United Copies Delta, To Go Revenue Based on Accrual in 2015

New United Logo

United annouunced, somewhat un-gracefully, that starting March 1, 2015 they will be going to a revenue based accrual model which closely resembled Delta’s planned 2015 Skymiles changes.  In fact the earning levels will match exactly those which Delta announced earlier this year.

More details can be found on http://mileageplusupdates.com/ which has a handy calculator to see how few miles you’ll now be earning. The basics are 5 miles for regular members, 7 for Silver, 8 for Gold, 9 for Platinum and 11 for 1K.

New Earning United

As you can see an expensive $600 ticket will now earn 4,800 miles for a Gold member. The new system doesn’t care how many miles you fly in your seat, just how much you paid for the flight. So a $600 last minute one way ticket from IAH-MIA would earn the same as a $600 ticket flying LAX-NRT and back under the new program.

Is This a Big Deal?

To Milenomics this is not a big deal.  We’ve purposely avoided spending money with airlines for just this reason; They’re not to be trusted.  There are an awful lot of people who this probably is a big deal to, among them:

  • – Elite flyers who have been sticking with United despite the recent PQD issues. 
  • – Anyone who decided to push for Platinum this year and use a $25k CC waiver.
  • – Someone going for 1MM or more lifetime status.  This just made each 100,000 miles cost a guaranteed $9,000 or more. 

And I’m sure there are others who are pretty upset.  The basics of Milenomics are that we earn our miles outside of planes. We’re probably part of the cause of this shift to revenue–but we’re also insulated from the effects of it. 

Update: United Volunteered this information to me on Twitter just now:

Wow. Just. Wow.

5 Ways to Earn More Miles than Flying on United Planes

The issue with an announcement like this is that it makes collecting miles while flying for the average, non-elite and low-level elites almost useless. Take for example a United Gold, flying a $300 fare. He/She will earn 2400 or less miles for this ticket (because taxes are excluded).

That same person could do any of the following, in order of best idea to worst idea, to also earn 2400 miles:

  1. – Buy $600 in Giftcards from Staples with an IB.
  2. – Purchase $2500 in Paypower Cards with any UR/UA earning card (Even at 1x this makes sense). 
  3. – Use a Chase Freedom card during 5x bonus categories for $480 in gas. 
  4. – Use the UR Shopping portal to buy $250 in terrible flowers from FTD.
  5. – Use a 5x earning card and buy $2500 worth of Drugstore items. Use the $125 in cash back to just buy 3,000 United Miles for $112.

Dishonorable Mention:

– Eat an $800 meal on the first Friday of any month with a CSP. 😉

Update:budlapara reminds readers that the actual best practice for the above $300 flight is to credit it to a program which eans 1 mile for each flown mile.  This comment brings up SQ as a potential program, but you may find other programs as well which work best for you. Be cautious about your fare class and whether it earns 100% of flown miles, many *A partners do not credit low fare classes at 100%. 

Insulate Yourself from the Storm

March 1, 2015 is a long way away. If you’re currently in a relationship with United consider breaking it off between now and then. At least tell them you’ll no longer be their source of easy cash, and embrace Milenomics. We can earn an awful lot of miles between now and then, and together we’ll learn how to use those miles. 

We need United, or at least we need their planes, the rest of their marketing and terrible customer service “enhancements” they can keep.

About the author

- Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I'll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.


  1. MSers like me mostly yawn. I don’t have status. Few leisure travelers do. Fly F and J a few times internationally a year and have more award miles than I can use, so status was only of marginal use. The dinosaurs who were still doing mileage running and wasting their life in pressurized tin cans have been done a huge favor.

    Biz travellers will still get status and airlines are rewarding them for their more profitable custom. Makes sense to me.

  2. Header should read “Anything Delta can do I can do WORSE”. Unfortunately United does not have the premium product that would justify the (further) gutting their program.

    1. Brian: LoL. I’m most interested that they decided to copy Delta w/o any evidence as to how this change will affect things. Delta was able to announce the change in conjunction with a major overhaul of their award system…United is just dropping this bomb and walking away. A March 1 start date will conceivably allow them to see if this works for Delta, or if people flee en masse to whoever is offering the lowest price fare. I do think that having two carriers (UA and DL) pushing the same philosophy of earning strengthens each airline’s position and will limit the ability of some to vote with their feet.

  3. For a second there I had no idea what this meant as all other bloggers were infuriated and freaking out… When I read milenomics I just smiled and realized how being my own elite is always gonna work better than being elite with any other loyalty program! Today’s a perfect example for that!

  4. Interestingly, this may bring back more ‘loyalty’ to the loyalty programs. I’m a Diamond Medallion on Delta (almost entirely on business-paid trips), and a Premier 1K on United (on a mix of business and low-fare long-hauls). However, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to achieve both next year, and I’m not wild about mileage runs in any case. With this move by UA, I’ll be allocating all of my business travel to DL to retain DM status (DL’s product handily beats UA’s, and their people are an order of magnitude more customer-service oriented and friendly), since 11X on short-notice fares means I’m likely to get *more* RDMs under Skymiles ’15 than I do from the same fares this year.

  5. I bet all the mileage runner types are praying that AA doesn’t follow suit.

    But speaking as someone who got 125K EQM in 2010 only because AA ran double EQM promotions month after month, I can’t imagine actually getting 100K EQM 1 mile at a time. Delta and United really are doing the mileage runners a favor by putting them out of business.

    The people that are going to get screwed the hardest are those that have to fly out of a hub dominated by Delta or UA.

    Long term, I’m guessing that UA, AA and Delta will quietly eliminate competition by killing off the smaller carriers like AS, divvying up the hubs between them and minimizing flights at the airports where they don’t dominate. When that process is complete, they’ll jack up airfares and devalue their loyalty programs into complete meaninglessness.

    They won’t get rid of loyalty programs entirely, because they made it possible for them to survive 2008/2009, and it would be cheaper and faster to make their loyalty programs actually rewarding than to start over from scratch.

    It may take foreign airlines with deep pockets entering the US market to reverse those trends.

    1. El Ingeniero: Great insight into potential future moves. I’ll add one more–everyone seems to want to move to revenue based accrual, but very, very few want revenue based spend. Rev. Based spending means every seat on every flight could be paid in “Miles”. Sure it would be dictated by the price in $$$, but it also would mean people would start burning miles up ASAP. There is no “aspirational” award with Southwest–just any seat on any flight. I’d bet there are far fewer people with huge hoards of Southwest miles than there are of mainline programs like AA, DL and UA. They’re carefully walking the line to “reward” elites who buy high price tickets–but don’t want to end up causing a stampede of miles coming off the books.

  6. Here’s a sixth idea for earning those 2,400 miles for a $300 UA flight: credit the miles to another FF program (e.g., SQ Kris Flyer).

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