United MileagePlus is one of the loyalty programs which has made the most tweaks over the past couple of years. They are keeping true to that pattern today, with further “enhancements” to the 2015 MileagePlus program that will negatively impact many of their Premier members. These changes are in addition to United announcing that MileagePlus will go revenue based in 2015, literally copying Delta’s every aspect of Delta’s SkyMiles program.
So what further changes have just been announced?
Copa is launching their own loyalty program
UA Insider announced on FlyerTalk this morning that in addition to updates to the 2015 MileagePlus program, Copa Airlines will be launching their own loyalty program in July 2015.
Copa’s current loyalty program is MileagePlus, so all standard Premier benefits are also available when traveling on Copa. Prior to the integration of Continental and United, Copa’s loyalty program was Continental OnePass.
Continental used to own a stake in Copa, but that has all been sold off, so it’s understandable Copa wants more control of their loyalty program at this point.
As of July 1, 2015 for travel on Copa Airlines:
- Premier members will no longer be eligible for instant upgrades on qualifying full fare economy tickets
- Premier members will no longer be eligible for Complimentary Premier Upgrades
- Miles flown will not count towards earning lifetime MileagePlus Premier status (million miler status)
- Flights will not count towards the four segment minimum for MileagePlus Premier status
MileagePlus members with Regional Premier Upgrades or Global Premier Upgrades can still use these to upgrade on Copa flights after July 1, 2015.
Copa Airlines is still a member of Star Alliance, so traditional Star Alliance Silver and Gold benefits will apply to Premier members flying on Copa.
It’ll be interesting to see the details around Copa’s new program, and if it will be revenue based like MileagePlus. If it’s anything like LifeMiles, I’m going to be super excited. 😉
Changes to mileage upgrades on p.s.
This is probably the biggest blow to Premier members. While Complimentary Premier Upgrades are not available on United p.s. flights between SFO/LAX and JFK, mileage upgrades are. Premier members are exempt from domestic mileage upgrade co-pays, including the hefty ones on p.s. and Hawaii flights.
As of February 1, 2015, this exception is ending. From united.com:
Premier members who request a MileagePlus Upgrade Award on or after February 1, 2015, for a p.s. route between New York JFK and Los Angeles or San Francisco will no longer be exempt from the co-pay.
MileagePlus Upgrade Award Chart for p.s. Flights as of February 1, 2015
|Fare Class||Mileage Requirement||Co-Pay|
On a $340.20 “K” fare economy ticket between SFO and JFK, you’ll be required to front 40,000 MileagePlus miles and a $500 co-pay to upgrade a roundtrip ticket.
That’s ridiculous, especially considering that American still allows upgrades to business class on their A321T flights between LAX/SFO and JFK. As an Executive Platinum member, upgrades are complimentary, just as they are on other domestic flights. For Gold or Platinum members, upgrades are in the standard 500-mile sticker format. If using miles to upgrade, it’s 15,000 miles and a $75 co-pay one-way, which is leaps and bounds better than United’s new policy.
Global Entry fee waiver ending
United was fairly innovative when they announced their 2012 MileagePlus program, in that they provided a Global Entry application fee waiver ($100) for Premier Platinum, Premier 1K, and Global Services members.
Well, looks like that’s gone as of February 1, 2015. From United.com:
As of February 1, 2015, MileagePlus will no longer provide a payment code which can be used as the form of payment for the $100 Global Entry application fee. Eligible members may continue to request a payment code until January 31, 2015.
Global Entry credentials are good for five years, so hopefully all those who want Global Entry can get their waiver in time.
And even if you can’t take advantage of this, it’s still worth the $100.
Baggage reductions for Premier Golds
I’ve always thought United had very generous luggage allowances for their elite members. Currently, Premier Gold members can check up to three bags, 70 pounds each, free of charge in economy. This is insanely generous.
As of February 1, 2015, Premier Gold members traveling in economy on domestic tickets will only be allowed two free checked bags, up to 70 pounds each. From United.com:
For all United Economy® tickets issued or re-issued before February 1, 2015, Premier Gold members are eligible for three complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds (32 kg) each. For United Economy tickets issued or re-issued on or after February 1, 2015, Premier Gold members are eligible for two complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds (32 kg) each for travel between the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For travel to and from select international markets, Premier Gold members are eligible for three complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds (32 kg) each.
Not the worst change, but still another negative one.
Premier status won’t extend to non-status travelers on award tickets
Currently, if you’re a Premier member and you book an award trip for somebody else, they “inherit” your Premier status. This is regardless of whether the award travel includes the Premier member on the same booking. This was a nice unpublished benefit that no other major airline offers.
This “benefit” is no more as of April 15, 2015. From United.com’s checked baggage policy page:
Eligibility for the checked baggage service charge waiver for travelers on award tickets issued or re-issued on or after April 15, 2015, is based on each traveler’s Premier status at check-in, rather than the status of the member whose miles were used to purchase the award ticket.
This was a fantastic benefit for Premier members booking award travel for family or friends. For example, if a Premier 1K booked award travel for his parents in economy, they’d both be treated as Premier 1Ks when traveling. This includes Premier Access check-in, Group 1 boarding, complimentary access to Economy Plus, up to three free checked bags at 70 pounds each, etc.
While gifting somebody an award ticket is still a gift, it’s not as nice when they’ll need to pay to check their luggage, pay for Economy Plus, etc.
On the flip side, I can totally understand how this dilutes the experience for actual Premiers. I can’t even begin to imagine how many award tickets are flown on United each day, let alone those booked by Premier members. It’s hardly surprising given that United will potentially be able to generate more revenue on checked baggage fees, Economy Plus, etc.
I guess we should just be happy that United made changes to MileagePlus that weren’t a direct copy of Delta’s changes to SkyMiles.
However, with United increasing the requirements to quality for status, it seems a little ridiculous that they’d make so many negative changes to the program.
While none of these changes are especially drastic, it’s death by a thousand cuts for United flyers.
Will any of these changes negatively impact you?