A word of caution about mileage accrual on United Airlines direct flights

A couple of weeks ago, I flew legacy Continental Airlines from Los Angeles to Houston and overheard the gate agent at LAX announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll shortly begin boarding for flight XXXX to Houston with continuing service to Denver…” I was a bit taken back by the fairly significant backtrack routing for the flight’s continuation to Denver and I doubted anyone – besides a mileage runner – would be taking this “direct” flight to Denver.

Last week, a reader contacted me about his same-day mileage run flying DEN-SEA-IAD-DEN and he was concerned over the mileage accrual showing up on his online reservation for the SEA-IAD-DEN portion. It, oddly enough, is another rather circuitous “direct” flight using the same flight number.

Early last year – or maybe it was in 2010 – United switched its policy about mileage accrual when taking a direct flight to provide credit for each segment’s mileage flown. It was a happy day for many, but it appears now we’re back to the old (or rather, Continental’s) policy.

My reader called United and received confirmation that he would only get the 1,020 miles for flying SEA-IAD-DEN, so ended up cancelling the reservation as losing the originally expected 2,724 more Premier Qualifying Miles made the trip pointless.

I find it just crazy that United is recycling flight numbers like this, so let my reader’s loss come as a word of caution to those who aren’t familiar with how direct flights will now be credited.

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  1. Luckily for me, I was not aware of the change in 2010 or 2011 – so I just kept on avoiding direct flights. I’m not sure why they are recycling flight numbers, but I suspect that they are short. Same reason they may use the same flight number Hub-Boonies-Hub on Express flights. They also seem to use new sets of flight numbers with every timetable change – presumably to defeat the on-time statistics record keeping.

    • @Biggles209: I’m thinking they’re short of flight numbers, too.
      @Jimmy: I’m anxious to hear of first-hand reports, but do believe that was the CO policy. I’d love for a post-trip report from a reader confirming/denying.

  2. I had that happen on a DEN-ORD-GRR flight. Had a plane change in ORD, and only received the actual 136 miles for ORD-GRR instead of the minimum 500 that the leg normally gets when not connected to a direct flight.

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