COPA Wants You To Know You Can Still Earn Miles Based on Distance Flown When Crediting to United MileagePlus If…

COPA wants you to know that you can still earn points based on distance flown with their airline as long as you buy your tickets through them, and not off of

That’s because — even though COPA is a part of the United MileagePlus frequent flyer program and MileagePlus will be awarding points based on ticket price starting in March 2015 — MileagePlus will continue to award points based on distance flown for tickets sold by their partners for travel on their partners.

In other words, if you buy a COPA ticket and fly on COPA, that earns miles based on distance — not revenue — even under the new post-March MileagePlus rules.

The same remains true for other partners, of course. If you buy a Lufthansa ticket and fly Lufthansa, and then credit the flight to United, you’ll earn points based on distance.

That’s why you should buy your transatlantic flights on United’s partners, and avoid flying United, unless you are looking to have the spending on your tickets count towards United elite status, or you’re looking to use United miles or other instruments to upgrade non-full fare tickets.

The special thing about COPA of course is that even though MileagePlus is their airline’s frequent flyer program they are in fact a separate airline and fall under the rules of partners, not under the rules of United.

Of course, this presents the option for the best of both worlds, for folks buying tickets costing more than 20 cents per mile flown, just buy those tickets from United to get them issued as United tickets and have your points calculated based on fare.

It’s a new, more complicated world with more and more opportunities for arbitrage and gaming.. which is fairly ironic for a move to a ‘simpler’ revenue-based program.

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, 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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  1. What about Premier bonuses? Has there been any statement about how the 1K 100% RDM bonus on partners will work after March 1? i.e. will we still earn the 100% bonus on CM flights?

  2. And next question — will CM flights still count toward UA lifetime status? Don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t….

    At this point, it seems like Jeff really wants us to fly Copa….. well, alrigthy then.

  3. One of the best business class meals was served by Copa – an almond encrusted fish dish. Lovely. For trips to S America Copa os my preferred carrier. For milk runs around the US the UA Grey Hound bus and status miles will do.

  4. COPA is a good solid airline. Sadly I had hoped that UA was coming back but its still flying a bunch of ghetto birds and with the new 0.20 cents a mile they have got to be kidding. Like who is gonna pay 0.20 cents a mile for UA? UA use to be a premium airline with 3 kinds of milk on domestic flights whole, 2% and skim, now they are flying dirty old birds. I just got off a 757 from FRA in biz, what a POS!!! Oh and the food, so bad…

  5. What if you buy a ticket on a united flight from copa? Or how about if you buy a ticket from Copa that includes flights on both UA and Copa?

  6. Also, if you buy your ticket from a foreign airline on its home country website and pay for it in that airline’s local currency with a credit card that does not rip you off with a foreign transaction fee, you will almost always get a better price than any price in $US. Do the math. You can check the conversion rate at

  7. Any idea about RTW tickets? What if you buy a RTW (some flights on other Star carriers)? Does the total value of the ticket count?
    What if you get the RTW on different ticket stock and fly United?

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