United Going Revenue Based on Mileage Earning

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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.

 United Revenue Based

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.




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  1. this made getting rid of my Chase United card just that much easier. This move by United actually makes Delta’s plan better.. don’t you think?

  2. Yeah, this moves seems to cater to the coach potato who earns his/her miles via online shopping and credit card spend. Im guessing they looked at the numbers and decided that was where the money was and they would rather reduce the number of miles issued on cheap flights instead of reducing the number of miles they sold to chase.

  3. Juno, I wouldn’t do that until they muck up the redemption rates (further). Earning via credit card spending is unchanged and relative to flying actually better.
    Dan, indeed. Long live the couch potato!

  4. Great news. Looks like they’re giving us the opportunity to earn more miles and are providing us with more ways to use them. Looking forward to 2015!

  5. not knowing a thing about United elite status. Is there an exception for the PQD requirement like Delta has for MQDs with spending on the co-branded credit card?

    if not – that stinks for United folks. Maybe my plans to jump ship from Delta just got thwarted.

  6. It will now take $8500 in spend on United flights for the average customer to earn a ticket to Hawaii, pretty sad. This change is basically taking away from the average flyer to give to the high spending corparate flyer. This company deserves your loyalty?

  7. Couch potato mileage-earner here. As long as they don’t change redemption charts in the near future then I’m okay with this. I’ll be honest, all of my United miles are earned through credit card spending. I can’t even remember the last time I earned BIS United miles. This is a disappointment for revenue flyers, but for people like me this just means more award space. A win for some and a loss for others, obviously.

  8. Mommy, will you status match?

    AA probably won’t go to revenue based til 2016 so if you matched, you could have a year as an Executive Platinum, for example, with much better benefits than UA offering you for the same period…

  9. No surprise here. AA to follow. Airlines in the US are all copycats. However, the only one that takes risk is the evil Delta. They could not care less about customers so they probably have an entire department that is supposed to come up with evil ideas on how to take advantages of customers and diminish the value of their benefits. Customer service is longer gone there. Thus, once evil Delta implements a change that hurts customers, copycats UA and AA just wait until customers hammer Delta and then introduce the same. They can always play stupid and say they are just adjusting themselves to be on pair with competition. That is why I changed my strategy to “earn and burn”. As soon as I have enough miles for redemption I burn them. No loyalty at all.

  10. I don’t like this at all. I think I will start crediting all of my Star Alliance flights to a different memeber’s program so I can still earn miles. Do you have any recommendations for one that has good/easy/cheap redemption? I’m strongly considering Aegean for the easy Star Alliance elite status. Thanks!

  11. whew! this doesnt affect me at least, since ALL my United flights past and future are based on miles earned NOT by flying, but via UR, shopping, eating, and that morning muffin I get everyday.

  12. As long as the award chart stays the same, I don’t care. I use SWA for all my domestic needs anyway…United is only for international flights as a Chase UR Transfer partner.

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