HomeAirline LoyaltyUnited Devalues MileagePlus (Again) When It Thinks No One Is Looking

United Devalues MileagePlus (Again) When It Thinks No One Is Looking

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United appears to have chosen a moment in time where it thinks that its customers aren’t watching to push through a subtle (yet very real) devaluation to its MileagePlus loyalty program – a program that had already been significantly devalued since the beginning of this year.

How Things Have Worked Since 1 January 2020

When United announced its changes to the MileagePlus program last year, the airline removed the spend requirement waiver for all foreign-based MileagePlus members but introduced the ability for flyers to earn Premier Qualifying Points (the successor to United’s Premier Qualifying Dollars) on bookings made through partner airlines.

Since 1 January 2020, United’s partner airlines have been divided into two categories – Preferred Partners and MileagePlus Partners – and flights booked through these airlines have earned Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) based on the award miles earned from those flights.

A discounted (N Class) roundtrip Premium Economy fare on Lufthansa (a Preferred Partner) for a flight between San Francisco and Frankfurt, for example, would earn a flyer 11,398 award miles and therefore 2,280 PQP (11,398 ÷ 5).

If a flyer could book a good Premium Economy fare on this route, the number of PQP that they could earn by booking with Lufthansa instead of United (where PQP is based on the price of the ticket and not the distance traveled) could be significant and, since the changes to MileagePlus were announced, this has been seen as a small but useful loophole to help with earning Premier status without having to spend a considerable amount of money.

Not any more.

How Things Will Work From 1 July 2020

For flights booked before 29 April 2020 (today or earlier) for travel on/after 1 July 2020 United will impose maximum PQP earnings on partner bookings. Specifically, this is what things will look like (link):

Irrespective of the distance flown on a booking with a partner airline (or the price paid), United will no longer award more than 1,500 PQP for partner bookings.

This is a significant change from what has been in place since the beginning of the year and, although it will affect foreign-based flyers more than United’s US-based customers, this is a big devaluation to the MileagePlus program (the second in 6 months for anyone who’s counting).

Bottom Line

I’m not sure what annoys me more – the fact that United has devalued the MileagePlus program yet again or the fact that the airline has chosen to sneak this information on to its website without giving MileagePlus members any notice at all (not even an email to announce the change). Presumably the airline thinks that because people aren’t traveling they’re not going to notice what it’s doing on the quiet.

There are few things more annoying (in the travel world) than an airline that’s amazing at self-promotion and terrible at keeping its customers informed of things that will affect them and United is a perfect example of one such airline – this is just another reason I have no interest in ever being a frequent flyer with United.


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  1. Yet another way United shows they have zero customer service savvy. At a time they should be courting the loyalty of their mileage plus members they kick them to the curve. Whatever savings they thought they would realize is offset by the collective disgust of the shoddy way they reward their flying customers.

  2. Wow, Scott Kirby gives customers another couple of good hard kicks between the legs on the same day, counting the removal of partner award charts. The man hates engaged loyalty members as much as Arne Sorenson. Don’t these people realize that they should be making their programs MORE enticing rather than less right now?

    • I suspect that United realized that it had overlooked this loophole shortly after the changes to MileagePlus were announced last October and that management has been looking for an opportune time to close it down. Apparenly now is that time and they don’t appear to care how bad it looks.

  3. That really does suck, but at least it is a limit per segment and not for a whole itinerary or booking. At least that is how it reads to me. You will definitely be getting robbed on some of the longer partner sectors.

  4. What really grinds is that this is a retroactive adjustment, if I understand correctly. Those of us with longstanding reservations just got a good swift kick. They could have at least made it PROspective, that would be some sort of notice. And I was just looking forward to reuniting with United for 2020 travel. Not now. Bastards can’t be trusted.

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