Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.
This morning I shared the bad news that United is going to a revenue based mileage earning model just like (and I mean just like) Delta is doing beginning in 2015. After I slept off my Alaska jet lag and got back online, I noticed many thinking about or proclaiming that they are dumping United as their carrier of choice beginning March 1, 2015 when this all kicks in. Since I am a top tier United 1K flyer, lots of folks are asking me if I am dumping them as well. Here are my thoughts on whether dumping the airline that just dumped mileage earning makes sense for me.
- I already book most of my purchased flights based on convenience (taking the nonstop flight) and that won’t change. I’m already not choosing United over the others because I like their flights or miles better, I am often picking them because I live in a hub with tons of United operated flights and want the shortest distance between two points to minimize travel time. I will pay extra for this (to a point) and am not going to “punish” myself or my family by adding connections because I am earning fewer miles.
- I already don’t earn most of my miles from flying. Don’t get me wrong, as a 1K I earn a bunch of miles flying, but I still earn more via credit cards, online shopping, Ultimate Rewards, etc. I still very much don’t like these changes, but as a percentage of my overall earnings, the losses I take via the new model won’t be life altering. Sadly being at a United hub in the middle of the country, many of my flights were already short and on the expensive side, so I’m not always going to come out behind with the new system…though I frequently will.
- The elite perks I like are still unchanged. In addition to taking United flights because they are most convenient, I stick with them with all else being equal because I value elite perks like free same day changes, E+ seats, no award booking/redeposit fees, and the occasional upgrade. Heck, even my low level Silver status husband cleared his Anchorage – Houston upgrade last night, and that meant we were all in first on a 6+ hour flight via complimentary upgrades. That’s nice when it works out, and it’s something that does have some value for us.
- I may use miles more and purchase fewer tickets. On longer flights like the one I just took to Alaska, or an upcoming one to Hawaii, I like to earn miles for myself instead of using miles, both to help my elite qualifying mileage total and because I get a nice hefty pile of redeemable miles. These changes may mean I care much more about using miles than earning them…though of course I will be earning many of the miles I use on credit cards, not by flying on United flights.
- Consider crediting United flights to partners that still credit based on the distance flown. This is a little trickier than it sounds since not all fare classes credit at 100% rate with all partners, but it is something worth considering. I’m working on a more detailed post on this topic for tomorrow morning.
So no, I’m not dumping United because overall the airline still makes sense for my particular family. I won’t hit 1K again this year, but should still hit Platinum status. I don’t know what the future will hold beyond that, but I just don’t have a better option to realistically switch to at this point given our location and travel patterns.
However, United is trying really hard to kill loyalty, and you should only be loyal to your wallet because they are only chasing your money. They don’t really care how many miles you fly on their aircraft, the number of flights you take on them, how long you have been a United/Continental flyer, or even what class of service you book. They care how much money you spend on your ticket. They reward you with more miles if you spend a bunch. They aren’t giving you much of anything beyond a ride from Point A to Point B if you book inexpensive tickets.
That means most of us should only book United when they are cheapest option available, or if you are very schedule sensitive like I am, then consider them when the price might be slightly more, but they are the clear winner in terms of scheduling for your route. Don’t give them business just because “you always fly United” or certainly not because you are going to earn some valuable miles to use towards a future vacation. There are better ways to earn miles.
I very much hope that the new American Airlines will be different than the rest of these copycats who are essentially doing away with earning miles. These aren’t miles anymore – they are simply some sort of % rebate on travel purchased based on the price of your ticket. Of course to even use the “% rebate” you have to find availability on the flights you want. I hope American caters to frequent flyers and maintains a mileage based system. I’m not dumping United, but we’re certainly not hot and heavy anymore. We are a bit ambivalent toward each other and use each other only as it benefits ourselves. We see other people. We have a relationship solidly built on sand over a fault line. Let’s hope the ground doesn’t shake further.
How do today’s announcements impact your relationship with United?