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I never intended to have three posts in a row related to United elite status, but that is how it has shaken out. Apologies to everyone who couldn’t care less about this topic! Last night I wrote about a change that I think very negatively impacts United elite traveling families, but as I mentioned in that post, that was not the entirety of the changes that came out yesterday…it just happened to be the one that I thought to be the worst for traveling families.
Here is a summary of all of the “updates” (aka devaluations) United released yesterday.
Status of elite traveler no longer conveys on award tickets booked for others effective April 15th. This is the change I wrote about extensively yesterday, but essentially the MileagePlus account holder’s status and elite benefits no longer convey to someone else when miles are used from their account effective April 15, 2015. Travel benefits will be based on the status of the traveler, not the account that the award ticket is booked out of. On first glance that makes total sense, but the reality is a little different for families. Quite often, the one who racks up elite status doesn’t use award miles very often for themselves, opting instead to continue purchasing tickets to re-qualify for status. Instead, the miles are usually used for kids/spouse to travel with them. This policy change will mean that those family members flying on miles won’t have access to E+ seats with the elite traveler without the standard fee unless the elite traveler is also traveling on miles on the same itinerary. That is unquestionably a loss for traveling families who have elite status with United.
No $100 Payment Code for Global Entry for 1K and Platinum Travelers effective January 31st. Previously United would provide a payment code for the $100 fee to apply for Global Entry, which also gave you Pre-Check. Global Entry has to be renewed every five years, so this was a nice gesture even though someone should only have to make use of it once every five years. As of February 1, 2015, MileagePlus will no longer provide a payment code which can be used as the form of payment for the $100 Global Entry application fee. Eligible members may continue to request a payment code until January 31, 2015.
Elite members no longer exempt from cash co-pay on upgrade awards on P.S. Routes (JFK – SFO/LAX) effective February 1st. Beginning February 1, if an elite United MileagePlus member wants to use their miles to upgrade to a seat up-front on the P.S. routes from JFK to/from SFO and LAX they will not only have to pay the normal mileage amount to upgrade, but also the cash co-pay they were previously exempt from that can be as high as $250 each way on the lower economy fare classes. This means that in the fare classes S, T, K, L, G, N, an upgrade on a P.S. route will be the standard 20,000 miles + $250 on top of the cost of the original economy fare. Compare that to the new JetBlue Mint seats and suites that sell outright for “just” $599 each way, and there is likely a clear winner for a premium seat on those routes, and it isn’t United.
Premier Gold Elites Loss One Free Checked Bag Effective February 1st. For all United Economy tickets issued or re-issued before February 1, 2015, Premier Gold members are eligible for three complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds each. For United Economy tickets issued or re-issued on or after February 1, 2015, Premier Gold members are eligible for two complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds each for travel between the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For travel to and from select international markets, Premier Gold members are eligible for three complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds each. I can’t imagine there is a huge savings in dropping the number of 70 pound checked bags from three to two for Golds as I virtually never see anyone checking that many bags anyway on a ticket within the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the USVI, but United must have some reason for cutting it. Combined with elite status not conveying on award tickets, I could see a situation where this could impact Gold travelers headed somewhere that requires bulky packing (like a ski destination).
Copa Leaving MileagePlus, Starting Own Loyalty Program. Copa Airlines has been a part of the MileagePlus program even though they were a separate airlines, but that will change as they start up their own loyalty program. They will still be in the Star Alliance so will honor Star Alliance benefits, but will stop honoring many MilagePlus specific elite perks on July 1st. You will still be able to use MileagePlus award miles, RPUs, and GPUs to upgrade (which seems strange to me), but Complimentary Premier Upgrades and instant upgrades will not apply starting July 1, 2015. Complimentary same day flight changes, access to priority economy seats will also end July 1 for United MileagePlus elites. Starting July 1, 2015, flight segments on Copa Airlines will also not count toward the four-segment minimum for MileagePlus Premier status, and flight miles on Copa will not count toward your lifetime flight miles balance with United. Additionally, Copa Airlines flights on tickets that aren’t issued by United will not earn Premier qualifying dollars.
I have my first Copa flight coming up later this winter, but on the whole these changes will likely be a negative for those who frequently used both United and the Panama based Copa Airlines, but there may be some opportunities that arise from having another Star Alliance member airline and award chart to potentially utilize. View From the Wing does a good job outlining why there may be some positives in this development for some folks.
The Cuts Keep on Coming:
Of course all of this is in addition to the award chart devaluation that kicked in earlier this year, the increased revenue requirement for elite status starting next year, and the announcement that mileage earning is going revenue based beginning in March. Oh, and don’t think it’s done there, with Delta announcing that stopovers on awards will be cut beginning next year, it wouldn’t surprise me if the wheels on that one are turning at United headquarters in Chicago. Hopefully not though, hopefully this is all way more than enough for now. Hopefully.
I can be loyal to a fault, but even a loyal dog needs to be thrown a bone every now and then. It’s time for United to do something to make us smile and remind us why we are loyal to them in the first place.