United MileagePlus Miles No Longer Expire — Is That Good News?

Filed Under: United

Today United Airlines has announced that effective immediately MileagePlus award miles no longer expire. That’s great news… or is it?

How United Explains Mileage Expiration Change

Luc Bondar, United’s Vice President of Loyalty and President of MileagePlus, had the following to say regarding this policy change, saying he wants customers to know that they’re committed to them in the long haul:

“We want to demonstrate to our members that we are committing to them for the long-haul and giving customers a lifetime to use miles is an exceptionally meaningful benefit. Our MileagePlus program provides customers more ways to earn and use miles than any other U.S. airline. More customers used miles to book award trips in 2018 than in any year before, and we expect with today’s announcement that even more will use miles to travel the world in the years to come.”

My Skepticism With Miles Not Expiring

Miles not expiring may sound like a wholly positive change, though there are two sides to everything. Let’s keep in mind that Delta was the first airline to add a policy of not expiring miles a few years back, and Delta isn’t exactly the program most of us look to as being particularly rewarding.

Previously MileagePlus miles expired after 18 months of inactivity. That seems like a pretty fair policy to me. You don’t even need to fly to keep your account active, but rather any activity will qualify, from using one of United’s credit cards, to using the United shopping portal, to a bunch of other activities.

This change is no doubt positive for members who weren’t engaged in the program. Those who fly United every few years and don’t have any other partner activity will continue to be able to rack up miles. I guess that’s good news, and makes them feel rewarded. At the same time, if they don’t fly with United every few years and don’t bother to have any activity otherwise, is United really getting anything in exchange for the miles they’re issuing?

There’s significant liability associated with miles not expiring. There’s a reason airlines expired them in the past, which is that there were billions of dollars worth of unredeemed miles, and realistically a good number of those would have never been redeemed, as there’s always breakage with loyalty programs.

Keep in mind that United announced some massive MileagePlus changes earlier this year, which move them closer to Delta SkyMiles. This includes eliminating award charts and also eliminating close-in ticketing fees, among other things.

While miles not expiring sounds positive — and independently ultimately is — every frequent flyer program has budgets and limited resources. They’re essentially investing in those who can’t be bothered to earn a single mile every 18 months, presumably on some level at the expense of those members who are active.

What do you make of United’s decision to no longer have miles expire?

Comments
  1. Miles never expiring is never good – The baggage to devalue will be even higher, it’s not a coincidence sweetspots are usually in smaller carriers and plans.
    But for United I think it’s more like backwards – It will skypeso very fast.

  2. I guess I get your perspective, but as an infrequent United flier, no close in booking fees and no miles expiry are very positive things. I’m likely never going to switch to Untied for most flights, but I am more likely to take a United flight (versus something like Southwest) when I need it if I know I can eventually use the points to book close-in.

  3. The more I have thought about this I actually think this may be more a moot point in terms of it is an indicator for things to come. I think this was a decision that is a relic of some changes to accounting standards from a couple years back and the fact that the airlines can now build in an estimate of miles that will actually be redeemed vs having to hold the entire mileage liability on the books for eternity.

    With that said, I am sure you are going to need as many miles as you can possibly get your hands on when they truly mess up this hobby with dynamic award “charts”

  4. I can’t believe that anyone could paint this as a negative. This is 100% good news. For those who fly other airlines, such as New York metro area flyers who are far away from EWR, this means no longer having to deal with finding a way to keep United miles earned long ago active.

  5. Nice catch, Ben! I guess the CBA for this move is based off the gain from the ‘No Expiration’ illusion, i.e. more credit cards sales, plus the diluted internal cost per mile, both offsetting a smaller increase from infrequent fliers’s account liability.

    The real devil – they always have control over the cost with the awards being dynamic.

  6. I can’t believe that anyone could paint this as a positive. This is 99% bad news, remaining 1% to be filled out the moment you realize it.

    Dynamic awards devalues the points so much that UA does not care how much liability are out there. your existing haul is already in the water.

  7. Most things in life lose value as time passes. A few exceptions but its like sticking cash under the bed, in ~20 years it usually has lost 50% of its value.

    If you accumulate miles slowly over 10 years, sure it will take more miles to get that free ticket but at least it is now possible for some people.

    I wish someone would give me back my American West miles that expired on me when I was young and naive. And also give me back my Diners Club card I canceled 20 years ago.

