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Changes to United's MileagePlus program will make it harder for ultra-frequent flyers to stay loyal to the airline.

Series: Business of Loyalty

Travel Loyalty News

The Skift Business of Loyalty covers the world of hotel, airline, and other consumer loyalty programs in the travel industry. Read more coverage of loyalty here.

The news passed quietly while Skift Global Forum was in full force last month, but it was significant: United Airlines is changing the qualification criteria for earning top-tier elite status in its MileagePlus program.

For the past several years, American, Delta, and United have all used a formula for calculating elite status that includes both miles flown and dollars spent in a calendar year. To earn low-level elite status, for example, a traveler must fly 25,000 miles and spend $3,000 on tickets.

Earning top-tier status used to take 100,000 miles and $12,000 in spend on American and United, while those on Delta had to fly 125,000 miles and spend $15,000. Next year, however, United passengers will have to fly 100,000 miles and spend $15,000. That’s an increase of 25 percent in spend year-over-year.

It will be interesting to see how United’s elite frequent flyers stomach the changes. It’s always been assumed that Delta could get away with a more expensive top tier because it’s a truly premium carrier. United can’t make that argument — and for that, its loyalty program may suffer.

American, meanwhile, has officially stayed silent.

— Grant Martin, Business of Loyalty Editor

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Skift Business of Loyalty Editor Grant Martin [[email protected]] curates the Skift Business of Loyalty newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Monday.

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Tags: loyalty, mileageplus, united airlines

Photo credit: United Airlines flight landing at Newark Airport in 2016. Changes to United's MileagePlus program will make it harder for ultra-frequent flyers to stay loyal to the airline. Sean O'Neill / Sean O'Neill

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