Well, it’s happened. The first frequent flier program to officially change to a revenue-based accrual model in 2013 is… Sun Country’s Ufly. Yeah, not earth-shattering at all for most readers.
And in doing a little background on the program, it appears the previous incarnation of Ufly was more akin to the former Southwest system where a flight – no matter the distance – earned a set number of points. Five points were awarded for coach travel and seven points for first class. Once you racked up 100 points, you were eligible for a free ticket.
Now, Ufly members will earn 10 points per dollar on the base airfare. Redemptions start at 6,500 points and Sun Country revenue manages those redemptions based on peak/off-peak flight demand, distance and other factors as shown in their example chart below.
So if I wanted a weeklong trip from Minneapolis to Orlando leaving on a Saturday, it would cost me 40,000 points roundtrip, the equivalent of spending at least $4,000 on base fares to accrue that amount of points. Perhaps that is indeed a fair price, but it’s shocking to me as a mileage-based junkie who earns similar free tickets at much lower spend. But again, that’s just me… a flier who needs to wake up and smell the eventual new reality.
Which Legacy U.S. Airline Will Be the First to Throw Down?
Many airlines, especially non-U.S. carriers, have had revenue-based programs for years. And it’s increasingly likely our beloved mileage-based programs here in the U.S. are slowly on the way out.
Southwest now has a revenue-based model, Virgin America launched Elevate from the get-go as such and rumors (I really should say all-but-certain-truths) abound that the legacy airlines will follow suit. Delta is frequently named as the large airline most likely to come to bat first with the change.
And call me crazy, but I read into the introduction in my United Airlines Premier 1K credentials kit that arrived last week (bolding mine):
Congratulations on achieving MileagePlus Premier 1K status. We truly value your travel spending and flight activity with United, and we look forward to providing you with exceptional privileges to make your experiences with us more rewarding.
A quick glance at previous years’ kits didn’t have the “travel spending” language. They were more flowery with words or phrases like “loyalty” and “your business.”
I think Delta will definitely be first to announce a change, followed by United. Depending on what happens with a possible American-US Airways merger, I think they’re both just too busy to work it out this year.
Which major airline do you think will be first?