United Frequent Flyer Program to Move to Fare-Based Model March 1

By Paul Riegler on 19 February 2015
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United's terminal at JFK

United’s terminal at JFK

Starting March 1, United Airlines will change how members of its frequent flyer program earn miles.

Following Delta Air Lines’ lead, which has already made a similar change, United flyers will no longer earn points based on mileage flown.  Instead, the award points will be calculated based on the fare paid.

Ordinary or general members of United’s MileagePlus program will earn five points per dollar spent on airfare.  Those with elite status will earn up to 11 points, depending on status level.  Specifically, the multiplier for Premier Silver members will be seven, for Premier Gold, eight, for Premier Platinum, nine, and for top tier Premier 1K members, 11.

United says that the points will be calculated based on “the actual ticket price (base fare plus carrier-imposed surcharges), purchased ticket routing, fare class, Premier status, residency, ticket issue date and flight departure date.”

Tickets issued by United but operated on Star Alliance or MileagePlus partners will earn mileage via the new system, but tickets issued by those airlines directly will earn award miles based on distance flown and the purchased fare class.

This translates to an incentive for flyers to pick more expensive tickets if they are looking to earn more miles.  On a United flight between New York’s John F. Kennedy International and Los Angeles International airports, where the current fare is $596 for a round-trip economy-class ticket, a MileagePlus member without status would have earned 4,950 points based on a distance of 2,475 miles in each direction.  For the same flight starting March 1, that passenger would earn 2,980 points, while a Premier 1K flyer would earn 6,556 points.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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