MIAMI — United Airlines has announced plans to convert earning in its MileagePlus frequent flyer program to be based on airfare beginning in early 2015 In an update unveiled today, United joined rival Delta Air Lines in transitioning members to a revenue based earning program for frequent flyers.

(Credits: United Airlines)
(Credits: United Airlines)

Instead of distance traveled, miles earned per flight will be awarded based on dollars spent, with standard customers receiving five miles per dollar spent. Elite members of the MileagePlus program will receive a bonus, with Premier Silver members receiving seven miles per dollar, Premier Gold members receiving eight miles per dollar, Premier Platinum members receiving nine miles per dollar, and Premier 1K members receiving eleven miles per dollar. No mention was made of any special earning level for Global Services members, though such a level may well exist. There will be no change in mileage earning for usage of United’s co-branded credit card.

Like Delta, earning will be capped at 75,000 miles per ticket, and the shift in earning will not affect how premier status is determined. Tickets that currently earn bonuses for class-of-service will still see bonuses continue to be applied, in a departure from Delta’s practice likely aimed at boosting premium cabin demand. Tickets issued for travel on many partner airlines by United (with flight numbers beginning with 016) will also earn mileage in the new manner, while travel on other Star Alliance and MileagePlus partners will continue to earn miles based on distance traveled.

As part of the change, United will also offer additional redemption options that would conceivably boost the value of United miles. Beginning in 2015, MileagePlus members will be able to redeem miles for EconomyPlus seats, EconomyPlus annual subscriptions, and checked baggage subscriptions. The checked baggage option is a welcome addition to the program, while the EconomyPlus options could reduce program value for program elites who are currently the only members who get access to this seating.

United has become just the latest major US carrier to opt for the revenue based frequent flyer program that is already in use at JetBlue, Southwest, Virgin America, with Delta soon to switch over. United’s announcement leaves American Airlines as the only major US carrier without a revenue-based frequent flyer program, though most expect American to convert its program once the carrier completes its merger with US Airways.