United’s New Mileage Program Cuts Out Budget Travelers

Luis Argerich, Wikimedia Commons

United Airlines’ new mileage program is set to include a minimum annual spending level, essentially cutting budget travelers out of the perk-earning picture. The new plan forces travelers to spend a set amount of money to get benefits, meaning those who smartly snag deals and rack up miles will no longer garner elite status.

Starting January 2014, those enrolled in United MileagePlus will need to earn a combination of either miles or segments, plus dollars, to get rewards. For example, to reach the first tier, a frequent flier must earn either 25,000 miles or 30 qualifying segments, plus a minimum of $2,500 qualifying dollars. So now, two round-trip flights from the United States to Europe that could have otherwise landed a traveler an upgrade might not qualify any longer, especially if a traveler found a great deal on airfare before booking.

As outlined above, travelers who only hit the road when they find a can’t-miss deal will be hurt most by the new qualifications, leading us to believe that the airline might want to reconsider the MileagePlus program tagline: “the world’s most rewarding loyalty program.”