United announces changes to Mileage Plus program

I haven’t yet figured out just how bad the changes are, but United seems to have pissed quite a few folks off today by announcing their changes to the 2009 version of the Mileage Plus program.  I have a membership, but only so that I can book flights online; I credit all those flights elsewhere.  Ultimately that means this has absolutely zero effect on me personally.  But it will affect others, so it is worth noting.

The changes include a significant jump in some reward costs (US-Asia in Biz goes from 90K to 125K points, for example) and a change to the cost structure for mileage upgrades.  They have instituted a cash + miles structure for upgrades now, rather than a straight miles approach.  This is very similar to the Continental OnePass program in its implementation, and it certainly means upgrades are going to cost more for just about everyone over at United.  I can see how this will incense many, many folks there.

The only positive thing that they did was to restore the 500-mile minimum credit benefit for their elite members, following Continental’s path there.  Even better, they are doing it retroactively to July 1, 2008, and adjusting bonuses, elite status and earned upgrades retroactively too.  That is actually a very nice thing for them to have done.  But it doesn’t make up for the gutting of the program on the other fronts.

I guess I should be used to this sort of thing by now, but it still hurts every time it happens.  I’m in for the long haul, however, and the programs seem to be cyclical.  Here’s hoping for brighter days ahead.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.