It was one of those mornings as a miles addict that when you open Twitter, and your morning has been shot. Delta did this to us a few months ago and now United has followed suit: United’s Mileage Plan is flipping from a mileage based rewards program to a revenue based one.
Of course, those of us who follow the airline and miles world daily, we knew this was inevitable in the U.S. airline industry. European carriers have fuel surcharges and now the U.S. carriers are going to revenue models. I had a feeling that United would be the first to follow Delta’s lead. Many of us were hoping that the industry would wait and see how Delta fared with their revenue based program before jumping on that ship. Of course Southwest and Virgin America are revenue based but their model has always been different. I view those carriers with a completely different strategy.
For me personally, it stings. I’m a rare bird in the sense that I’m Dallas based and somewhat United loyal. They aren’t always my #1 choice and I don’t even have status with them. But I like the Star Alliance group and I can find decent award availability with United for the places I want to go. United always seems to have great European deals out of American hubs. But now that I’ve gone elite with Alaska, my strategy to gravitate with American, Delta, and Alaska will only strengthen. American and Alaska could go revenue based at any point but I think their a lot smarter than United. They won’t jump the gun and I don’t think they’ll be as lazy and uncreative as United. United’s new revenue model is a mirror copy of Delta’s.
United’s social media team wants me to give the program a chance.
United of course is promising all kinds of exciting changes to benefit Mileage Plan members with things like using your miles to buy Economy Plus seats and checked baggage subscriptions. These are not genuine perks for customers but merely a gimmick for uninformed travelers to waste their miles on. If United wanted to go the revenue route, they should have at least made the model more attractive than Delta’s to lure customers.
Of course all the credit card bloggers claim they aren’t worried about the change because they’ll keep applying for dozens of rewards credit cards. But I disagree because airlines going the revenue route further limits the options for the everyday traveler to accrue miles. Credit card spending and bonuses are only a small part of my miles strategy. I actually enjoy air travel and the hunt for a sweet mileage run deal. I’ll keep modifying my miles strategy as the game changes but today was another defeat for travel hackers.