  8. I really can’t see this as negative myself. People who let miles expire probably don’t have very many at all and may never use them, so this should not have a significant cost impact. It’s a nice gesture towards those like myself who rarely fly United and might otherwise resort to alternate earning options like the shopping portal. Delta did this in 2011 and JetBlue in 2013, so not a bad group to join as United attempts to seem more customer-friendly. Eliminating expiration simplifies the program somewhat for non-experts and will be a nice new marketing bullet for United.

  9. Positive or negative will depend on how heavily you use United miles. And let’s be honest, the people who read OMAAT are far more likely to use them regularly and be more experienced with miles & points in general, who would expect this to be a devaluation indicator. Not the typical airline customer, who would generally be happy to get an award flight for far less than cash somewhere down the line. 🙂

    I don’t fly UA much, mostly because they don’t suit my destination+schedule needs, and when I do I usually credit the miles to A3. I have a United card but don’t put a lot of spend on it, previously to keep my miles alive. I’m not sure I’ll keep it now, so it’s a positive to me (an opportunity to switch to a UR card without adding another annual fee).

  10. I say this as a major UA fan –

    this is PURE horror. They’re making the once almighty MileagePlus miles degenerate into SkyPiles

  11. “At the same time, if they don’t fly with United every few years and don’t bother to have any activity otherwise, is United really getting anything in exchange for the miles they’re issuing?”

    It makes United slightly more competitive, as even relatively inactive travelers will take miles into account when choosing airlines when there’s no other material difference between their flight and their competitors’ flights. Perhaps not a huge competitive difference, but it costs the airline virtually nothing to maintain FF accounts.

    “There’s a reason airlines expired them in the past…”

    Yeah, no. I’m going to have to go full-on grammar purist on this one. The word “expire” doesn’t work that way – it’s not an action that’s taken, it’s a result of another action, in this case the airline setting the program’s policies.

  12. Ummmm. Are you saying that if the miles don’t expire, United won’t devalue them? And they will love you so much more? Right…. And they love their loyal customers and will never EVER drag anyone from their seats.

    And, btw, it should be noted that American companies are wonderfully creative with their books, so the idea that somehow some tied up stored value cannot be spun in a good way is just, well, let’s go and ask ex-Enron people their opinion.

    Look, the readership of this blog (and the author, of course) is from a different cut of humanity than the majority. Everyone here seems to fly about 20 times around the Earth each year and have top tier statuses at like multiple airlines without even trying. As such, it’s such a far fetch idea that there would be no activity on a major airlines in 18 months. But it happens.

    I once got a bunch of miles on Singapore Airlines expired on me. Why? Because, hey, I can credit to AS instead! I didn’t fly SIA that much to begin with, so… Anyhow, when I checked (before their last devaluation), yo, why is my account empty? (answer: AS).

    So, things happen. You move from a hub to a non-hub. You may get sick. You may get babies. Your job suddenly demands more. Whatever. Occasionally, you don’t fly for months on ends, and your trips just don’t make sense to force on United. You don’t spend enough to spread your spending to United. Whatever.

    It’s a universally good thing that miles don’t expire. Devaluation happens, with or without it. At least, you don’t get overly depressed looking at your account after some crazy period.

  13. @Lucky sez: “Keep in mind that United announced some massive MileagePlus changes earlier this year, which move them closer to Delta SkyMiles. This includes eliminating award charts and also eliminating close-in ticketing fees, among other things.”

    It depends on what is meant by “moves them closer to Delta SkyMiles” because in terms of the “value” of the program, like the ability to redeem miles, elite cabin upgrades, and most things that made MP a strong FF program and have kept it there while SkyMiles and AAdvantage have been on a race to the bottom, MileagePlus has not moved closer to SkyMiles *at all*.

    I believe that the reason United is instituting this miles-do-not-expire policy is that they have crunched the numbers and believe that it is something that they can offer without exacerbating their financial “liability” associated with already awarded points that do not get redeemed. It won’t affect their high-value customers who were never in danger of having their points expire since they travel all the time.

    In short, be generous after determining that it won’t cost you… 🙂

  14. I doubt United is making this move for purely altruistic purposes. From an accounting perspective, this might be a keen move by taking on the liability now while their balance sheet can handle it and then, if the airline ever encounters financially tough headwinds, it reverts to expirations, thereby trimming the liability over time with the stroke of a keyboard.

