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In a move that is hardly surprising, but still unpleasant and unwelcome, United MileagePlus will move to a revenue based mileage earning system effective March 1, 2015. This means that how many miles you earn when you fly will be based on how much you paid for the ticket, not how far you flew. Their earning system appears very, very similar to what Delta announced they will move to in 2015 as well. Those who are used to earning miles on long and inexpensive flights will be hurt the most. Those who fly on short and expensive tickets will benefit the most. Those who are somewhere in the middle will see less dramatic changes.
New Mileage Earning Rates:
To see how much you will earn under the revenue based model, take the ticket price (base fare plus carrier-imposed surcharges) and multiply it by the relevant multiplier below to come up with how many redeemable miles that ticket will earn. You can go to their “mileage estimator” page here.
General Member 5x
Silver Member 7x
Gold Member 8x
Platinum Member 9x
1K Member 11x
I just got off a flight from Houston – Anchorage – Houston. That trip is about 6,500 miles round trip. A general member would have earned 6,500 redeemable miles for that trip under the current/old system. That is, one mile per mile flown. As a 1K elite member I earn a 100% bonus on miles flown, so I earned 13,000 redeemable miles for that trip. Since my ticket only cost about $400, then under the system that takes effect on March 1st, a general member would only earn about 2,000 miles, and a 1K member would only earn 4,400 miles based on that ticket price. In both cases that is about 1/3 the number of redeemable miles earned today for the same trip. My ticket would have had to have cost around $1,180 in order for my earnings to have been the same as they were today.
You will be able to earn up to 75,000 award miles per ticket. This would only be an issue really if you were buying international first class tickets. There will not be a minimum number of award miles you can earn for a flight.
Mileage Earning Rates on a Partner Airline:
Tickets for flights operated by a Star Alliance™ or MileagePlus partner airline that aren’t issued by United (ticket numbers that don’t start with “016”) will still earn award miles based on distance flown and the purchased fare class. This sounds great, but keep in mind some of the cheaper fare classes on partner airlines don’t earn at a 1:1 rate with United.
Elite Status Still Based on Miles Flown (plus dollars spent):
To make sure we all stay confused, elite status will continue to be earned based on elite qualifying miles flown based on the distance of your flight. Premier members will still earn a minimum of 500 PQM on United and United Express flights shorter than 500 miles. Of course, you also still have to hit the Premier Qualifying Dollars component for elite status that they introduced this year. Wouldn’t it be easier at this point to just make it all tied to how much you spend and cut the distance part?
New Redemption Options Coming:
The site says that there will be new options for using miles will be available in early 2015. Let me guess, use the 2,000 miles you earned flying to Alaska and back can now be used to pay for an on-board Tapas Snack Box. Oh boy, I’m holding my breath.
Earning Without Flying Wins:
Just like with the revenue based earning system Delta announced a couple months ago, flying to earn miles on United will now be even less attractive. The best ways to earn miles for most of us will clearly be via credit cards, shopping portals, dining programs, etc. Our hobby will be fine (at least through this change) thanks to all those easier ways to earn United miles (or Ultimate Reward points), but the days of earning a ton of United miles on a relatively inexpensive airline ticket will be a thing of the past beginning March 1, 2015.