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