In a rather surprising move United has announced its intention to follow Delta and change the way miles are being earned with MileagePlus from March 1st 2015.
Delta announced a similar change a couple of weeks ago – effective January 1st 2015.
As I commented before I do understand the airline's desire to reward the highest spenders. There are just so many high value opportunities to earn miles BESIDES flying it has never been my priority to earn miles from flying.
A United Premier 1K which spends $5,000 on a business class ticket to Europe will get 55,000 miles plus 10,000 extra miles per ticket. As outlined earlier I never understood the tiny extra amount of miles you are receiving when booking business class/full-fare tickets compared to economy tickets.
Now is that a good thing for consumers?
In almost all cases it will mean earning LESS miles from flying. When you follow the deals we highlight here, they are usually priced at 4 cents per mile flown. Airlines are trying to charge an average of 10-11 cents per dollar. A 'deal airfare' of $800 to Jakarta would net you potentially 20,000 miles now but only 8,800 as 1K and just 4,000 for regular members.
The sport called 'mileage running' will be affected for sure.
One way to keep on earning miles based on distance is to make sure your ticket is issued on non-United stock (ticket numbers that don't start with "016"). This usually happens when you buy one or more flights with a partner airline and United is a partner of it. It remains to be seen how easy that will be since most online booking agents do not disclose the ticket stock before purchase.
Earning on Star Alliance partners is not affected. The best fares (Lufthansa/Swiss K fares and Turkish W fares) have already stopped earning any miles. Let's hope some carriers will keep on issuing miles on a mileage based basis.
It is to be expected that American Airlines will announce a similar change to AAdvantage in the near future.
What you should you do now?
Focus on cheap fares that make sense for your travel plans – irrespective of mileage earning.
Focus on earning miles from the non-flying opportunities we have are outlining every day.