    @CraigTPA: Webster’s suggests “expire” can be used as a transitive verb in much this sense. In fact, Shakespeare himself used it as such in Romeo & Juliet, Act I, Scene 4. Granted, Romeo wasn’t speaking of airlines miles. I guess if Shakespeare ever addressed airline mile programs, it would have been in Comedy of Errors.

  15. Great news! Saving miles is like keeping all your money in Zimbabwean currency but sometimes people don’t have time to redeem awards or can’t find seats when they do fly.

    Before, I had to occasionally make up stuff to extend miles. With UA, it’s doing pesky surveys.

    In terms of the airline benefiting, there are millions of people who fly every 2-3 years. They will now be encouraged to fly UA instead of Frontier or American or Spirit.

  16. I see some people don’t like the new system. This may be because the best program is the one that you barely qualify for. For example, if I fly 28,000 miles a year on UA and spend X number of dollars, the best program for me might be where miles expire with 6 months of no activity for it will eliminate much of the competition from other passengers, leaving all the awards for me.

    Maybe a compromise might be 5 years expiration. A few airlines have miles that expire a certain number of years after you took the flight, even if you are flying constantly week after week.

  17. Well, I suppose everything could be connected indirectly, but I don’t see how doing something positive for people who are not as active – perhaps encouraging them to get more engaged since they now can collect miles without worrying about expiration – has to be a negative for those who are more active, except possibly on the selfish level of a slight uptick in competition for award seats.

    Companies don’t charge more for Product A because they’re losing money on Product B; they find a way to make money on B or they stop selling it. Similarly, sitting in the back, I don’t feel I am subsidizing those of you who fly in the front. The airline is going to try to maximize profits on each group of passengers, not one at the expense of the other. No need to pit some people against each other. The airline logically wants both to fly.

  18. > Dynamic awards devalues the points so much that UA does not care
    > how much liability are out there. your existing haul is already in the water.

    Bingo.

    Also lost on most here (including the blogger) is that the Great United devaluation of 2019 has already started – many award prices are now 2X and 3X what they were a few months ago….and that’s BEFORE the “dynamic pricing” devaluation kicks in this November. Once that starts, you are going to see redemption costs with some unbelievable numbers (into 7 digits). When that trip across the ocean in a premium seat costs over a million miles, you won’t really care that your precious stash of just half a million points will never expire.

    United points are all but worthless now. They make Delta’s Skypesos look valuable by comparison…and that says a lot.

  19. @Timmeh — Just curious: how exactly does ‘dynamic pricing” devaluation work, and when did you last redeem United miles?

  20. Not having miles expire is very helpful if you have United accounts for your children or a spouse who doesn’t travel much. Especially if you use your miles to get them free travel so they are not showing activity even though they are flying the airline. There is a long term value proposition for United in this in making future customers.

  21. UA lifer here. MM+ Platinum.
    Can’t see this as a bad thing.
    It will only make me less likely to jump ship now that there’s little incentive for me to stay loyal as I’m Gold 4 Lyfe.

  22. Fundamentals of monetary policy are also true of fiat currencies like miles.

    Keep printing more and the currency will eventually devalue. Having miles expire counters some of the excess ‘printing’ the airlines do through credit card promotions etc.

  23. So many comments mostly think it’s positive change. Most of us treat miles as another currency yet not one ever think to treat it as such.

    This might look positive on the outside, reality is it’s a negative change. This is like UA printing unlimited money, then what happens, you get inflation. Which is another nice word for devaluation.

    Remember, airlines are in the business of making profit. Remember Scott Kirby is former a henchmen of Doug Parker, whose sole purpose is to maximize profit.

    Miles are liabilities on airline books. I’m sure Kirby don’t want to grow it out of hand. Last year UA had 245 billion ASM and 84% load. At a very low valuation of 1 cent. Think how much liability grows every year. The best way to offset it, reduce total miles by making members redeem more. How?, you raise the amount each member use each year.

