With United’s new revenue-based frequent flyer program for earning miles from flying, you earn miles based on the price of your ticket and not based on the distance you fly when traveling on United.
- The ‘break-even’ price to earn the same miles in 2015 that you would have earned in 2014 is a ticket that costs about 20 cents per mile.
- But United’s average fare is significantly less than 15 cents per miles.
- So on average folks are positioned to earn fewer miles from their flying under the new program.
As a result, it is worth asking whether — if you must fly United — to credit those miles to the MileagePlus program or to credit to a partner airline.
If you are going to earn elite status, credit to United. You may earn fewer miles, but you can still earn status (the revenue requirement for status equates to just 12 cents per mile). You’ll get some upgrades, free checked bags, and airport priority. And elite status bonuses for flown miles help close the gap with what you’ll earn through other programs.
But if you’re an occasional United flyer, you may do better elsewhere. There are still programs out there that will award you with more miles for your United flights than United will.
Unfortunately, one of those options has gone away. Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles used to award 100% flown miles (at least) on all United fares. They no longer do (HT: Daniel W.)
Here are two good options to consider:
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
Singapore allows you to earn 100% flown miles on all United flights. (.pdf)
Singapore adds fuel surcharges to awards. Their website is frustrating — you can only book Singapore’s own flights online, and will have difficulty booking awards in mixed classes of service that way.
But they do offer a 15% discount for online bookings. And there’s really one primary use of their miles — that’s that Singapore offers much much much better award availability on their own flights for their own members.
Sure it’s still tough to get 2 first class award seats on their A380 from US destinations to and from Asia. But it’s not impossible. And suites class between other cities are easier. First (on their 777s) and business class awards have better availability.
If you want to fly Singapore Airlines, which really has one of the world’s best first class products, the way to do it is with Singapore’s own miles. And availability is outstanding.
- San Francisco – Hong Kong in ‘suites class’ is 70,125 miles one-way.
- Houston – Moscow in first class is 57,375 miles one-way.
- New York JFK – Frankfurt in suites class is 57,375 miles one-way.
You can have one enroute stopover on a roundtrip award as well.
Other useful awards:
- US – Hawaii costs 35,000 miles roundtrip in coach, 60,000 miles roundtrip up front (no fuel surcharges)
- North America domestic first class awards cost just 40,000 miles roundtrip (no fuel surcharges)
- North America – Europe is 130,000 miles roundtrip in business class; 160,000 miles roundtrip in first.
- North America – Middle East is 115,000 miles roundtrip in business class, 150,000 miles roundtrip in first.
- South Africa is 145,000 miles roundtrip in business class.
American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Starpoints transfer to Singapore. And Chase does too now and so does Citi. That makes Singapore miles among the easiest to get, and easiest to combine with the occasional United flight.
Singapore miles expire after 3 years — not 3 years of account activity, but 3 years after earning. So you need to earn miles, top off via transfers in from other programs, and redeem if you go this route.
Copa Airlines ConnectMiles
Copa — which used to just use United’s MileagePlus as its frequent flyer program — has launched its own.
- They promise 1 mile = 1 mile “never less.”
- Their elite status doesn’t have a revenue requirement
- Top elites earn upgrade certificates that can be used on United
We don’t yet know what their Star Alliance award chart looks like, or whether there will be fuel surcharges (although most programs in the region do not). Their elite status does require flying at least 4 Copa segments, so one roundtrip that connects in say Panama City suffices.
We’ll know more once it’s possible to sign up for the program in May. But for now you can sign up for their email list, and when you use the same address with your new ConnectMiles account you’ll receive 1000 free miles.