Details of United’s 2012 Mileage Plus program released

Yesterday United finally unveiled the details of their 2012 Mileage Plus program.

Many of you probably remember that I posted about rumored changes to the Mileage Plus program back in August based on what I was told by an inside source. Ultimately there were six weeks between when I posted the rumor and the program was officially published, so it’s no surprise that some things changed. Actually, what I was told six weeks ago was spot in, with the exception of two things — top tier status will be called Premier 1K status and not Premier Diamond status, and there won’t be a revenue requirement to qualify for status. Of course that latter point is HUGE.

When I published the rumored changes post it was based on a possible program they were considering. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the program United was actually planning on implementing until they saw the outcry online over the possible changes. After all, feedback to airlines can make a huge difference. We saw this in the past with the elimination of 500 mile minimums for elites, and also with the expiration of 500 mile upgrades, where online feedback changed their mind.

Anyway, UA Insider‘s post is very thorough and self explanatory for the most part, so check it out here.

If you’re a 1K this announcement is probably a relief, since 1K status isn’t being devalued, at least on paper. The one key thing to keep in mind is that all elites on a full fare ticket will clear ahead of 1Ks on a non-full fare ticket. Furthermore, upgrades supported by mileage or instruments will be prioritized over complimentary upgrades. This means that a non-elite using miles will now clear their upgrade ahead of a 1K hoping for a complimentary upgrade. Does that make sense? I don’t know, on one hand they are paying for the upgrade, so I see where they’re coming from, though I suspect these two changes will impact 1K upgrades in a substantial way.

If you’re a Platinum (or fly more than 75,000 miles per year), you win and you lose. Your mileage bonus goes from 100% to 75%. That being said, you’ll finally clear ahead of those that fly 50,000-74,999 miles per year. So I’d say it’s a wash for the most part.
If you’re a Premier Executive (or fly more than 50,000 miles per year), you’re getting screwed pretty bad. Your mileage bonus goes from 100% to 50%, and you’ll now clear your upgrades behind those that fly over 75,000 miles per year, while it was previously a free for all for those that flew between 50,000 and 99,999 miles per year.

If you’re a Premier you’re also getting screwed. You can now only select Economy Plus seats at check-in (within 24 hours of departure), and your upgrade window is only 24 hours before departure. Furthermore, you can now only check one 50 pound bag for free.

Overall the changes are… fair. As we saw, it could have been a lot worse.

The one huge positive is United’s new million miler program. They’re literally taking the best of both worlds. When’s the last time that happened with a merger?

United and Continental will be combining previous totals for million miler programs, though starting next year only actual flown miles will count towards million miler (Continental previously counted all elite qualifying miles).

One million miler gets you Gold status, two million miler gets you Platinum status, three million miler gets you 1K status, and four million miler gets you Global Services status. Furthermore, million milers can appoint the same elite tier to a companion, even if they earn a higher status level than their million miler. That means if I were a 1K million miler, my companion would be a 1K as well as long as I maintain it. They just don’t earn the upgrade instruments.

So the only major thing they’re eliminating is a lifetime Red Carpet Club membership at two million miler, but with the other gains with the million miler program, that’s a very fair trade off. And all of this comes as American substantially devalues their million miler program.

Anyway, aside from the new million miler program these changes aren’t really positive. They’re negative for anyone that flies under 100,000 miles per year, and for those that fly more than 100,000 miles per year they’re only slightly negative given that non-elites using miles will now clear an upgrade list ahead of them (don’t expect to clear upgrade lists on Airbus 320 transcons anymore!). Still, they’re better than they could have been…

Filed Under: Continental, United
  1. I don’t find the changes “fair”, especially as there was no discernible *need* to make any changes, much less the drastic restructuring here.

  2. Ahh yes, the usual post of the 1K set. Now step back and put yourself in the shoes of the Premiere member. Or more annoying to me the last minute flight purchaser.

    The Premiere member has been told, in effect, bugger off. DL has done much the same with their Silver level. If 50k is the new 25k then quit playing games and just make the lowest level at 50k.

