United has announced several minor program changes for 2015 — none of them are good, none of them are awful, but they combine to take away real value from United’s elite members and add nothing of value in return. That seems to be the overall deal in the current environment and a consistent message coming from the MileagePlus program.
I’ve already written about United elites losing benefits on Copa Airlines. That’s not United’s fault — Copa is launching their own frequent flyer program, which is great. They’ll no longer be a part of MileagePlus, so United’s members will only get the benefits offered to them as Star Alliance elites.
Here’s what else has changed.
United Will Charge a Cash Co-Pay for Elites Using Miles to Upgrade New York JFK – Los Angeles/San Francisco
United has long waived the cash co-pay for redeeming miles to upgrade on domestic for its elite members.
That’s going to change on their premium New York JFK – Los Angeles and New York JFK – San Francisco flights. Those co-pays are going to apply to MileagePlus elite members.
These are flights already that United doesn’t offer complimentary elite upgrades on. Now they want to charge hundreds of dollars for elites to have the privilege to use their miles to upgrade (as they do with other general members of the program).
These cash co-pays range for $75 – $250 each way depending on the fare class (although there is no co-pay on full fare tickets). That’s $500 roundtrip plus miles to upgrade from the lowest fares.
Gold Elites Won’t Get 3rd Checked Bag Free
Admittedly this isn’t a huge change, but it is a takeaway — effective February 1 — that will matter a great deal to those that used the benefit.
United Won’t Pay for Your Global Entry Fees Anymore
Three years ago United rolled out a fee reimbursement for Global Entry signup for their Platinum, 1K, and Global Services members.
Effective February 1 United will no longer provide a payment code to cover the $100 fee. So if you’re a Platinum or higher and haven’t used the benefit you have until January 31 to do so.
Elites Won’t Be Able to ‘Gift’ Their Status to Others When Redeeming Award Tickets
An IT limitation that has persisted for years is that when a MileagePlus elite member redeems their miles for someone else, the elite member’s status attaches to that reservation. The traveler gets to be elite for a day. That goes away April 15 (although I could see this as a soft target, depending on system updates).
Effective April 15, 2015, Premier travel benefits for customers traveling on an award ticket for United- and United Express®-operated flights will be determined by the traveler’s own Premier status, even if another member’s miles were used to purchase the award ticket.
That’s never how it was ‘supposed to’ work and United is finally fixing it.
That’s not surprising since United seems to want to reduce the number of loyal customers, rather than increasing them.
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