United MileagePlus’ New Miles Pooling Feature

United MileagePlus’ New Miles Pooling Feature

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United MileagePlus has just announced a great new feature, letting members pool their miles. This is a positive development, though has some major limitations…

Basics of United MileagePlus mileage pooling feature

United Airlines has just become the first of the “big three” US carriers to allow loyalty program members of all ages to pool their miles with friends and family. With this mileage pooling feature, any MileagePlus member over 18 years old can become the pool leader, and create a pool for free when logged into their MileagePlus account:

  • Pool leaders can invite up to four of their family or friends of any age to join the pool if they have an active MileagePlus account
  • Pooled miles can be used when booking a ticket on united.com or in the United mobile app
  • Pooled miles can only be used for award travel on United; they can’t be used for award travel on partner airlines, or for any other MileagePlus redemptions
  • There are no limits to the number of miles that may be contributed to an active miles pool
  • Members can leave a miles pool at any time; however, any miles contributed by the person who leaves the pool will be forfeited by that member, and will stay in the pool to be shared among the remaining members
  • If a member leaves a miles pool, they can’t join another pool for the next 90 days, and that pool also can’t have a new member join for 90 days
  • Contributing miles to a MileagePlus pool won’t affect an individual’s elite status; only members who travel on a ticket using pooled miles will earn any eligible Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs), not the member who contributed them

Practically speaking, you’re best off just using a miles pool shortly before you’re ready to book a ticket. Then you can decide how many miles each person will contribute toward that ticket, since not everyone has to contribute the same.

United MileagePlus now lets members pool miles

This is a smart play on United MileagePlus’ part

While United is far from the first airline in the world to introduce a mileage pooling feature, it did beat American and Delta to this, so deserves credit for that.

United’s motive here is clear. Loyalty programs can generate a lot of revenue for airlines, and airlines want as many people as possible to join loyalty programs. This has been a big focus for all major airlines.

Perhaps in the past, an entire family that travels once or twice a year may not have signed up for a loyalty program, since they figure they won’t earn enough miles to actually redeem for awards. This mileage pooling feature is a great incentive to join, since you can pool the miles you earn, so that you have enough for a valuable reward. That’s smart.

Now, from the perspective of airlines, the big concern with these concepts is fraud, given the world of mileage brokers. In the past, we’ve seen some loyalty programs suspend the mileage pooling concept due to too many issues with fraud. So I think United learned some lessons there from other airlines, and has greatly limited risk:

  • There’s a 90-day “cooling off” period with pools, which not only applies to the person leaving the pool, but to the pool altogether, which limits how much people can game this
  • You can only redeem miles from the pool for flights on United; this helps United accomplish its goal of getting people to sign-up for MileagePlus and fly United, but it limits the usefulness for those who may be trying to barter miles

For those of us savvy miles & points users, I’d consider this to be moderately useful, though I wouldn’t call it a game changer, given the limitations on how you can redeem. But still, this is a smart and customer friendly initiative. Between this and MileagePlus miles not expiring, the value proposition of the program is great for the occasional traveler.

I’m curious if we see American AAdvantage and Delta SkyMiles follow.

This is a great way to engage people in MileagePlus

Bottom line

United MileagePlus has launched a mileage pooling feature, whereby up to five people can combine their miles for a single award ticket. The catch is that you can only redeem for travel on United, and you can’t jump between pools too often.

It’s always nice to see miles become more flexible, especially for those who accrue them in small quantities. This is a big value-add for the average member, and should increase engagement in the program.

What do you make of United’s new mileage pooling feature?

Conversations (13)
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  1. infrequentflyer Guest

    I've been hoping for something like this for years. While you have always been able to transfer points from one account to a other thr price was steep. As someone with kids who travel a few times a year, we'll finally be able to use their accumulated points. The only downside is no partner awards which tend to be much cheaper than united metal awards.

  2. Jon Guest

    Looks like they took the feature down... that was fast

    1. brianna hoffner Diamond

      I wonder if it's just getting a couple of bug fixes or if it's been canceled...

  3. George Guest

    To me this is huge. I had my family with Aeroplan until now, just for the pooling, but we'll switch back to United. Similarly, I'm switching us back from BA to AA because of the new 0.5cpp to transfer (which is not ideal, but good enough).

    The restriction about redeeming for UA metal is not great, but we fly UA longhaul enough (living in a hub city) that it's no big deal.

    Way to go, United!

  4. Yoloswag420 Guest

    Delta pooling would be pointless. And AA pooling would be too powerful.

    The sheer difference in number of miles you need across each of these programs is insane.

    1. Nate Nate Guest

      I disagree. If 5 people pool all their SkyPesos, they may be able to get one free ticket.

    2. s c Guest

      but what if you don't want to go from Detroit to Grand Rapids at 2am on a Tuesday in February?

    3. Tim Dunn (s) Guest

      Either they will like it and smile or ya know actually pay money for the ticket. Bums

  5. jdh Guest

    Better than before but it's a huge drawback that you can't use these on partner awards, though.

  6. Tony Guest

    "I’m curious if we see American AAdvantage and Delta SkyMiles follow."

    My prediction: Delta SkyMiles will follow, but American AAdvantage won't.

    1. Watson Diamond

      Oh yay, then my entire family can pool their SkyPesos for a one-way economy ticket to ATL.

  7. GB Guest

    Question: does this mean that I cannot use the miles for a Lufthansa operated flight, even if I am booking through United.com with my United miles? It sounds like it has to be United metal, but does this mean flights booked through United or the actual flight has to be a United aircraft? How would this be differentiated?

  8. Redacted Guest

    Nice to have the option for sure. Good move.

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Jon Guest

Looks like they took the feature down... that was fast

2
Nate Nate Guest

I disagree. If 5 people pool all their SkyPesos, they may be able to get one free ticket.

1
Yoloswag420 Guest

Delta pooling would be pointless. And AA pooling would be too powerful. The sheer difference in number of miles you need across each of these programs is insane.

1
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