    This is just like Trump saying MAGA by moving jobs back from China. Yes looks good outside. But now you get nasty tariffs and trade wars. Does it make you life better, probably not. Yes you got your manual labor job (which no millennials will do) at the factory back and earn minimum wage. But the rest of your consumption expenses just went up 20%. You end up worse than before you started.
    On the other end, AOC wants to give free healthcare, free tuition, and other free stuff. Looks good outside. Yeah someone still has to pay those bills, where is AOC getting money from? Raising corporate and individual taxes.

    Look deeper, bunch of lies and deception. This is a big devalue by UA.

  24. Ding ding ding! @Eskimo hit it on the head regarding miles, dems, and repubs. It’s all smokes and mirrors… reshuffling the deck under the table. Who pays for all of these? You, you, and you! There’s no free lunch.

  25. @RF: “This is a negative change in light of the upcoming devaluation.”
    @Eskimo:”This might look positive on the outside, reality is it’s a negative change.”

    I doubt that very much because letting points expire would achieve to some extent what devaluations (raising costs of awards) are designed to achieve. So, why not simply let miles expire since members have already been conditioned “use’em or lose’em”?

    The negativity toward this policy is nothing more than the usual travel blogosphere’s tendency to look a gift horse in the mouse. I am sure of it.

  26. @DCS

    Here is the difference.

    Those who let miles expire are the infrequent flyers. Those who hoard miles are the frequent flyers. I would guess 70-80% of miles never expire to begin with. They either sit in the account or got redeemed.
    But now with the guise ‘never expire’ UA can justify raising an already dynamic pricing even more. All they need to do is show some useless misleading stats to justify, say “average” cost of redemption went down by 10%. Yes it went down because you can divide 2 million more member with miles that never use them just became active for lifetime.
    The best part, those inactive members who don’t collect every 18 months would hardly be able to afford any in the future due to inflation anyway.

    Personally, having points expire is just to make accounting easier. Making it last forever is taking FFP monetization to the next level. Sad part is even its been there done that by Delta already people still think it’s a good thing. (win for UA)

    Unfortunately, this gift horse has its mouth wide open with a middle finger in it, and I didn’t even try to look. 🙂
    Don’t be in denial and start burning through the rest of your stash ASAP. The dynamic pricing is just the 1st wave, more has yet to come. Enjoy *A while it still last.

    For the 21st century, the only things that are certain are death, taxes, and point devaluations.

  27. How is it that im actually starting to like AA. Well, I mean even more now. Currently writing this comment from the Qantas First Lounge at LAX. Thanks AA status!

  28. I disagree wholeheartedly, being an ordinary Joe who lives in the UK, and loves visiting the States, this will actually reinforce a loyalty to United. As a non American, I will NOT favour an occasional airline whose points expire at 18 months, what’s the bloody point!! Now that I have some (not many), to hols onto, I can see United appreciating my loyalty, and I will reciprocate. Their previous system was a waste of energy, it wasn’t worth joining, but I’m now sure glad I did, thanks United!!

  29. If an enterprise such as UAL has a global base and wants to attract customers world-wide then their reward program must also be global.

    Only Americans have access to credit cards that keep an account active. So to fortuitously state that anyone outside the US who loses their points is stupid and misses the point. Only US residents have access to short internal flights that can also keep an account active. Having to buy points every 18 months is a hassle that can easily be missed.

    So not having an expiry on earned points makes the program much more attractive to anyone outside the US. Although I have already lost all my points in the past I will certainly start crediting UAL with my points in the future.

  30. I welcome the change. It is comforting to know that my UA miles will never expire. I do not fly UA many times an year but have flown with them internationally on business class award flights every 18 months or so. Lately getting bonus miles (UA miles or UR points) with Credit Card applications through Chase is becoming a Herculean struggle and I have had to transfer UR points every so often just to keep the UA miles from expiring. Even with Delta Sky Pesos, I find opportunity once in a while (rarely though) to get Delta One award seats where miles spent are comparable to other mileage program redemptions. Devaluation was forthcoming anyways and I believe UA is preemptively softening the blow!

  31. Seems to me like you’re overthinking this Lucky. But it shows, I think, how little people (me included) trust the major US airlines – when even a seemingly positive announcement is viewed with suspicion. We’re so used to being screwed it’s just natural to assume that…

  32. I view it as a positive change. My son almost lost 400k miles that he had accumulated as a kid as he wasn’t traveling while in college (and couldn’t get a miles credit card living in Japan as a student). We ended up buying a short-haul ticket with miles that he didn’t use to keep the miles alive. Now he’s working and using his miles, but life cycle can lead to a temporary reduction in travel (having young children or illness like cancer treatment being another time when air travel might decline).

