United Tweaks MileagePlus for 2012

In the run-up to the final consolidation of the MileagePlus and OnePass programs, there has been much speculation (and considerable worry) that the new program would be fundamentally redesigned along the lines of Southwest's revamped Rapid Rewards program, to directly link earnings with ticket prices.

United's announcement earlier this week put such rumors to rest.

While some of the changes, set to take effect in 2012, do move in the direction of rewarding more profitable customers, the overall program remains mileage- rather than revenue-based.

The highlights:

A fourth elite tier—Premier Platinum, earned after 75,000 elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) or 90 elite-qualifying segments (EQSs)—will be added to the current three-tiered elite scheme.

Silver Premier is the new name for entry-level elite status, awarded after 25,000 EQMs or 30 EQSs, provided the member flies a minimum of four paid flights on United, Continental or Copa.

That four-flight minimum, which applies to qualification for all elite tiers, is new.

Also new for elites at this level: Complimentary upgrades to Economy Plus will be confirmed at time of check in, rather than at time of booking; and the checked bag fee waiver will apply only to one bag, rather than the two bags currently covered.

Fare-type bonuses will increase. Full-fare coach (Y, B) will earn a 25 percent bonus; discounted business class (Z, P) will earn a 50 percent bonus; full-fare business (J, C, D) and two-cabin first class (F, A) will earn a 75 percent bonus; and three-cabin first class (F, A) will earn a 150 percent bonus.

The new Million Miler program will award lifetime Gold, Platinum, 1K, or Global Services status to members and their spouses after earning 1, 2, 3, or 4 million miles, respectively.

Winners, Losers

For the great majority of MileagePlus members, the changes are of little interest or impact. For United's most frequent (and most profitable) customers, the easier access to Economy Plus seats and increased bonuses for pricier tickets will be pluses.

If there are any losers, it's United's entry-level Silver elites. While they may be the least profitable of the four elite groups, they are the most numerous. And ready access to Economy Plus has been among their most coveted benefits. The new Economy Plus upgrade policy will be a significant downgrade.

Reader Reality Check

How will the new program policies affect you?

This article originally appeared on

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