To be clear, I am not at all happy about the addition of the revenue component United has introduced to their elite qualification tiers. It is heavily weighted in favor of those who have someone else buying their tickets (businesses) where money doesn’t matter in the same way as if it were coming out of your own piggy bank. I get that the airline is a business, and businesses need to make money, but I wish that either 1K had the credit card spending waiver as it does with Delta, or the revenue requirements were at least 25% – 30% lower in order to catch those who fly on somewhat discounted leisure fares. But, they’re not. This is the new reality beginning next year, so we might as well look for the upsides, as well as create a strategy on how we will incorporate these changes to future travel plans.
- The first upside is this doesn’t have any impact if you fly primarily on miles for award tickets. In fact, it may encourage some to go back to that strategy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
- If you do qualify for elite status, there may be fewer folks you are competing with for upgrades, especially at the upper tiers. This may make elite status more meaningful for those who continue to have it.
- I actually really don’t like mileage runs at all. I like good fares, and I like short trips to take advantage of those fares, but the idea of true mileage runs where one flies around the country or world without leaving the airport really isn’t my cup of tea. Perhaps this new model will still encourage people to take advantage of these very good fares that sometimes exist, but the motivation won’t solely be for elite status. Perhaps people will only jump at them if/when they actually want to at least briefly experience the destination.
- There is a credit card spending waiver for the first three elite status tiers, and Platinum status really isn’t bad at all. You can still just put $25K in annual spending on your United credit cards and not worry about the revenue component for all status levels except 1K. I will probably qualify for 1K this year for 2014, but I already wasn’t sure if I could realistically qualify again next year since so many of my trips are already booked on award tickets. I’m sure the obsessive side of me would want to try, but the truth is that the Platinum level I have had for over six months is actually really good. All it is really missing are the system wide upgrades, but life keeps moving even without those. If Platinum is all I keep going forward, that isn’t such a big deal. Sure $25,000 on United credit cards is a ton, but it is doable for some of us and that makes the revenue component irrelevant at least for a while longer.
- Many of us probably already spend much more on United tickets than we realize. I know some people track every single dollar spent on United and can tell you exactly what their cost was to fly 100,000 miles, but I’m certainly not one of those people. Since I so rarely do real mileage runs, the majority of my tickets are purchased because I need (or want) to be somewhere. That means my cent per mile cost is nowhere near the 3 – 5 cents that people may average on mileage runs. I don’t know if I am averaging at the 10 cents per mile needed via the new revenue model, but I suspect my spending patterns are not terribly far off. My $500 ticket to a wedding that earned 1,600 miles (31 cents per mile) or my tickets to the family in Kansas that cost $250 but earn 1,050 miles (24 cent per mile) tell me that even if I have some lower cents per mile flights mixed in (like my 4.5 cents per mile tickets to Hawaii), many of my flights are way over the 10 cents per mile average needed. I couldn’t say for sure how my spending looks as a whole without some quality time with a calculator and credit card receipts. However, I imagine that most of us who aren’t too heavily slanted toward mileage runs are also not that far off.
The world of miles, points, and travel is always changing. Sadly some of those changes are ones most of us don’t like, but as long as we get to keep seeing the world, it isn’t earth shattering if we are doing it as a United 1K, a United Platinum, or (gasp) without status – or at least that is what I am telling myself.
What upsides do you see?