  33. DCS is apparently unaware that UA has a major devaluation coming up in a couple months which will further drag the program down…oops. Too much mental capacity devoted to spinning Hilton news.

  34. Lucky , as full disclosure-

    Weren’t you yourself issued with a life-ban from UA mileage Plus for alleged program misuse ? Approx mid-2000s ?
    I’m surprised you still fly with them and they haven’t twigged on

  35. “United MileagePlus Abolishes Award Charts”
    **April 5, 2019 by Ben (Lucky)**

    Comments section:

    DCS says: **April 5, 2019 at 11:26 pm**

    UA has formally announced the changes, effective strangegly enough on my birthday (Nov. 15)!

    —————————-
    We’re removing our award chart and introducing a broader range of award prices.

    DCS, we’re making some updates to award travel. Here’s what you need to know:

    ■ For flights on or after November 15, 2019, we’ll no longer publish an award chart listing the set amount of miles needed for each flight.

    ■ Air awards to U.S. and Canadian destinations that are 10,000 to 12,500 miles today may be available for less moving forward. You might have already noticed these lower award prices, and you’ll be able to get them right away.

    ■ Other air award prices may be higher than what you see today, especially if you’re traveling at popular times. This will be effective immediately for travel on or after November 15.

    ■ As a member of the United MileagePlus® program with Premier® status, you can still travel whenever you’d like – there are no blackout dates.

    Increasing award travel prices for the most in-demand flights lets us offer lower prices on other flights. If your award travel is flexible, these updates will help you make the most of your miles. However, we realize this may impact your plans if you need to fly on a specific date or have a set destination in mind.

    You can use the flexible award travel calendar on united.com or in our app to see what’s currently available. Thank you for your continued loyalty to the United MileagePlus program.
    —————————–

    Bottom line:
    ** They interpret the changes exactly as I did: they would be good for folks who can be flexible! **

  36. “Massive United MileagePlus Devaluation: My Thoughts”

    **April 6, 2019 by Ben (Lucky)**:

    “Nonetheless some readers are actually interpreting these changes as a positive. Prolific reader and commenter DCS said in the comments section of the previous post that these changes “would be good for folks who can be flexible!”

    Comments Section:

    DCS says: **April 6, 2019 at 5:21 pm**
    …….
    For me, these changes are completely unimportant and meaningless because — by design — I DO NOT REDEEM ANY UA MILES FOR AWARD TICKETS ON UA METAL. I earn miles on paid UA flights, like the one that just brought me to London, then I use the earned miles to redeem award tickets on *A carriers, invariably.

    See? For some of us, the sky has not fallen. A couple of years from now it will be like nothing happened at all because the proposed changes won’t be any worse than those that were predicted when HHonors went “rogue” by switching to a revenue-based system. HH has not only survived, it is now the dominant hotel loyalty program.

    Why am I so sure things won’t be as bad as predicted with respect to UA? Simple: UA is not yet ready to kill its “Golden Goose”, so the effects of these changes will not be as dramatic as self-anointed travel gurus would have us believe…

    Train for London Paddington approaching…

    G’day.

  37. I know someone who had a few thousand AA miles but didn’t use because she didn’t have a need to plus some were purchased. Time goes by so quickly that when she was ready to use them they were all gone. Miles should be in relation to a specific value, anything else is just straight up robbery.

  38. It’s a net positive. Miles will devalue anyway, so why is the peanut gallery so aghast? The solution is to simply earn more at less cost (simon et al).

  39. I’d agree this is welcome to infrequent fliers, non-American members and loyalty-agnostic passengers.

    For Star Alliance fliers based in Asia, for example, it’s still great to earn miles with Asiana Club because they have *way* lower thresholds for lifetime status and a long miles validity policy of 10-12 years. The programme isn’t as well known or popular, but that just means there’ll be less competition for awards.

