Mar 072015

So, earlier this year United made two changes to its Mileage Plus program which I consider fairly major. The first is that they raised the qualifying requirement for 1K status from 100,000 qualifying miles and $10,000 to 100,000 qualifying miles and $12,000. Now, $2,000 is plenty of money on its own, but 20% is semi-ridiculous when you consider it’s nearly seven times the rate of inflation. Couple this with the fact that this year I’m checking off many more obscure countries…which will be harder to use United tickets to…and I really wasn’t sure it was worth another year of pursuing status.

The other major change was the way miles are earned. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re rewarding your “best” customers this is the way to do it, but I think they have the multiplier wrong. It’s now based on a combination of how much you spend and your status. Unfortunately, unless you’re buying tickets that cost approximately 18 cents per mile as a 1K, you won’t break even. Now, you need to pay 12 cents per mile to get your 100,000 / $12,000 qualifying, so do the math. It’s a major downgrade.

Then, there was the “London mistake fare.” Yes, it was too good to be true. You can debate if it was unethical. But United outsourced some web coding, resulting in a mistaken exchange rate being used on its website. To me, the lesson to take away from this is if United screws up they can refuse to honour it, while if I screw up…too bad. Pay the change fee, and that’s your option. The game has gotten much less fun, and the airline clearly holds the upper hand…in most cases.

Add to this the fact I became a United million miler a couple years ago, meaning United Gold status for life, and the incremental benefits of 1K are free redeposit of award tickets, a few more miles, and priority free upgrades domestically, which I haven’t seen in over three years. If I want first domestically now I pay for it, because I just never get it.

So, in summary, I just didn’t see a point in 1K status anymore. I resolved to get some new experiences, fly whoever had the best discounted business fares, and just be happy with that.

Then, the shoe dropped…or should I say the wrench got thrown in the plans.

It’s looking like some Transpacific work travel will be coming up, for which our preferred carrier is United. That should likely get me at least halfway to the qualifying miles/dollars targets, making it much more attractive to consider it. Combine that with the fact I’m off to Turkmenistan this September, and there’s some very attractive D fares (business that can be upgraded to first with certificates) back to the US, and it puts me within mileage running distance. Ugh!

So, thoughts? What are others doing about for 2016 status?

I had almost nothing booked a month ago, but now my tentative plans for 2015 look like this. All tentative of course, but:


…over 100,000 miles already planned for the rest of the year, with more likely to come. No rest for the weary!

  7 Responses to “2015 Travel Plans…and the Quest for Status”

  1. With a lot of attractive fares in biz and coach on Etihad, I’m going to try a status match to gold and see how that goes. The elite benefits to mid level guys like me on the domestic carriers are almost non existent anymore.

  2. Can I ask – other than being based in DC (so i’m assuming per where most of your travel seems to start/end) is there a reason why you’re loyal to United over AA or DL?

    In my eyes AA has the best ff program and DL has the best overall service. Being NYC based i’m a Delta loyalist and recognize theyve made many similar changes to their program in 2015 but I at least enjoy my general flying experience with them and still get comp ug’s as a GM 50% of the time (my 2 UA flights last year SFO->SNA and LAX->SFO were both awful experiences)

    • Back in 2006 I switched from NWA to United, since they had the most nonstops to where I was going at the time, primarily the west coast and Europe. Then, for a few years I was commuting every two to three weeks to London, so the three times a day flights were fantastic. Plus, systemwide upgrades were easy to use, they had good fares, and Star Alliance partner availability was amazing.

      Why haven’t I switched? I was Exec Platinum for a year, and while service was good, I grew really really weary of connecting in Dallas or Miami to go anywhere. Europe? Well, that was an extreme non-starter. Award availability I’ve found to be so-so, and pretty poor in the US overall. BA awards might be nice, but that surcharge is ridiculous. I do love being able to redeem on Qatar, however. So, I’m also considering switching to American this year, since I can route almost all of my trips on Qatar internationally for work too.

      Delta is great too, and I often fly them too. I have Platinum status thanks to AmEx, as well as non-rev benefits when I don’t mind risking it, but the SkyMiles program really really falls shorts. All the downsides of United, and really poor partner availability. That said, I do love the in-flight experience.

      As far as comp upgrades, well, I do very very little domestic travel any more so that’s not really a deciding factor for me. Awards are, as well as multiple useful partners.

  3. I’m generally loyal to Delta (don’t ask me why) and they will waive the annual spend requirement if I make $25,000 in purchases on my Delta Amex. I’m not sure if United similar allows the annual spend to met through a minimum annual credit card spend, but it may be worth looking into. I pay my taxes on my credit cards and satisfy the spend and then don’t have to worry about the amount that I spend on DL flights.

  4. Hey,
    Just perusing your blog since it was one of few on flyertalk about random places I’m going to (next couple weeks for instance- New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji).
    I read this post and I too hope to be in stans this summer- August or September both work for me for Turkmenistan. I don’t know if you are looking for travel buddies but I definitely am, let’s talk if you are interested.
    My blog (much much less frequently updated than yours is theworldwidewebster at wordpress, you can contact me thru there

  5. I’m leaving UA after 20 consecutive years as 1k or Platinum on CO, for all the reasons you stated. Unless you are GS which seems to elude me…. You have become nothing. With million miler status, I have Star Alliance lounge access if I’m flying economy (which I don’t do long haul anyway) and since most of my flights will now be to / from AMS as opposed to IAH, why bother? Crap boarding process, ok-ish seats unless it’s PMUA fleet, inconsistent crews and, notwithstanding recent improvements, sub-par food. And they want to increase my status requirements by over 20%? Their product value hasn’t increased 20%…. I’m done. Actually, I feel pretty pleased about being a free agent… I’ve missed KLM and for intra-euro flying of under two hours, I’ll go to the lowest bidder…

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