    The last minute fare flier is still treated like garbage. All the first class and E+ seats are filled by the GS and 1K fliers and UA (and DL too) tell us to get stuffed even when we buy a ridiculously high dollar last minute fare (DEN-YYZ on 48 hr notice at $3800 for an E- middle seat for example).

    If they really wanted to fix this they should have dumped the 25k level and reserved some First, Business, and E+ seats for the last minute buyer who is paying more than most of the elites sitting in those seats.

  3. I think you listed the bonus miles incorrectly for the Platinum tier. You said “If you’re a Platinum…your mileage bonus goes from 100% to 50%”, when in fact it goes to 75%, correct?

    Also, just my two cents that it makes a ton of sense to add the 75,000 mile tier in there. Having nothing between 50K and 100K previously is a HUGE gap…adding this extra tier better rewards folks in that range for the miles they fly…before, it didn’t really make sense that someone who flew 51,000 miles got the same upgrade priority as someone who flew 95,000 miles.

  4. As a current PremEx I don’t feel screwed (though admittedly I am somewhat less concerned as I have a good shot at 1k next year). Yes, I will miss the 50% bonus, but I already have more miles than I can currently spend on UA given the crappy saver inventory, and UA said it will open up 1k inventory to 1Ps which is a nice extra perk. If I am only flying 50k then it is simply a loss of 25k miles a year.

    I will gladly give that up for the upgrades, where my chances actually go up because I normally fly unrestricted Y and will soon jump all the 1Ks flying on cheapo fares. That’s huge at a hub like SFO, IAD and ORD where you see dozens of 1Ks losing out on upgrades because there are so many of them.

    I don’t doubt that 1Ks and 1Ps flying cheapo fares are big losers under the new system. But it’s a smart move by UA to retain those of us who fly on expensive last minute tickets only to end up in E-

  5. “there won’t be a revenue or segment requirement to qualify for status”

    You missed the 4 segments on UA/CO/Copa requirement for all elite tiers.

  6. In a later post, you also mentioned some onboard benefits (free BOB for elites?). Was kinda looking forward to that, and don’t see that in what UAInsider posted.

    Unfortunately you weren’t spot on entirely 😉

  7. As I mentioned on Gary’s blog 1) Govvie fares need to be excluded from the Y-Ups, 2) they had better not have the stupid upgrade must be requested >24 hours out rule, and 3) I hope companions on separate PNRs can be upgraded – Gary has said yes, but I don’t actually see that confirmed by UA in writing anywhere.

  8. Premier Silver – “You can now only select Economy Plus seats day of departure,”

    Actually, at check in, which is better than day of departure…

    Still, premier silver does not look like an elite level that many will aspire to.

  9. Having been a 1K for just 2 months now I’m happy I made it.

    I agree that they are severely diminishing the quality of travel for Gold and Silver. Mileage Bonus is a big hurt, and most often 24 hours out the only E+ silvers will get are middle seats. The 1 bag only is annoying but how often would it really happen?

    I do think it’s great that they’ve added the 75K status. As a business decision it gives an incentive for the many business travelers who never make 1K but still fly over 50k to keep their business with United. I only wish they gave 1K members the ability to roll-over their PQM for the following year.

    Honestly we all knew the program would change and like any business they have decided to value their most valuable customers, but still haven’t locked at Plat, Gold, and Silvers the ability to upgrade over 1K’s.

    I don’t see my new CPU diminishing too much. Fortunately with my line of work I can pick and choose days/time/aircraft of travel, but even in most regards I don’t see it changing that much. I feel Gold/Silver members will most often just book the ticket as a reward over upgrade with miles at check-in. Will it be just miles or miles+co-pay? Also it’s not like that isn’t available to the rest of us 1K’s if we really are scared about not getting the upgrade. We can do the same thing and at least we are still earning at a 100% Bonus to help elevate the mileage cost.

    Since reaching 1K and flying Continental metal I’ve liked their sweeps system and been cleared well before the check-in window at any rate, even with 1 seat left. I think the Y/B and Instruments have been before UDU with them?

    Make sense to me that anyone willing to give up money (Y/B), instruments (a form of currency), miles, or miles w/ co-pays would get upgraded before something I’m getting absolutely free. Yes I have flown more, but even hotels don’t guarantee upgrades to their elites, and right now as a 1K, that’s pretty close to what I get. I think people will see the most effect transcons, which hell I’ve seen some GS’s not clear on those flights.

