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United is one of the biggest U.S. airlines to allow friends and family to combine miles — at no extra fee — to redeem award tickets.

United Airlines announced Thursday it will allow friends and family to create joint accounts to pool frequent flier miles through its loyalty program. 

The move is intended to make it easier for friends and family to use miles when booking award tickets for flights and was spurred by an uptick in family and friends travel since the pandemic, said Luc Bondar, the chief operating officer of United MileagePlus. 

“Social travel we think is a really important trend in the travel landscape,” Bondar said. “And so mileage pooling is a really distinct innovation for the loyalty space.” 

United is the first of the Big Four airlines to allow pooling miles with no extra fees. Typically, airlines let customers transfer miles to other accounts, but they have to pay fees to do so. JetBlue has allowed families to pool points through its “Points Pooling” program since 2013. 

The program allows any MileagePlus users over the age of 18 to be a “pool leader” and create the joint account on United’s website. “Pool leaders” can invite family and friends of any age if they have a MileagePlus account, meaning parents can also now tap into any frequent flier miles their children may have accrued for family trips. 

Contributing miles to the account doesn’t affect a customer’s status within the loyalty program, and only members who travel with the award tickets can earn premier qualifying points.

Bondar said once a trip is over, members of the joint account can leave it and create new ones for any other group trips. But the joint accounts are only meant for booking award tickets — customers cannot create joint MileagePlus account to book flights with cash. 

“The pool is for redemption purposes,” Bondar said. “It’s not like joining two accounts together as such, but rather it’s creating a separate wallet for the miles to be contributed by each of the participating pool members.”

Airlines’ Family Travel Policies, Loyalty Programs Come Under the Microscope

Family travel has long been an issue for airlines — the Biden Administration has pushed airlines not to charge extra fees for family seating. The Department of Transportation rolled out a dashboard last year that tracks each major U.S. airlines’ stance on family seating. 

And U.S. airlines have come under scrutiny for their loyalty programs after Delta Air Lines announced sweeping changes to its SkyMiles program that put more emphasis on dollars spent versus miles flown. The DOT said in December it would open a probe into whether airlines had been devaluing their frequent flier miles to make it harder for travelers to redeem award tickets. 

Bondar said he expected United’s latest move to boost MileagePlus’ memberships, a lucrative loyalty program that is already valued at around $22 billion

Despite Delta’s controversial changes, United, American and Southwest made minimal adjustments to their loyalty programs in 2024, a play some industry experts said could help them attract disaffected Delta travelers. 

Bondar said United’s goal was to make MileagePlus easier to use. 

“I think we’ve gone the other direction to a lot of that noise around making things more difficult, more challenging. And I’m not going to talk about competitors and their strategy,” Bondar said. “They do what they do. But we have been very deliberate and intentional in our approach to make MileagePlus simpler.”

As of 3 p.m. ET on Friday, United’s MileagePlus pooling feature was unavailable. United had not provided a timeline as for when the feature would be restored.

“We experienced some unexpected technology issues overnight and look forward to bringing back our new miles pooling feature soon,” United said in a statement.


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Tags: american airlines, delta air lines, family travel, frequent flier programs, mileageplus, united airlines

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