Ben over at One Mile at a Time gave many of us quite a shock last night when he posted details of the Mileage Plus program rumored to begin in 2012. Here’s a summary of what he learned:
As for upgrade priority, the all mighty fare value on each segment will be the primary metric among the elite ranks as far as who gets the seat. Additionally, mileage upgrades with a co-pay will take priority over elites using Systemwide Upgrades or Regional Upgrades.
Back in June I postulated that the time would be near where airlines here in the United States would attempt to changeup the method by which they grant elite status. It’s no secret to them just how many of us reap the benefits of top-tier status at such an insignificant spend each year, but I would have guessed the changes would be restricted to making the low fare buckets accrue a fraction of total elite qualifying miles or segments. The program as outlined above takes the game to a new level, and while it will definitely be a huge impact to bottom feeders like myself, I (shudder) absolutely agree with the revenue contribution portion.
Seth over at The Wandering Aramean couldn’t paint a clearer picture with respect to the rationality of this probable change. The cost to United to break even on a flown seat is about 17 cents per mile. To put it in perspective, that equates to a $297 one-way fare from Los Angeles to Chicago. I can honestly say that with a few isolated exceptions, I have never been a profitable customer with United Airlines. In fact, I’m taking them for a free ride ten times over in First Class.
Gary from View From the Wing perfectly explains the portion of the change I absolutely disagree with. Namely, the upgrade priority for any given flight will fall exclusively with the elite passenger holding the highest fare. The new cry would become “Don’t tase me, bro!” “I am not my fare!” I don’t think an airline should penalize their highest elites in cases where, for example, they’re taking their entire family on vacation and purchased a discounted fare in advance. True road warriors who purchase the highest fares on business trips should not be penalized in instances they buy a cheaper ticket. There is no “loyalty” in this scenario. United, please don’t do this.
As far as the reduced bonus mileage, well… again, I tend to agree with it and in fact; it WAS that way years ago. Just glancing over my lifetime mileage summary I see in cases where I was a 50,000-miler, I received only a 50% bonus. We’ve been spoiled with 100% bonuses as mid-tier elites, so United seems to be the carrier to first give this reduction a shot.
Finally, let me say that I don’t think this will take effect for the 2012 program year, but rather will be published as the requirement to achieve elite status in 2013 and beyond. Next year is the transition year and I’d put money down that United will give us the tools (revenue tracking) beginning January 1 to track our progress. Otherwise, they had better damn well take down the “progress tracker” at the top of everyone’s My Mileage Plus page today. Don’t get me wrong, I as a mileage runner would hate this program, but as a realistic businessperson I agree with the revenue requirements. What say you?