Two to Travel (And Tango)

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How United Just Made Sure American Airlines Has the Best Frequent Flyer Program- For Now

They’ve done it. Of course, for those of us who follow things such as these, the news from United today is hardly surprising, though nonetheless frustrating. When we started this blog a few months ago, we wrote how Delta was the worst of the worst in terms of the main American carriers for frequent flyers. The miles are hard to spend, and recently Delta made them harder to earn! They moved to what’s called a revenue based earning program, which essentially means the old system of being awarded for the miles you fly is replaced with a new system that rewards you based on the money you spend.

And United is joining the crowd. Starting March 1, 2015, United will reward frequent flyer miles on their airline not based on the mileage you fly, but based on the amount of money you drop on at ticket. Spend more, earn more.

How flyers will earn miles on United and United Express flights starting March 1, 2015

How flyers will earn miles on United and United Express flights starting March 1, 2015

How does this impact you? It hits people who are loyal to United hardest and I think it’s fair to say gives reason to the casual traveler to pick American Airlines (or Alaska Airlines) when considering what loyalty program to focus on when you fly. But let’s give an example of how different things will be with the new systems.

One of our favorite bloggers Summer over at Mommy Points (she has a great blog, check it out!) wrote about the change and gave an example of a recent trip on United, giving us a break down of what she earned and what she would earn in the new program.

On a trip she took that was Houston to Anchorage roundtrip the minimum earned for this is the miles flown: 6,500 miles. Since she is a 1K elite member she earns a 100% bonus on all her trips, so she earned :13,000 miles she can redeem. Not bad at all! What’s better, she got a pretty good deal on her ticket: $400. So what would she earn under the new revenue based system? As a general member, she gets 2,000 miles, NOT 6,500 miles. As a member of the top elite level of United MileagePlus, she will only earn 4,400 miles, NOT 13,000 miles.

Do you have a flight coming up on United? See what you will earn under the old mileage program with this mileage calculator here, and see what you would earn with the new program with their revenue based mileage calculator here

Some final details: Credit cards will still earn points just as they do now, no change. So too will you earn miles on international flights that are operated by partners but not ticketed by United.

So if you look at the biggest frequent flyer programs offered by Delta, United, and American Airlines, American is now the only one that will continue to offer miles based on the miles flown, not the amount of money you spent. For the average traveler who is budget conscious but still wants to earn miles, this is a big deal. American has said they won’t make any changes until they finish their integration with US Airways. So for now, they’re even more clearly our preferred carrier between the big three. Alaska Airlines is a great program and makes it easy to earn miles not just on Alaska but other carriers as well, making them worthy of your consideration. Stay tuned for more updates, but keep your fingers crossed that enough people will utilize American after these changes from United where it will be like Southwest with their “bags fly free” promos: We want to make it where the airline sees a financial incentive in not following the crowd in what is becoming bad business as usual! So if you switch your loyalty to American, make sure to let them know why, on Twitter, in emails, wherever you can!

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2 Comments

  1. This is really interesting. What about people who don’t fly often but use the United credit card? It looks like you still earn the same amount of miles as a credit card user?

    • Thanks for the comment. It’s a judgement call. For now, the miles you earn with your credit card are not impacted. But to me, if you have the credit card, you’re probably inclined to fly them when you do have vacation or other flight opportunities. And now knowing that at times you could be getting only 33% of what you used to get prior to the changes, it’s hard for me to stomach flying them unless I have to.

      The changes don’t take place till March 1, so for immediate travel plans you won’t see changes. But again, come March 1, they’re going down a path that is not advantageous at all to the casual traveler.

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