With United moving to a revenue-based frequent flyer program for mileage-earning next year, customers flying on ‘cheap’ fares will earn fewer miles for their flying.
I have to put cheap in quotes though because the break-even point for earning miles is 20 cents (the minimum requirement to earn elite status is only 10 cents..!). If you’re paying less than $900 or $1000 on a cross country flight, you lose out.
United has told folks that the total number of miles awarded will stay the same but that hardly makes sense simply because their revenue per passenger mile is substantially lower than yet.
Elite frequent flyers will probably ‘suck it up’ and keep flying United and crediting their miles to MileagePlus even though they may earn less, since elite benefits matter and United probably has a schedule which matches their needs.
But occasional United flyers not chasing their status can fortunately consider crediting miles to another frequent flyer program, a United partner, that may be more rewarding for them.
On June 11 you posted “New Game Plan for Non-Elite Flyers That Travel on United” in response to United’s announced move to revenue-based mileage accrual early next year. It was extremely helpful. But since then, one of your four recommended solutions — Avianca Lifemiles (which arguably was your MOST strongly recommended solution) — has significantly changed and complicated its program (as you’ve also reported).
You noted that Aegean is good primarily for earning status, not for mileage-earning “except for cheap short hops” and there aren’t many good ways to add to/top-off Aegean accounts other than flying on Star Alliance flights. You also noted that KrisFlyer miles disappear 3 years after they were earned, and so an infrequent Star Alliance flyer who doesn’t accrue enough mileage for desired award flights for himself and his wife within 3 years of his first KrisFlyer mileage deposit — even with transfers from Ultimate Rewards or SPG points — is risking flushing his miles.
That leaves, of your four suggested solutions in June, Aeroplan. How do you compare it to the changed Lifemiles program?
Great questions. Air Canada’s Aeroplan
have mile that expire after 7 years, which I’m cool with miles don’t expire as long as you have activity in your account every 12 months.
Some award prices are cheap (US-Western Europe) and others pricey, they only have one-way awards to and from the US and Canada — you can’t use Aeroplan to book a one-way from Bangkok to Hong Kong for instance. But their routing rules are generous with two allowable stopovers or a stopover and an open jaw on a roundtrip award, and the option to fly 5% more than the ‘maximum permitted mileage’ between your origin and destination.
But they add fuel surcharges to half of their partners. You do not pay fuel surcharges for bookings on Air China, Brussels Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian, EVA, SAS, Singapore, Swiss, Turkish, and United, and fuel surcharges are modest (about half what you’d pay on Lufthansa) for LOT.
They also don’t credit all United fares at 100% of flown miles, only W fares and above. (That’s actually the same as with Avianca’s Lifemiles.)
Customer service is much much much better with Aeroplan than dealing with Lifemiles on the phone (Lifemiles is better over email if you can wait 24 hours for a response), and the Aeroplan website is better too.
Personally I like Singapore Airlines Krisflyer because of full mileage earning on United’s discount fares and the ability to transfer in points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and now Citi Thank You Points – despite the 3 year expiration of points.
So it shouldn’t be hard to get enough points into an account for an award, whether an award on Singapore itself (where availability is fantastic) or even for United domestic awards.
I’m optimistic about the future. I’m actually betting that we see a new Star Alliance frequent flyer program in the next couple of years that offers full mileage-earning on United and doesn’t add fuel surcharges to award redemption. And I’m betting that happens without a new airline joining Star Alliance, even.
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