    The most interesting thing that could change CPU is the companion change. According to UA Insider it is their focus to not have companions completely loose the elite status if not cleared prior to airport control. They will be listed at the end of their respective “elites” tier group on the stand-by upgrade list. So maybe within a few people at most instead of the end of the list. As 1K I don’t mind it of course, but I think it will hurt lower tier ability to upgrade more than anything else.

    All this means I’m definitely going to be scheduling a few mileage runs next year just to ensure I make 1K again. Found an LAX-IAD-DTW same day RT for $160ai in Jan that I booked for the 5576 PQM alone.

  10. @ Andrew — Good catch, thanks. Fixed the typo.

    @ Mark — Fixed too, thanks!

    @ Lark — Obviously I’m not as detail oriented as I should be at times. Fixed too!

  11. One thing not being mentioned is that the ability to select E+ for up to 8 people is filtering down to Platinum- perfect for when an elite is planning a typical domestic family vacation.

  12. Overall, this is a huge loss for 1Ps. In addition to going from 100% to 50% bonus, the new upgrade hierarchy, as detailed in relation to 1K flyers, will also work down the chain to 0P, 1P, and 2P as well. Maybe 1K will get CPUs a bit less, but the rest will be upgraded much much much less.

    One HUGE positive thing about the million miler program too is that United will do a one-time conversion of lifetime EQMs into lifetime miles. For those who are nearing one of the million mile tiers, this could bump them over that threshold much much sooner.

  13. I think the 75K level is only still there as it is the remnants of OnePass. My guess is UA would have rather done without it, though needed to appease everyone who flies 75-100K/year and was use to the fee waivers and the other perks that goes with it. In other words had UA merged with a program that did not have the middle tier they would not have created a new one.

    2Ps got bit the most on the new rules. As a former 2P for many years I feel quite bad for them.

    As far as the upgrade ordering goes, I don’t really blame UA. In a sense if that was the give and take of not having the revenue requirements in the elite tiers (even though both were thrown on the table in Lucky’s original post) then I think the average FF who reads this blog still came out ahead. UA has to at some point recognize that cash is king and that there is no real reason to give away something for nothing if you will. At the same time I kind of wish they had never gone down the UDU path and just stuck with E500s then we would always have had a mentality that you were giving up something of economic value to get a nicer seat/better service.

    FInally I think the reduction in RDM by 50% for 1Ps is going to be kind of painful for me personally. As someone who flies a lot of ps flights I always can use extra miles as there is no UDU(CPU) love for me. Then again who knows what will happen on this route with the plane changes that have been announced. Though if I read into the announcements yesterday my guess is that CPU will not apply as it will be marketed as something better than just a regular 2-cabin domestic flight.

  14. Lucky, how do you feel about the program? Are you feeling more committed to AA instead of UA now? I’d like to know how you feel about this and how it will affect your status with both airlines. Are you just going to retain status with both carriers? EXP and 1K?

  15. I disagree that its a negative for 1K. I think the opposite actually.

    First of all the number of low tier elites that is paying full Y, B or M fare is probably low. Anyone who flies on those fares is likely to be a business traveller who is a frequent flier, and if they are they will probably at least have “gold” level status or more. This will “catch” and reward people who are doing a once in a blue moon full fare ticket. I think thats fair and probably what this was intended for. Remember all the 1Ks predicting upgrades would be impossible with UDU? The opposite happened – I think it got easier for 1Ks to upgrade.

    as for the upgrades with instruments change, I welcome it. If i’m using an instrument that doesnt clear until the airport, I think I should have a higher upgrade priority. Most people using instruments will be higher tier. This will allow people who do a once in a lifetime upgrade to actually have a chance of clearing. I think a miles and copay upgrade is a rip off but people who only do it once or twice ever probably don’t care as much.

