Frequent Flyer

United Cuts (and Complicates) Partner Earning Rates

Beginning in March, travelers will earn significantly fewer miles when flying on discounted coach tickets on most MileagePlus partner airlines.

It’s been a bad week for members of major airline loyalty programs.

First, there was the announcement from British Airways that, from April 28, mileage-earning rates on discounted coach tickets would be slashed, from 100 percent of the actually flown miles to just 25 percent.

Now we have the new mileage-earning charts for MileagePlus partner airlines, just posted to United’s website.

Very much like the new earning rates for British Airways flights, the new MileagePlus scheme, effective on March 1, mostly leaves earnings for pricier tickets untouched, or increases them. But for discounted coach tickets on most MileagePlus partner airlines, travelers will earn significantly less.

Take as an example All Nippon Airways. Currently, MileagePlus members earn 100 percent of actually flown miles for most coach tickets, 125 percent for full coach, 150 percent for discount business, 175 percent for full business, and 250 percent for first. Here’s what program members will earn under the new scheme:

  • Deep discount coach (K) – 25%
  • Deep discount coach (V, W, S, L, T) – 50%
  • Discount coach (U, H, Q) – 75%
  • Coach (E) – 100%
  • Coach (B, M) – 125%
  • Full coach (Y) – 150%
  • Discount business (Z, P) – 150%
  • Business (D) – 250%
  • Business (J, C) – 300%
  • Discount first (A) – 300%
  • First (F) – 350%

So the new earning scheme will explode to 11 categories, from five currently, awarding significantly fewer miles for cheaper tickets, and more miles for more expensive tickets.

The changes to ANA’s earning rates are broadly similar to those set to take effect at more than 30 MileagePlus partner airlines. But each airline’s rates are slightly different, making it a real chore to keep up with which carriers award how many miles for which fare types.

The changes are part of the larger trend toward more closely aligning frequent-flyer awards with customers’ spend, with predictable consequences: The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and everyone has to deal with a mind-numbing level of complexity.

Reader Reality Check

At what point do increasing complexity and diminishing awards make loyalty programs a non-factor in your travel planning?

This article originally appeared on

By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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