The Ultimate Million Mile Status Benefit

When it comes to airlines lifetime program rewards just mean for the life of the offer. You may earn lifetime status but that doesn’t mean you’ll get to keep the status, or that the benefits won’t change.

Lifetime british midland elites didn’t keep lifetime status when the airline was acquired by British Airways. Lifetime status with Aegean and Airtran started requiring annual re-qualification.

Copyright: boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

United Airlines even told a court that they weren’t obligated to honor lifetime promises and customers should know better than to believe them!

Judge Hamilton: To understand the difference between lifetime and fingers crossed? That lifetime doesn’t mean lifetime?

United: That lifetime means lifetime unless…

Judge Wood: Unless we change our mind.

Judge Hamilton: Unless we change our mind.

United: Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s the case.

It’s one thing to walk away from promised upgrades. But United’s lifetime benefits were hardly the most generous that had been offered.

Thirty years ago when OnePass was formed out of the Eastern Airlines Frequent Traveler Bonus Program and Continental’s TravelBank, they offered a huge reward for members who flew one million miles between the two airlines.

It was called the MillionAir and it offered a trip for two every week for a year anywhere the two airlines flew and it included 52 nights of hotel and 52 days of luxury rental car.

Ironically when United walked away from honoring annual confirmed upgrades for million milers, it was a result of the airline’s merger with Continental and the combination of Mileage Plus and the OnePass 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. And don’t forget Gary that while the new UA welched on the benefits owed the PMUA MMers, they more than made whole the PMCO Infinite Platinums by upgrading them to LT 1K. Favoritism in action, but not surprising given that it was more takeover than merger.

  2. As my English grandmother used to say “that’s being penny wise and pound foolish”.

    I was a perennial 1K since a lot of my flying was to or through United cities, flying a million plus miles with United. But after they began backing out of the many rewards they provided for all my flying, I cut back severely on flying United.

    I still fly them when I have no other choice or when they unexpectedly have a very good deal, but they’ve lost many, many thousands of my dollars from their tomfoolery.

    Like most American corporations, they are all about the short-term bottom line.

  3. @Nor4: Try starting your own airline.
    Precisely the reason a lot of the airline mergers should not have been allowed, in my view.
    Until the past 10 years, Justice has viewed airlines as having the highest barriers to entry of any industry.
    But, now you have them: Spend 2 mill on the Cirrus Vision Jet

  4. I proudly inched my way to million miler status several years ago on United, flying mainly Western Region, making 1K many years solely based on segments. United then rolls back the benefits like boarding in group one, the regional upgrades, etc. I now fly across the country frequently, and am at 1.5 million miles. Expecting to make Platinum Status this year, I am thrwarted by the spending quota. I work for a humanitarian non-profit organization, looking for the least expensive fares and will miss Platinum by less than $400, after spending out of my own pocket frequently for First Class upgrades. United counts paid upgrades to Economy Plus in the spending quota, but not to First Class! Why? When I go into Mileage Plus now, there is a message thanking me for my 29 years of being a Member of the program. How about Platinum status as a thank you for my dedication?

  5. Since we can’t trust United Airlines with their bogus promise of lifetime earned million mile elite benefits, why should we trust our safety to the United Airlines promise of proper aircraft safety maintenance?

  6. RE: Making Platinum, but the dollar spend requirement…

    I have Chase Presidential Plus card, acquired in 2010 shortly after United and Continental merged. One nice benefit was waiving the spend requirement. for all status levels except 1K. Alas, one can no longer get the Presidential Plus card, but current card holders continue to retain this along with several other benefits that the new United Club Card does not offer.

    One other benefit of other Chase Mileage Plus cards is waving the United spend requirement if cardholder account spends $25,000 on anything. This is how my spouse reached Platinum this year, and for 2018. Now with each of us at Platinum, we have designated two other family members with our status as United permits.

    Always wise to read the small print to understand the benefits completely. Chase also offers travel protection insurance, too.

    My wife got enough miles for Platinum status with only a small handful of United flights this year. Flying business class on a Star Alliance RTW ticket pushed her over, earning just over 60,000 miles with 30,000+ actual flight miles. Business class RTW ticket was purchased from Lufthansa, for $4000 less than what United quoted. On a side note, most of the 3rd party RTW “specialists” were even more expensive.

    Check out the RTW tool over at the Star Alliance website. Together we flew US->Fiji->Japan->China->Thailand->UAE->Switzerland->US for little more than the cost of the full fare business class ticket to Dubai.

  7. Then there was the time United sold lifetime Silver Wings Plus memberships for deeply discounted zone-based fares in addition to the 2yr term memberships. Then they cancelled the whole program in one fell swoop. All lifetime mwmbers kicked to the curb. I think there’s still litigation and FT discussions about it.

  8. colleen, right you are. There was a big kerfuffle and a few of us tried to get a court case going. But United was adamant. They refused to discuss this and called their lawyers. A lot of United flyers flew the coop with that one. It was one of the many straws on the camel’s back for me.

  9. This is very much in line with my million mile status with AA. To be fair, my million miler status is a byproduct of mergers, instead of being in spite of said mergers.

    I once had looked forward to the perks of such status, but now, thanks to miles accrued on American, America West, TWA, and US Air(ways), I’ve got status which I’ve never used.

    Humorously, I haven’t had occasion, even one time, to fly AA since the merger completed and I achieved status. That’s apparently how my cookie crumbles.

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