Many of you have probably already heard the news earlier this week, but in case you have not, I wanted to briefly summarize United’s changes to its MileagePlus program.

United Airlines announced on Tuesday that they will be changing their MileagePlus program as of March 1, 2015 so that flyers will earn award miles based on ticket price rather than distance flown.  Another way to describe this change is that United will move to a “revenue-based” award program.  Southwest, JetBlue and Virgin America already have “revenue-based” programs and Delta announced similar changes earlier this year for 2015 as well  (United’s changes are almost identical to Delta’s changes).   Many experts expect American will eventually announce similar changes after they merge.

Summary of Changes:

The changes to United’s award earning structure will apply to most tickets for travel departing on or after March 1, 2015, regardless of when you purchase the ticket.

Members (without elite status) will earn five (5) award miles per dollar spent, while those with MileagePlus Premier status will earn more as follows:

•Members (without elite status) will earn 5 award miles per dollar
•Premier Silver members will earn 7 award miles per dollar
•Premier Gold members will earn 8 award miles per dollar
•Premier Platinum members will earn 9 award miles per dollar
•Premier 1K members will earn 11 award miles per dollar

The number of miles that can be earned will be capped at 75,000 award miles per ticket regardless of price. There will not be a minimum number of award miles you can earn for a flight.

These new award earning rules will apply to most tickets for flights operated by United and United Express and to tickets for flights operated by a Star Alliance or MileagePlus partner airline when the ticket number starts with “016.” 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 continue to earn award miles based on distance flown and the purchased fare class.

According to the announcement, the qualification requirements for 2015 Premier status will not change. Premier qualifying miles and segments will still be based on the number of paid flight miles traveled and the fare purchased and, where applicable, Premier qualifying dollars will still be determined by the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges.

For more information here is a link to their announcement as well as FAQ.

What Does this Mean for United Flyers?

This is bad news for many United flyers especially anyone that purchases low priced United tickets.  Currently, if you travel on a United flight you earn miles based on the distance of the flight regardless how much the flight cost. Starting March 1, 2015, you will earn award miles based on how much money you spent on your ticket, regardless of how far you fly.   If you purchase cheap tickets in advance, especially for longer flights then you will earn less miles in 2015.  For example, if you don’t have elite status and you purchase a $300 round trip flight between Newark and San Diego you will now earn 4,850 United miles, but starting March 1, 2015 you will only earn 1,500 miles for the same flight.

The new United MileagePlus program will be more rewarding for travelers who purchase expensive tickets relative to the distance flown (for example business travelers purchasing last minute fares or anyone that flies between expensive but short distance markets).

The good news is that if you earn miles through other means than flying (such as credit cards and online shopping) these changes will not affect you. Fortunately, we earn the majority of our miles through credit cards rather than actual flying.

Readers, do you have any thoughts on these changes? Will they affect the amount of United miles you will be earning?


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