United Changes its Expiration Rules

United announced today that its miles will now expire after 18 months of inactivity rather than the current 36 months.

The worst part of the change, though, is that instead of giving useful advance notice of the change, it’s retroactive to July, 2006. Accounts without activity from July ’06 through December ’07 will be terminated at the end of the year.

The press release contains some whoppers:

    By shortening the amount of time a
    Mileage Plus account can remain inactive, United’s most loyal customers
    will compete with fewer people for award seats, making it easier for them
    to redeem their miles.

Sure, I compete every day for international first class awards with the median member with 17,000 miles in their account striving for 25,000. Heh. As though it’s the fault of members (rather than the airline which controls inventory) when award inventory is unavailable. True, zapping miles off the planet means fewer miles chasing a constant pool of seats, but it’s a fairly disingenous argument to make.

    This change…brings our program in line with major competitors

First, one doesn’t usually describe a change as positive when it removes an advantage relative to the competition.

Second, it isn’t even true — Ameican’s miles (the largest airline, United’s largest competitor) still expire after an account’s inactivity for 36 months. It’s true United isn’t the first one out of the gate on this — Delta and USAirways recently made similar changes and Continental has had this (unenforced) rule for years. But it’s hardly a benefit as the press release suggests that United is now the same (in a negative way) as some other carriers.

Shame, shame, for the lack of notice on this one United.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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