miles
Ten MileagePlus Miles
Premier Platinum Nine MileagePlus Miles Plus Two MileagePlus Miles Eleven MileagePlus Miles
Premier 1K Eleven MileagePlus Miles Plus Two MileagePlus Miles
Thirteen MileagePlus Miles

As shown in the chart above, if you use a credit card affiliated with United Airlines, you can earn an additional two MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program miles per dollar spent in addition to the MileagePlus miles you will have earned from using the credit card itself — similar to the earning of SkyMiles with Delta Air Lines.

This means that on an airline ticket whose base airfare is $1,000.00, a General member of the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program without an affiliated credit card would earn 5,000 MileagePlus miles; whereas a Premier 1K member using an affiliated credit card would earn 13,000 MileagePlus miles…

…but — again, as with Delta Air Lines — the maximum amount you can earn on one itinerary is 75,000 MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program miles. “What is with the 75k mile cap?!” questioned FlyerTalk member whimike. “So, as a 1K, if I buy a fare higher than $6,800 I am penalized?”

Apparently, FlyerTalk member uber1K_Flyer agrees: “Although people buying first class fares likely don’t focus too much on the miles earned, but this seems like yet another slap in the face to people who pay for first to Asia/Australia and sometimes to Europe. Another disincentive to flying first on United.”

For travel marketed and ticketed by partner airlines of United Airlines, the details are still unclear at this time for tickets whose numbers begin with 016. I expect that — again, similar to Delta Air Lines — members of the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program will earn a percentage of MileagePlus miles flown as determined by the fare class purchased; and will also earn Premier mileage bonuses on eligible fares.

Keep in mind that the concept of Premier Qualification Dollars towards earning elite status — introduced last year — is unaffected by the latest announcement.

As I stated earlier, the changes were not unexpected — but the timing of the announcement of the changes apparently was a surprise to some FlyerTalk members such as JNelson113: “Is anyone else annoyed and angry that they are announcing almost six months in to the year something that will affect us next year! If they want to do this they should have the decency to provide a year of lead time. People have already chosen the programs they want to requalify with this year, and now we’re stuck with this albatross for 2015.”

There are still questions which remain to be answered — but for now, the majority of FlyerTalk members are not happy with the changes announced earlier today.

“I was really hoping UA would distinguish themselves and offer a different program than Delta”, lamented FlyerTalk member FlytheTail. “Nope; exactly the same mileage changes as Delta. This will cut my mileage earned to Asia roughly in half, which when combined with the huge mileage trip redemption increases implemented at the start of the year, completely disincentivises me to fly on United. Now I need to seriously think about returning to Delta.”

Not all FlyerTalk members are complaining and see the changes as bad news, however. “I see this as fair”, disagreed FlyerTalk member hyho61. “When I pay nearly $1000 to go to SLC and the guy next to me pays $400 and both of us get the same miles, that is not fair. MileagePlus is still far better for redemptions and as a program than DL’s. Now the miles will be more valuable. However for international flights, many might prefer to fly other Star carriers as they will get the miles based on distance, assuming the fares are competitive.”

FlyerTalk member Bonehead also likes the new way to earn MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program miles: “My roughly $700 DEN–MAF round trips will earn me about 7700 base RDMs once I’m 1K versus fewer than 1200 now. I tend to spend a lot per ticket on short- and medium-length domestic flights.”

The changes also work for FlyerTalk member billnye97 — but with a question: “I fly CLE-LGA and then LGA-CLE every week. Right now I get 1750 miles being Platinum. With my fare this week (without taxes) I would get 4644 with my $516 fare. Pretty good for me. The only thing I worry about is more devaluation in the redemption area.”

Good question: what will the redemption of MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program miles be like in 2015? We will find out soon enough — but it will probably similar to Delta Air Lines, which released information about the new award charts back on March 6, 2014.

How long do you believe it will take for American Airlines to follow suit with similar changes to its AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program — if at all?

“An amazing opportunity for AA to take all the orphaned non-OPM elites”, advised FlyerTalk member rankourabu. “Hopefully they won’t miss it.”

FlyerTalk member ajamieson is not so sure about that: “With the market now cornered, you can bet the new combined AAdvantage scheme will be next.”

We shall see…

  1. Like with Delta, the earning is not 100% revenue based. Pretty much the same exceptions: Flights booked as part of packages (such as “vacation” packages), where the price of the flight by itself is not revealed, will still be based on miles flown. Partner flights booked outside of UA will still be based on miles flown.

  2. Very disappointing, though if UA follows DL on MQDs it was expected to follow on this as well. The root problem is consolidating down to only 3 major legacies + WN…without that this wouldn’t be happening. It’s also a major reduction in overall benefits intended as a revenue play…those on expensive tickets who think it’s a zero sum game and they gain whatever the other guy loses are kidding themselves.
    If AA holds out then I’m switching to them. Otherwise price is king, as the miles would be nowhere near enough to incentivize me to pay $200 more on DL or UA vs. some Chinese or Taiwanese carrier to Asia. Domestically Spirit isn’t a great flying experience, and you have to have the credit card, but they’ve been surprisingly effective in getting me places on award tickets.

    1. Unfortunately, RustyC, there are those who would argue that had the airlines not consolidated, then some of them might have gone out of business altogether — so what is happening might have happened anyway…

  3. Currently those miles are worth about 2 cents each. How does this affect the value of a Star Alliance mile?

  4. – The miles don’t buy any more than they used to. (Award structure unchanged). So maybe the miles are still worth the same 2 cents each.
    – The miles are harder to get. So maybe they’re worth more.
    – Will be easier to redeem for flights. So slightly more valuable. Because its harder to accumulate the miles you need. Also people will drop out of the program.
    I used to get 12K miles for flying economy from Asia on one of UAL’s long-distance buses. Now I’ll get half that or less. Combined with the increase to 70K miles to redeem, well lets just say I’m less inclined to care about flying UAL.

  5. One of the few things that has kept me with United is their air miles program. If you can keep status, it offsets a lot of the poor customer service you get otherwise. Since United was on a lot of the routes I needed to take, you win some, you lose some.
    So when they changed the air miles program last year, I stuck with it. This however, opens a complete reboot for me. If American is competitive, I may move all my travel to them. Shame, I have been with United through thick and thin for many years now. Also a shame they killed Continental as this is no longer an option.

  6. I agree. I always look at say kayak to compare fares. I would tend to prefer United, even at a slightly higher price, factoring in the miles, which can be handy. But with half the reward, I have half the incentive. In fact really at some point all this managing of miles gets to be just too much hassle.

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