United Airlines will move from awarding miles based on the distance flown to price of a ticket (including carrier surcharges but excluding taxes) starting on March 1, 2015.
This means that most United MileagePlus members will earn a lot less unless they are flying on expensive short haul flights or non-discounted business class tickets. United has capped the number of miles earned per ticket at 75,000 miles.
You can access United’s web page for this change here.
Base members earn 5 miles per USD, Silver ones 7, Gold ones 8, Platinum ones 9 and 1K’s 11.
Let’s take JFK-LAX return as an example. The price of a return ticket before taxes must be greater than $990 for the base member to earn the same number of miles.
The international flight earnings will be cut a lot. If you take a flight LAX-EWR-TLV. The ticket price for a base member must be more than $3,258 to earn the same number of miles compared to what he/she would earn right now.
United promises more way to use miles as well.
Note that this only affect earnings for United and United Express flights and partner airline flights that aren’t issued on United ticket stock starting with 016. It is unclear how they prorate the revenue for tickets issues other than United for flights on United. Also, it is unclear how this will impact COPA that used United MileagePlus as their frequent flier program.
This means that most of the MileagePlus members will earn a LOT less than previously. Only fliers that always fly on short haul flights or expensive international ones may benefit from this change.
Overall, this is huge negative for MileagePlus members that may now be better off by ticketing and flying on foreign carriers when crediting to United than flying on United itself.
Delta started this by making similar announcement back in February (read more here). The question remains if American will introduce something similar for 2015 year or if they delay it by a year due to program merger with US Airways.