United Innovates… Who They’re Copying!

Overall we’ve seen quite a bit of innovation in the airline industry the past few years, both good and bad. However, quite possibly the least innovative airline has been United, as they’ve literally just copied whatever Delta has done.

United copies everything Delta does

Delta introduces a revenue requirement for status? United introduces a revenue requirement for status.

Delta starts awarding redeemable miles based on money spent as opposed to miles flown? United starts awarding redeemable miles based on money spent as opposed to miles flown.

Delta raises the revenue requirements for status? United raises the revenue requirements for status.

You have to wonder whether the mid-level executives at United even have meetings anymore, or if they just have blanket waivers to copy whatever Delta does.

American is countering the trend

American AAdvantage countered the trend by announcing that in 2015 they won’t have a revenue requirement for status, or award miles based on revenue.

Beyond that, AAdvantage introduced some nice bonuses for premium cabin flyers in 2015. Full fare and premium cabin flyers are among the few that come out ahead with the new Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus programs, so this is a nice bone to throw to those high revenue flyers.

American AAdvantage is awarding the following number of bonus miles per premium cabin segment:


While there’s no guarantee American will keep the program mileage based in 2016 and beyond, I’m grateful that they’re not just blindly copying the competition.

United copies American for once

Well, United has literally copied the American AAdvantage promotion in its entirety. For travel through February 28, 2015, United will be awarding MileagePlus members the following mileage bonuses for premium cabin travel:


So why is United copying American here? Because while Delta has started awarding miles based on revenue as of January 1, 2015, United will only be awarding miles based on revenue as of March 1, 2015. So they’re trying to throw a bone to high revenue flyers in the meantime.


Sadly I think by United’s standards, changing who they copy is actually quite innovative.

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)


  1. Maybe they cut their customer loyalty team to one person who reads blogs all day and goes to airline websites to check up on the latest and great promotions. Then they take screenshots and present those in meetings to senior management and get them to buy off on running those same promotions or make changes to the loyalty program that way. they end up saving a lot of labor that way in only having one employee do all the “research” and figure if it must be good for AA or Delta, its probably god for us too.

  2. In fairness there are lots of DL’s evil practices that UA didn’t copy: fuel surcharge, blackout dates, 3-tier (now 5-tier), 72-hour, strict routing rules, fee for just changing dates… basically UA didn’t copy anything on the mileage redemption side.

    And even when UA did copy, they did it nicer than DL, like UA allowed to change awards booked at old rate without re-pricing, but DL didn’t.

  3. UA fired me as a customer of their flights. I’m still a miles customer, though (via credit card spend).

  4. AA and UA both maintain hubs at ORD, a big market, with many of the same destinations. UA is simply worried that they have a competitive disadvantage and people will vote with their feet.

  5. A few things worth noting: the United Continental merger was really Continental taking over United and United management taking an early retirement. The only thing the old UA team left behind was the name, everything else, all of the backend systems, are old Continental.

    Last year I ended up on the wrong side of some “rules of carriage” and lost the residual value on a high nonrefundable ticket, which caused me to write Jeff S (UA CEO) a letter and that created a phone call from one of his minions.

    When I pointed out to the representative that the new United has a lot of rules that are fairly disadvantageous to the frequent-flier, she pointed out that the new United is more focused on return on investment for their investors than benefits for their traveling public especially their revenue frequent fliers.

    The new United treats their flying public like sheep that can be sheared to squeeze out the last dollar revenue on anything else. The only thing missing is an on board coin-operated toilet …

  6. To be fair, you forgot to say UA copied the worst of DL, UA had never copied the best of DL, like (1) meals on express flights instead if snack box (UA announced something will be changed for that this year, but so far still no details yet), (2) UA had never copied the good looking and tasty meals for domestic F on DL, (3) UA had never copied free meals for Economy comfort on DL transcon. (4) UA had never copied DL to offer individual bottle water and comfort kit for long haul international Y. So in the end, UA is still a loser while DL is a winner.

  7. @Lucky – you missed a few… Delta did the Porsches, United then did the Mercedes-Benz. Delta did SPG, United then did Marriott. Etc. Etc. Etc. 😉

  8. Lucky…your last sentence is just CLASSIC!

    “Sadly I think by United’s standards, changing who they copy is actually quite innovative.”

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