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.”

On The Runway: United Airlines New Uniforms Revealed

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Yesterday, United Airlines revealed new uniforms. United crew walked the runway as part of their 25th anniversary celebration at Newark-Liberty’s Terminal C. The new United style rolls out on June 25.

“We are pleased to celebrate United’s long history at our Newark hub – a premier global gateway and a powerful economic engine,” said Jeff Smisek, United’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a press release. “We continue to make investments in our terminal facilities, our services and our people to ensure United’s Terminal C remains a great place for our customers and co-workers.”

Yesterday, travelers arriving and departing at Newark Liberty joined United employees in an anniversary celebration where customers had opportunities to earn prizes, travel discounts and bonus MileagePlus miles. The airline also had a temporary exhibit all about how air travel has evolved since 1988.

Earn 1000 bonus miles when you use mobile check-in this Holiday season on United Airlines

United Airlines is taking a bit of stress off the Holiday travel season with a pretty generous 1000 mile bonus for passengers who use their mobile check-in service.

Mobile check-in is available on all United and United Express operated flights within the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The promotion does have one minor caveat – you need to register at united.com/mobilebonus before your account is eligible to receive the bonus. At that link, simply enter your Mileage Plus number, and the next time you use the United Mobile check-in option at mobile.united.com, you’ll receive 1000 miles (after 6 to 8 weeks).

You can only earn the bonus miles once, and the promotion last until December 31, 2010.

With the United Mobile site, you can check-in, have a mobile boarding pass emailed to your phone, check flight status, view your upcoming flight reservations, check your Mileage Plus account summary and sign up for flight notifications. Their mobile site also lists Red Carpet Club locations and lists Airline contact information.

United Airlines finds $64 million lying around – thanks to your expiring miles

Hands up if you have checked your mileage account, only to notice that you forgot to have any activity, and all your miles are gone.

Well, thanks to you, United Airlines just managed to make an extra $64 million.

The bonus bucks were earned thanks to a new accounting method and a huge stash of previously undiscovered expiring miles.

So, yes – air miles are big, big business. So big in fact, that last year, American Airlines managed to “advance sell” Advantage Miles to Citi in exchange for $1.6 billion.

Lesson to be learned here? Always keep a close eye on your miles. It doesn’t matter how many you have in your account, every mile that expires just adds to the bottom line of the airline. Here are some quick tips to add miles without too much hassle:

  • Find a shopping portal that earns you miles (check the airline web site for links)
  • Eat out (and register for a dining rewards program like Rewards Network)
  • Find a mileage promotion from your airlines (many of these involve non-flight activities)
  • Check for mileage discrepancies (did you take any flights without getting miles awarded?)
  • Earn miles when you stay at a hotel

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Good move by United Airlines – last minute award redemption fees to be eliminated

Effective July 30th, United Airlines is removing the fee for Mileage Plus customers trying to book last minute award travel.

Several years ago, United Airlines added 2 “last minute booking fees” to award trips; within 21 days, the fee was $75, and 7 days or less would cost $100.

Of course, when the fees were introduced, customers were furious, as last minute trips had long been one of the most profitable ways to use miles.

I’ve been on the receiving end of about $400 in these fees, so they already have one customer that is extremely happy to see them go.

A United Airlines spokesperson said that members told them they want “ease, flexibility and availability when using their miles”. That is a nice way of saying that customers were fed up with the fee racket, and want to redeem their miles without it costing them an arm and a leg.

Kudos to United Airlines for this move. As is often within the airline industry, it’ll probably spell the beginning of a similar wave of changes at their competitors, and that is always good for customers.