  40. The huge devaluation earlier this year is very bad news.
    But the end of expiration on its own is good news for infrequent travelers and neutral to frequent travelers and United credit card holders. There is no bad news in it.
    The argument about liabilities is outdated – the GAAP rules changed and airlines no longer have to book miles as liability. The GAAP change and dynamic pricing allow them to eliminate expiration at little risk to them…. I wrote about it here: https://dreamtravelonpoints.com/united-mileageplus-miles-no-longer-expire-good-news-for-travelers/
    That also means that there is little reason for United to re-instate miles expiration in an economic downturn…

  41. “And they [ie, United] love their loyal customers and will never EVER drag anyone from their seats.”

    Sigh! Way too much *Propaganda* about that event! Everyone needs to understand that the “good” doctor was dragged off the United aircraft by ORD security officers and NOT by any United personnel onboard! In post-reviews those ORD security officers should NOT have even been allowed to board the aircraft, since they didn’t actually have jurisdiction for such events — it should have been CPD officers instead! So everyone needs to STOP blaming United for being the “bad guys” in that unfortunate incident!

  42. I see this more cynically. I think united is basically extending the life of miles knowing that most infrequent users will never accumulate enough to “earn” an award in the newly devalued program.

  43. @Paul — Devaluation is relative. I just searched for Asian *A awards I booked 3 months ago, and they would still cost exactly the same after November 15. Those who book award tickets with UA miles to fly on UA metal when demand is high will be hit pretty hard. On the other hand, those who are flexible and can book UA awards to fly on UA metal when demand is light should be able to make a killing because at such times some awards, even ‘premium’ ones, might cost less than they did before the upcoming changes.

    As I indicated, I do not redeem my UA miles to fly on UA metal so I should not be affected by these changes.

  44. @Eskimo — There are several ways to skin that cat. In addition to not redeeming my UA miles to fly on UA metal, I no longer stash a lot of my miles in my UA account, and they are the ones I would redeem first before dipping elsewhere.

    Right now, the number of UA miles I have in my account is… (oh, LOL, interesting: UA has already implemented their ‘miles never expire’ motto in user accounts! This is a cut and paste):

    “Mileage balance :53,814

    Miles never expire (Great travel memories never expire, and now, miles don’t either. We’re excited to share that there’s no expiration date on the miles you’ve earned with us.)”

    On the other hand, I have nearly 700K UR points in my Chase account, safely away from any devaluation. So, me worry? Nah… 🙂

    G’day!

  45. As a United frequent flyer my experience indicates this is a moot point. I could have a billion miles in my account and still have significant trouble actually using them.

  46. Yes, I completely agree with Ben that when United will introduce so called “dynamic system” to their loyalty program, it will “degenerate” into Delta Skymiles.
    To see how horrible Delta Skymiles is, please read the following article from Forbes magazine published on August 28, 2019:
    ———————-
    Frequent Flyers: Too Many Miles Needed For Delta’s Premium Seats, August 28, 2019 by Gary Stoller, Contributor, Forbes Life

    Some high-mileage frequent flyers complain that the number of miles needed for a free premium-class ticket in Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles program is exorbitant.

    A look at a handful of routes shows that the miles Delta requires for a free premium-class seat is two to six times higher than competitors require.

    Presented with the mileage comparisons, Delta spokeswoman Kathryn Steele says “the cost of an award ticket can vary based on the route, how far out it’s searched, exact itinerary, among other factors.”

    Delta, she says, is “not only seeing record numbers of new SkyMiles members, but satisfaction with the SkyMiles program is higher than ever.”

    Frequent flyers Michael Sommer, who has nearly 1.7 million SkyMiles, and Paul Black, who once accumulated about 800,000 miles and now has about 200,000, are dissatisfied with Delta’s mileage requirements. They point out various routes where, they say, far too many miles are needed for a free premium-class ticket.

    *On July 23, for example, Delta’s website required 400,000 miles for a business-class ticket leaving from Portland, Oregon, April 29, 2020, and returning May 8. United Airlines required 198,000 miles and American Airlines 115,000.

    *On July 23, Delta required 465,000 miles for a first-class seat on a one-way flight in May 2020 between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Johannesburg, South Africa. American Airlines required 75,000 miles. United required 80,00, but only coach seats were available on the Salt Lake City-Houston leg of the trip.
    YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

    *On July 23, a Delta routing from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Sydney, Australia, departing this year on Dec. 14 and returning 13 days later, required 930,000 miles for a lie-flat premium-class seat. Such seats enable flyers to get a restful sleep. United Airlines required 560,000 miles for a lie-flat seat. American Airlines, which had only coach seats available for the outbound flight, charged 126,000 miles for coach and 375,000 miles for the return flight in a lie-flat premium-class seat.

