United Airlines is revamping its MileagePlus loyalty program next year, with miles to be earned based on the ticket price rather than the distance flown.
That’s great news if you often travel on expensive, flexible fares – but quite a blow if you’re normally stuck in economy.
The changes kick in from March 1 2015, from which entry-level members will earn five miles per US dollar spent on base fares and airline surcharges (including fuel surcharges), but excluding amounts paid for government taxes and levies.
Premier Silver, Gold, Platinum and 1K flyers continue to earn miles at an increased rate – now aligning to seven, eight, nine and eleven miles per dollar, respectively, up to a maximum of 75,000 miles per itinerary (not per flight).
These changes apply to most United and United Express flights – including those between Australia and the U.S. – and kick in regardless of when you purchased the ticket.
The new earning structure also covers flights on United’s partner airlines where the ticket has been sold by United.
For all other Star Alliance flights where United hasn’t sold the ticket, the earning rates remain both unchanged and distance-based.
The qualification requirements for the various Premier status levels, along with United's favourable redemption rates for flights between Australia and Asia also remain untouched.
What you’ll earn from March 2015
The real winners here are business class passengers jetting from Sydney to Los Angeles and back, with some earn rates near-doubling the present day figures.
On a return transpacific trek in business class, members without Premier status will reel in roughly 31,885 miles on a A$6,805 fare.
That’s a vast improvement on the current haul of 22,461 miles if booked in one of the cheaper business class ‘fare buckets'.
On that same ticket, Premier Gold and Platinum members would earn 51,016 and 57,393 miles respectively, a huge jump from the present rates of 29,948 and 33,691 miles.
Down the back of the bus, it’s a different story.
Using an example fare of A$1,322 between Sydney and LAX, the new rates would net you roughly 6,195 miles on a return journey – plummeting from the current bounty of 14,974 miles on the same flights.
Based on current exchange rates, the earn of Premier Gold and Platinum flyers also takes a considerable dive.
Gold-level members would pick up about 9,912 miles on the return trip – down from 16,845 – while Platinum-grade travellers can grab only 11,151 miles.
That’s a 71% reduction in the number of miles earned at the Platinum level, with these members currently earning 39,306 miles on the same flights.
The revamp comes as Qantas also prepares to make its frequent flyer program more revenue-focussed from next month.
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