United eliminates 500 mile minimums… this one really ticks me off!

I think I’ve been taking all of these enhancements pretty well so far, but here’s one that really gets to me and makes my blood boil. Starting July 1 United will eliminate the 500 mile minimum earnings per segment and now credit the actual direct distance between cities. What I do love about this is that they didn’t even try to phrase it as an “enhancement” which benefits the members like they usually do. They’re following their soon to be wife (if not actually, at least in terms of quality in the direction they seem to be going) in making this “enhancement,” and it’s a crappy one, in my opinion.

Forget about us mileage runners for a second, we’re not the target customers of airlines like UA. Let’s talk about business people that make connections on a weekly basis, especially those that choose UA when there’s a more convenient flight because they like Mileage Plus. Well if they’re 1K and now earning 180 miles for a 90 mile flight instead of the 1,000 they were earning before, well, there goes some incentive to stay loyal.

I’m disgusted by the fact that UA chose to make this change of all, and I’ll certainly express my disappointment to UA directly. Of course when UA tries to get creative like this I’ll always find a way to be more creative. Accruing frequent flyer miles is like a game of chess, and I always try to be one move ahead, and this won’t be any different.

Filed Under: United
  1. So if you don’t mind me asking, how are you going to stay one step ahead and be creative?

  2. Wow, 7 pages already on FT.

    I have to say I am a bit ambivalent about this change. On the one hand, I never quite understood this magic 500 number. Why do I get a bonus if I fly 254 miles, but not if I fly 754 miles? In other words, why not always round it to the nearest 500? or 100?

    I get most of my miles out of international long-haul flights. My domestic flights are generally within California or SFO-LAS. A few times in recent years I have picked UA over a cheaper alternative carrier because it made retaining status a bit easier. That incentive has been reduced now, and it might be cheaper to buy the cheapest (yet convenient) ticket on whatever airline (hello, WN and VX) and then at the end of the year look at the balance gap and book a cheap MR that “fills” the remaining miles.

  3. Oliver, while I can’t answer the question about the “magic number,” I do understand why shorter flights have a minimum. While Mileage Plus isn’t based on spend (I’d be a general member at best then), it has to make a little bit of sense. For example, up until recently UA flew LAX-SNA which was 32 miles. Fares for LAX-SNA roundtrip were typically around $400 or so. While many people flew it with connections, wouldn’t those people flying LAX-SNA-LAX really be getting screwed? 32 miles for taking a flight? You can get more miles than that for a crappy dinner at a chain restaurant!

    Also, there are many business travelers that fly UA despite it being the more inconvenient option, and in a way the 500 mile minimum was a nice incentive to stick with UA, even when another airline might fly direct.

    The irony in it is that they’re basically giving away EQM’s without end through their DEQM promo, but taking them away here. How about just being consistently reasonable?

    DiscoPapa, I’ll private message you my plan.

  4. Please, I’m sick of the whining by all the frequent flier junkies. They are like old people who feel entitled to their social security, even as it bankrupts the nation. Why the hell would someone go out of their way, and choose to connect through an additional airport, on a regular basis, just for 500 miles (actually, just for the difference between actual mileage and 500 miles)?

    It seems the identity of these types are rooted in their ‘status’, and will sacrifice much in order to stay this way.

    However, I agree with the poster in that assuming there are enough people like this, UA has made a mistake. They may lose business from the entitled, whiney business traveller who expect their bonus miles.


  5. Looks like the US merger is on. They’re aligning with the same crummy policy that US initiated a few months ago. Remember how happy we all were when UA said they would still give the 500 mile minimum on US flights credited to UA, even though US didn’t give it to their own members?

    Personally having suffered through a bunch of CLT-RDU 132 mile flights on US 733s that make the UA ex-Sh*ttle 733s look like luxury liners, I think we deserved the extra miles.

    It’s a race to the bottom. UA took the lead with the 2nd bag fee, but within months everyone else followed. US took the lead with the no-minimum change; now that UA has followed I’d expect everyone else will too.

    Oh well, takes a big reason away from connecting through IAD or CLT rather than ORD or non-stop. 1952 (plus elite bonus) for DEN-IAD-RDU was enough of a sweetener over 1436 nonstop of 1635 via ORD that I often booked it, despite it being IAD. Now that trip is 1452+224=1676 which is barely better than the shorter trip through ORD.

    I’m seriously rethinking the 2nd half of this year’s bookings. Going for a higher status on the new DL/NW may be worth sacrificing UA/US status at this rate. At least DL/NW is looking to improve the actual airline, even if they follow these program “enhancements”

  6. I’m bummed. I fly SFO->LAX three or four times a month so I will notice. At least I still get to qualify for status on segs I suppose. Hitting the double EQM prom as hard as I can before it expires and this new ‘enhancement’ takes place.

    I guess I am a whiny and entitled business traveler / points junkie because I am probably going to be willing to look at other airilnes now for some trips. This definitely weakens my loyalty to United.

  7. All excellent comments, thanks for all the thoughts! Oliver, I don’t even know your handle on FT, shockingly enough. Feel free to either PM me, email me, or post it here. 🙂

  8. Eric,
    are you kidding, or just ignorant about Social Security?
    Heck yeah, the ‘old people’ are wanting their social security even if it bankrupts the country. It’s THEIR money. They paid it to the government to ‘safe-keep’ (and grow) for them. Social Security ‘bankrupting the country’ is a problem of government mismanagement of funds, not the old folks being greedy.

    How can you compare this to frequent flyer miles ???!!?

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