    A check of that route more than a month later, on Aug. 26, showed Delta had reduced the required mileage to 830,000 — an amount that was 270,000 miles more than United required.

    *On July 23, a long-distance route within the USA also showed many more miles needed for a Delta premium-class ticket. Delta required 242,000 miles for a round-trip Los Angeles-Maui business-class ticket, departing Jan. 5, 2020, and returning five days later. American required 110,000 miles and United 151,000.

    Steele says Delta has begun providing its SkyMiles members with more mileage-award sales and “ways to use miles,” including paying with miles for premium beverages at Delta Sky Clubs and aircraft seat upgrades.

    “We are focused on making it easier to earn and use miles — from redeeming miles on post-purchase seat upgrades to easily earning miles that don’t expire on everyday purchases,” she says.

    Sommer, of Park City, Utah, says “Delta makes it relatively easy to collect miles, but, if you want to redeem them, most of the time they are much more expensive than the other carriers.”

    Black, of Longboat Key, Florida, says Delta “has been undercutting its best customers” for about four years. “Delta is significantly higher on award costs than other mainline carriers, even though my (mileage) status is lower on the other carriers,” he says.

    Draw your own conclusion, folks…

  47. Shame on me….I had 23,640 UA f.f. miles, all most enough for a domestic trip that expired, never to be seen again. I’m ecstatic about this new plan. Now if only SWA would follow suit. Great for retires who don’t fly often. Admittedly ,my fault for not paying attention and subscribing to a magazine I’d never read to protect them.

  48. i wonder if UA have agreed with their auditors that they can remove the mileage liability from the company balance sheet after two years of inactivity … or something like that … so they can avoid building up big Balance Sheet numbers

  49. Devaluation has made my Mileageplus account worthless for sure. While not a super-frequent flier, I do fly 5-6 times a year at least. So, having miles to burn, I just looked to book 2 adult tickets to Upstate NY from Colorado, no big deal, under the current scheme would have been 50K miles. Now, under the dynamic pricing (we are travelling for Christmas), it would be 155,000 miles. Are you kidding me? So glad I have been saving the miles over the last 3 years to have them be completely worthless at this point. At least I have a reason to ditch my mileage plus card now – no real value (esp. with everyone boarding group 2 now), as my company covers my bag fees when I travel, and United connections are too tight to EVER visit United Clubs in any airport.

    Why hasn’t there been more noise about this?

  50. @Bart — “Devaluation has made my Mileageplus account worthless for sure.”

    Interesting … I recently booked a United Awards international round trip Economy Class ticket for a colleague on a *A partner airline (BR) going between SFO/TPE (Taipei) and it cost me only 70,000 UA miles! And this was during Christmas travel time, too!

    So by their new non-expiring “devaluation” policy, United has managed to incur the following —
    #1. Free tickets are so expensive to claim using miles that travelers are seldom able to use them (thus not claiming them) or have to surrender huge numbers of miles if actually used
    #2. Free tickets on *A partner airlines are still very economical so redemption for free international tickets get skewed towards them and away from United

    In either case the total number of potential free award redemptions on United’s books effectively decreases!

    Is this tactic “sneaky” or “clever” or both? 😛

  51. I’m so confused. I received the “miles will not expire” email from United.
    Then today I received another email that says “miles will not expire” but “accounts expire after 18 months of not earning miles” or something to that effect. So what is the difference? I checked on their “terms and conditions” page and it still says all the miles expire after 18 months and the accounts will be closed if there is no activity.
    Now I have to pick one of the alternate methods to get miles in my account before some part of that expires.
    I can’t see they have made any change at all except maybe in terminology. Anyone else notice this or am I wrong?

  52. @BillC –

    Good points all around – I think sneaky AND clever! It seems that international travel redemption will likely stay fairly economical, I’d be curious as to what percentage of their total redemption are with partner airlines versus United…..hmmmm….

  53. @Bart — “… I’d be curious as to what percentage of their total redemption are with partner airlines versus United…..hmmmm….”

    Yes! Very interesting question, indeed! I’m guessing that United now wants to bias future redemption opportunities towards *A partner airlines?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *