MileagePlus

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Logo of MileagePlus

MileagePlus is the frequent flyer program of United Airlines, Copa Airlines, Copa Airlines Colombia and Aeromar.[1] Following the 2011 merger agreement between United Airlines and Continental Airlines, United Mileage Plus was chosen to be the frequent flyer program for the combined airline.[2] The program was subsequently renamed to MileagePlus, and maintains its relationship with its Star Alliance partners, as well as other airline and travel enterprise agreements.

Following the integration and phase out of Continental OnePass on March 3, 2012, MileagePlus also became the frequent flyer program for Copa Airlines and Copa Airlines Colombia.[3] The new program member IDs follow the OnePass format (2 letters + 6 digits) in lieu of the old Mileage Plus format (11 digits), and any members who had existing OnePass member ID numbers retained their existing numbers.[4]

History[edit]

Frequent flier programs were introduced in 1979 by Texas International Airlines.[5] Two years later, American Airlines launched their AAdvantage program,[6] and United's Mileage Plus was launched one week later.[7] On June 29, 2011, United Airlines officially changed the name of the program from Mileage Plus to MileagePlus.[8]

On July 9, 2011, Tom Stuker became the first member of the MileagePlus program to reach ten million flown miles on United.[9] He earned this distinction flying from Los Angeles to Chicago on flight 942. Jeff Smisek, the president and CEO of United Airlines, was on hand to congratulate him.[10] For reaching the ten million mile number, he was given the only United Titanium Card and his name was placed on the side of a United Boeing 747-400.[11]

Several controversial changes were introduced to the program in 2012, following the integration of the Continental OnePass program into MileagePlus. This included the inability to create a single reservation consisting of both revenue and award tickets.[12] Other controversial changes include the reduction in bonus miles for Premier Gold and Premier Platinum members, as well as the inability of Premier Silver members to reserve Economy Plus seats until 24 hours prior to departure.[13] Changes have also occurred to the upgrade process, where upgrades are being sold at check-in for prices as low as $69, even when elites are still being processed on the upgrade waitlist.[14] Million Mile Flyer George Lagen filed, in late May 2012, a class action against United for taking away or demoting "lifetime" benefits promised to pre-merger Million Mile Flyers.[15]

Partner airlines[edit]

In addition to United Airlines, Copa Airlines and Copa Airlines Colombia, all 25 members of the Star Alliance as well as a number of other airlines participate in the MileagePlus program to a certain degree. MileagePlus miles can then be both earned and redeemed on flights with United, as well as any partner airline. However, certain booking classes on partner airlines are excluded from mileage accrual.[16]

The airline partners of MileagePlus are:[17]

Partner Airline Star Alliance Member
Slovenia Adria Airways Yes
Greece Aegean Airlines Yes
Republic of Ireland Aer Lingus No
Mexico Aeromar No
Canada Air Canada Yes
China Air China Yes
India Air India Yes
New Zealand Air New Zealand Yes
Japan All Nippon Airways Yes
South Korea Asiana Airlines Yes
Austria Austrian Airlines Yes
Colombia Avianca Yes
Belgium Brussels Airlines Yes
United States Cape Air No
Croatia Croatia Airlines Yes
Egypt EgyptAir Yes
Ethiopia Ethiopian Airlines Yes
Taiwan EVA Air Yes
United States Great Lakes Airlines No
United States Hawaiian Airlines No
United States Island Air No
India Jet Airways No
Poland LOT Polish Airlines Yes
Germany Lufthansa Yes
DenmarkNorwaySweden Scandinavian Airlines Yes
China Shenzhen Airlines Yes
Singapore Singapore Airlines Yes
South Africa South African Airways Yes
Switzerland Swiss International Air Lines Yes
El Salvador TACA Airlines Yes
Portugal TAP Portugal Yes
Thailand Thai Airways Yes
Turkey Turkish Airlines Yes

Award travel[edit]

Swiss First Class, bookable using MileagePlus award miles

MileagePlus miles (redeemable miles) can be redeemed for travel on any combination of United Airlines and United Express carriers, Copa Airlines and Copa Airlines Colombia, Star Alliance partners and other airline partners.[18] MileagePlus offers saver and standard awards, at two different tiers of pricing with different capacity control mechanisms.[19]

Saver awards are capacity-controlled awards available for travel on all partner airlines. The release of saver award seats is dictated by the operating airline, who will make the award inventory available to all its partners, including United MileagePlus.[20] On flights operated by United Airlines, additional saver award inventory is offered to Premier members, in addition to that offered to general members.[21]

Historically, United Airlines engaged in the practice of preventing its MileagePlus members, regardless of tier, from redeeming rewards on certain Star Alliance flights (known as "Starnet Blocking").[22] At the time, United Airlines was the only known Star Alliance member to restrict access to reward flights that were available for redemption in the Star Alliance network.[23] This practice was discontinued in 2011, after the merger with Continental Airlines.[24]

Standard awards are only available for travel on United and Copa, and have greater availability than saver awards.[25] Standard awards cost two to three times more than the equivalent saver award.[26]

Redeemable miles do not expire, provided that there is account activity within the previous 18 months.[27]

MileagePlus allows one-way redemption for half the round-trip price.[28]

Premier status[edit]

United's red carpet boarding line at San Francisco, the predecessor of the Premier Access Line
United MileagePlus Premier Platinum and Premier 1K credentials and luggage tags

While status levels were not originally part of the MileagePlus program, they were introduced in 1987 to reward customers who had achieved certain qualification thresholds within a given calendar year.[29] All Premier members are eligible for Premier Access, which allows them to use exclusive check-in and security lines, as well as priority boarding and baggage retrieval.[30]

Premier Silver (2P) members accumulate at least 25,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) or 30 Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS) in a calendar year. Premier Silver members are offered Premier Access, complimentary Economy Plus seating at 24 hours prior to time of departure, Complimentary Premier Upgrades, a 25% mileage bonus on flown miles, and Star Alliance Silver status. In 2005, 535,000 members of MileagePlus qualified for Premier Silver status. Prior to 2012, this status tier was formerly known as "Premier". Starting in 2014, Customers must spend $2,500 on United issued tickets in a calendar year to qualify for this tier.[31]

Premier Gold (1P) members accumulate at least 50,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) or 60 Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS) in a calendar year. Premier Gold members receive all Premier Silver benefits plus a 50% mileage bonus, higher upgrade priority, access to exit row seating in advance of flight, Star Alliance Gold status, and lounge access when traveling internationally on any Star Alliance member airline the same day. Prior to 2012, this status tier was formerly known as "Premier Executive". Starting in 2014, members must spend $5,000 on United issued tickets in a calendar year to qualify for this tier.[31]

Premier Platinum (PP) members accumulate at least 75,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) or 90 Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS) in a calendar year. Premier Platinum members receive all Premier Gold benefits, plus higher upgrade priority for Complimentary Premier Upgrades, two Regional Premier Upgrades, as well as a 75% bonus on redeemable miles. This status level was introduced in 2012, based on the Platinum Elite level from the Continental OnePass program. Starting in 2011, Premier Executive members who earned 75,000 miles were granted two Regional Premier Upgrade certificates upon qualification. Starting in 2014, members must spend $7,500 on United issued tickets in a calendar year to qualify for this tier.[31]

Premier 1K (1K) members accumulate at least 100,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) or 120 Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS) in a calendar year. Upon qualification, Premier 1K members receive Premier Platinum benefits plus six Global Premier Upgrades, as well as two additional Regional Premier Upgrades. Premier 1K members can earn two additional Global Premier Upgrades for each additional 50,000 PQM earned during the same calendar year. In 2005, 46,000 members of MileagePlus qualified for 1K status.[citation needed]Starting in 2014, members must spend $10,000 on United issued tickets in a calendar year to qualify for this tier.[31]

Premier Associate (3P) was an invitation-only elite level operational between 2006 and 2010. Premier Associate status could be gifted by Premier members as a reward for reaching certain plateaus, or provided by the airline as a courtesy. Privileges were similar to Premier Silver members and included access to Economy Plus seating, but did not include unlimited domestic upgrades or the 25% mileage bonus on flown miles.[32]

Global Services[edit]

Global Services (GS) is an invitation-only program to recognize United's most valued high-yield customers. Full invitation criteria are not made public by United; re-qualification for current GS members is based on a combination of base ticket revenue and miles with the priority being ticket revenue. Invitations are sent out annually based on the previous year's revenue and travel. Benefits complement and expand upon those offered to 1K passengers, including higher priority for upgrades, front-of-line access in premium security lines, admission to International First Class lounges (no guest allowance) when traveling in GlobalFirst or BusinessFirst cabin, and priority in IRROPS (irregular operations) travel. Global Services members are able to obtain complimentary upgrades of award flights, with superior upgrade priority to all other Premier members, regardless of fare class.[33]

Million Miler Program[edit]

Million Miler Program is a program offered to MileagePlus members who have demonstrated a long term loyalty. The Million Miler Program balance is calculated based on the accrued elite qualifying miles prior to January 1, 2012, plus the actual flown miles on United and Copa Airlines after January 1, 2012.[34]

Members receive the following lifetime MileagePlus Premier status based on their Million Miler Program balance:

Million Miler Level Lifetime Status
1 Million Premier Gold
2 Million Premier Platinum
3 Million Premier 1K
4 Million Global Services

Members eligible for Million Miler status can also designate a companion (defined as their spouse, significant other, or another individual residing at the same address) to receive the same Premier status as themselves.

Infinite Elite was a promotional program offered by Continental Airlines in the early 1990s that offered lifetime Platinum Elite status on Continental for flying a certain mileage amount for a number of continuous years.[35] With the integration of OnePass and MileagePlus, Infinite Elite members will be offered Premier 1K status, but will not receive Global Premier Upgrades.[33]

Upgrades[edit]

Complimentary Premier Upgrades[edit]

Complimentary Premier Upgrades are offered to all Premier members on flights within Region 1, excluding Premium Service flights from New York JFK to San Francisco or Los Angeles, as well as flights between Honolulu and Washington, D.C. (IAD), Houston (IAH), and Newark. [36] This is awarded to Premier members on a space-available basis, prioritised by status, then fare class.[37] Complimentary Premier Upgrades are awarded at certain time windows prior to departure, depending on Premier status and space availability.

The upgrade windows for Complimentary Premier Upgrades are:

Premier Status Level Upgrade Cleared as early as (hours prior to departure)
Global Services 120 hours
Premier 1K 96 hours
Premier Platinum 72 hours
Premier Gold 48 hours
Premier Silver Day of Departure

Complimentary Premier Upgrades have the lowest upgrade priority of all upgrade mechanisms, as they will only be offered after all Instant Upgrades (Y/B/M-Up fares), upgrade instruments and miles/copay awards have been cleared.

Regional Premier Upgrades[edit]

Premier Platinum members are awarded two Regional Premier Upgrades upon qualification, and two additional Regional Premier Upgrades every 25,000 PQM or 30 PQS accumulated thereafter. Regional Premier Upgrades are valid for a one-class upgrade on any flight operated by United or Copa within Region 1 (Domestic, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean and Northern South America). Notably, Regional Premier Upgrades can be used on flights within Region 1 where Complimentary Premier Upgrades are not available, such as Premium Service flights from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as BusinessFirst flights from Honolulu to Washington-Dulles, Houston and Newark. There are no fare restrictions in place when using Regional Premier Upgrades.

Global Premier Upgrades[edit]

Premier 1K members are awarded six Global Premier Upgrades upon qualification, and two additional Global Premier Upgrades every 50,000 PQM or 60 PQS accumulated thereafter. Global Premier Upgrades can be used for a one-class upgrade on any multi-cabin flight operated by United, Copa or Lufthansa.[38] Fare class restrictions apply when using Global Premier Upgrades outside of Region 1. Within Region 1, Global Premier Upgrades are functionally no different than Regional Premier Upgrades.

Mileage Upgrade Awards[edit]

All MileagePlus members can use their award miles to redeem for upgrades on flights operated by United and Copa when booked in eligible fare classes. Certain fare classes require a copay when using Mileage Upgrade Awards, which is waived for Premier members when travelling within Region 1.

Star Alliance Upgrade Awards[edit]

MileagePlus members can use their award miles to upgrade flights operated by a Star Alliance member. Economy class flights booked with a Y/B fare class, or business class flights booked with a C/D fare class, are eligible for an upgrade to business or first class respectively. Star Alliance Upgrade Awards can only be applied under the condition that award availability exists in the corresponding cabin, and sponsored with a copay as required. Unlike Mileage Upgrade Awards, Star Alliance Upgrade Awards cannot be waitlisted.

Instant Upgrades[edit]

When flying within Region 1, all Premier members who purchase a Y fare receive an instant upgrade provided there is revenue space available. B fares also qualify for Instant Upgrades provided there is availability in the PN fare class. Premier 1K members also receive Instant Upgrades when booking a M fare, subject to PN inventory.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "MileagePlus® program". United Airlines. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  2. ^ "Continental’s OnePass scheme to merge into Mileage Plus". Business Traveller. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "MileagePlus frequent flyer program". Copa Airlines. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  4. ^ Kelly, Shannon. "Merger Update: MileagePlus Account Number Update". FlyerTalk.com. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  5. ^ David M Rowell (August 13, 2010). "A History of US Airline Deregulation Part 4 : 1979–2010 : The Effects of Deregulation – Lower Fares, More Travel, Frequent Flier Programs". The Travel Insider. Retrieved September 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ American Airlines. "American Airlines AAdvantage Program Details". Retrieved 28 May 2009. 
  7. ^ "United MileagePlus". WebFlyer. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  8. ^ "Mileage Plus: Loyalty program for the new United in 2012". FlyerTalk.com. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  9. ^ http://www.nbcchicago.com/traffic/transit/125274904.html
  10. ^ Auletta, Kate (11 July 2011). "Thomas Stuker, United Frequent Flier, Logs 10 Millionth Mile On Airline". Huffington Post. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  11. ^ http://www.airlinereporter.com/2011/07/united-airlines-frequent-flyer-hits-10-million-miles/
  12. ^ "MileagePlus to be the Loyalty Program for the New United Airlines". Yahoo! Finance. June 29, 2011. 
  13. ^ "The New United MileagePlus Takes Off". Insideflyer.com. Retrieved 4/4/12. 
  14. ^ "United Airlines". Yelp:Real People, Real Reviews. Retrieved 4/4/12. 
  15. ^ "George Lagen v. United Continental Holdings, Inc. and United Airlines, Inc.". Top Class Actions. Retrieved 6/1/12. 
  16. ^ "Sudden Big Changes to Mileage Plus airline partner mileage accrual". Boarding Area. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  17. ^ "Airline Partners and Global Alliances". United Airlines. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  18. ^ "MileagePlus air travel and upgrade awards". United Airlines. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  19. ^ "MileagePlus air awards". United Airlines. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  20. ^ Leff, Gary. "StarNet: United’s Weapon of Mass Award Destruction". Boarding Area. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  21. ^ Klint, Matthew. "http://upgrd.com/matthew/one-upside-to-the-united-merger-elite-only-saver-awards-in-business-and-first-class.html". Upgrd.com. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  22. ^ Kralev, Nicholas. "Airlines curb ‘award’ tickets". The Washington Times. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  23. ^ Leff, Gary. "United ‘Starnet Blocking’ Still a Problem for Mileage Plus Members". Boarding Area. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  24. ^ "Is Starnet blocking gone?". FlyerTalk.com. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  25. ^ "Award Saver vs. Standard Award". FlyerTalk.com. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  26. ^ Schlappig, Benjamin. "Could it be? United LOWERS the prices of many awards". Boarding Area. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  27. ^ "United Airlines: Sorry, Your 200,000 Frequent Flier Miles Have Expired". The Consumerist. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  28. ^ MileagePlus Award Chart valid until 01/31/2014
  29. ^ "High Flyers". InsideFlyer. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  30. ^ "Premier Access". United Airlines. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  31. ^ a b c d Mutzabaugh, Ben (18 June 2013). "United adds spending threshold to elite-status qualifying". USA Today. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  32. ^ "United Introduces Elite Status for Anyone Who Wants to Buy It". Cranky Flier. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  33. ^ a b O'Leary, Scott. "Merger Update: 2012 MileagePlus Program Details". FlyerTalk.com. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  34. ^ "Million Miler Program". Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  35. ^ "Very Important Flyers". InsideFlyer. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  36. ^ "Upgrades Overview". Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  37. ^ Leff, Gary. "United's New Elite Unfriendly Upgrade Priority Already in Effect". Boarding Area. Retrieved 30 April 2012. 
  38. ^ Hanson, Kevin. "How I Messed Up My Chance of an LH A380 Upgrade". Upgrd.com. Retrieved 29 April 2012.