    My last argument is that 1Ks can still get these benefits that give lower tier elites a boost. If you also buy full Y/B/M then you will once again be ahead of the lower tier elite. If you are a 1K on a RPU you will beat a silver using miles and copay. So its only fair to look at this in context. Its not like there was even 1 person on every flight that was a low tier elite paying full Y.

    in summary I do think this rewards people who spend more, but I just don’t think there will be enough of them that it will make any major difference to a 1K.

    as for the minimum spend – the number that they would have used according to the rumor is exactly what I calculated it would cost for next year to make 1K flying the cheapest fares and not having any e-certs or VDB. So that limit only seems to hurt a small number of people who used to make 1K really cheap. This is my last year being one of them.

    In all fairness, UA is losing a lot of money on an FTer that makes 1K for $1500. So while it might not be good news for such people, it does close a loop hole that was not doing the company any good financially.

    It does appear that everyone below 1K is losing out here. Also the 4MM thing is cool. thats the only way Ill ever make GS. It will probably take me about 12 years though

  16. Ben — the news mostly sucks, just not as bad your rumors. And if your rumors made it suck less than it otherwise might have, then we owe you a thank-you.

  17. As a 2p (Silver, whatever) who doesn’t have a job that allows a lot of travel and whose flying dollars are basically used for recreation this sucks.

    Granted, I don’t expect to be treated like a 1k (platinum, whatever) in the air but it is nice to have early boarding and the opportunity to bag the occasional upgrade to E+. It seems now that this perk is gone. Given that lounge access is purchased it seems the better idea is to get a cc from each network and price-shop, buying the occasional extra room seat and getting priority boarding (elite access, whatever) anyway.

    It’s not going to drive me from UA, it just means that me, and many like me, will be much more likely to price-shop competitors.

    Will it hurt them? My guess is they’re betting no or they wouldn’t have done this. Sucks for many 2p (silver…blah, blah blah) fliers but probably not for UA.

    Oh well.

  18. +1 on the big ups to Lucky – we’ll never know if the revenue idea was just a brainstorm, something they wanted to implement but dared not post-backlash, or just couldn’t technologically.

    But the overall response was a great batch of feedback to UA, and I can’t help that it sucked just a little less because of it.

  19. 1Ks shouldn’t expect to clear upgrades on transcons or even key midcons anymore, except on some Saturday and midday services and some 757 aircraft. Levels below can fugetaboutit.
    Also, there’s no relief on the W fare requirement to play gate upgrade lottery with SWUs.

  20. Interesting with the status for the spouse being the same after you are a million miler and also the companion being inside the elite tier. This will now allow the 3 of us (my wife and son) to have a lot better shot at upgrades. So technically a GS with 2 children will probably get the 4 top upgrade spots on his vacation flight.

  21. As I expected for Hawaii upgrades, HNL-DEN is no longer eligible for UDUs. Only ORD remains outside of the west coast. Of course as a HNL 1K, the Hawaii leisure market will now be flush with the occasional traveler using their miles to upgrade, so while in the past even premiers had a good chance of getting upgraded on Hawaii routes, it appears 1Ks will now have to play the lottery as well.

    Once again United, I am not my fare. Oh, and the CR1s have been cut in half from 8 to 4, so while there seems to be some positive news on using those, it is offset by the fact it will take 50% more flying to get 8 CR1s.

  22. Well my EQM(PQM) total doubles to near 500,000 so I may continue flying United for the next decade to reach Gold for me and my spouse.

    Otherwise the benefits are a wash. Maybe I can shoot for PPlat annually.

  23. Worth remembering that the big benefit of 1K-for-life, i.e. the SWU’s went away earlier in the year, unless you fly the 100k required to earn them. This has gutted the value of the MM programme for me.

  24. @Carl – the HI market will be “flush” with people paying the co-pay? Have you seen how much the co-pay is to Hawaii? Not a soul but for the avid FFs who won’t fly coach and those who would be buying F class anyway is going to be paying that upgrade. Check out the UDU statistics to Hawaii.

  25. “So the only major thing they’re eliminating is a lifetime Red Carpet Club membership at two million miler, but with the other gains with the million miler program, that’s a very fair trade off.”

    There is also loss for all MM+ flyers, that one no longer is getting the SWU credit at crest of the thresholds, 1MM, 2MM and doesn’t get the annual credit of CR1’s, regional upgrades. These are now totally gone as of 1/1/2012… bummer.

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