As you may have heard by now, United “shocked” us all by changing the terms of how to earn miles on their flights starting March 2015. To be honest, I wasn’t too surprised when I heard about it but was kind of bewildered at how they blatantly copied the Delta SkyMiles program. It’s almost like someone at United procrastinated on his/her project until 5 minutes before it was due and just went to the Delta site to copy their work. I mean, I always had a friend I could count on in high school to copy work from at the last minute too!
Before I get off topic, I want to start by saying that these devaluations might be a good thing. For the vast majority of people in this hobby, we do crazy things to earn points. We fly around in circles all over the country and even abroad just to gain miles and elite status which, I have come to despise after years worth of mileage running. However, now that United has closed down the need for mileage running, we are left with two options.
Option 1: Credit to another program
If you want to credit to another program in Star Alliance, it needs to be one that is close to or similar to what the United program offered. To me, the closest would be Aeroplan because it has roughly the same number of mileage redemption options and their charts are similarly aligned. However, United truly was the best program to use your miles in due to the fact that there were no fuel surcharges added on all Star Alliance carriers. With Aeroplan, a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe can cost close to $1000 on Lufthansa plus 90,000 miles! With United, you’d forego the fuel surcharge in exchange of using more miles. (115,000)
Option 2: Manufacture Spend
Now I admit, some people hate manufactured spending. I mean, if I looked at it from the outside, who would want to spend countless hours a week waiting in line with people like this:
The fact of the matter is that Manufactured Spend and credit card signups will be the bulk of where people who don’t fly frequently will earn miles. If you want to stay in this game, you need to understand where it is headed. When I used to book award tickets, the majority of people who wanted to use my services were people who were new to the game and had just signed up for the latest bonus credit card offers. These people didn’t mileage run but had balances over 500,000 miles at times. They didn’t get these by flying but simply being smart and playing the game that all of us talk about.
Whether its getting a family to Europe for the summer or going to Asia to see a few different countries, everyone has a story. For years, people who earned points with credit cards have been reaping the rewards that should have been available to those who truly flew frequently. Today, that has changed. It has always been and will continue to be about the money. Airlines will turn to people who spend versus people who aimlessly fly from Los Angeles to Chicago via Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta and Miami in one ticket. Today, a random person can earn more miles by spending $5,000 on a credit card versus someone who is flying 10 times cross country. Both of these miles also happen to have the same value if you don’t care about status.
It wasn’t until I started to Manufacture Spend that everything really came into perspective. It now costs pennies on the dollar to fly First Class and I don’t have to even step on a plane to earn miles. I have even gotten to the point of valuing goods as “this only costs 3 trips to CVS.” This is where the problem lies and airlines like Delta and United are realizing it. As partnerships with credit card and third party companies increase, the need to credit people who fly decreases. I applaud both airlines for finally realizing that they should credit their most loyal paying customers. After all, they are the ones that deserve the sub par food, 1980’s style domestic first class seats, “priority” boarding and other “amenities” that are offered.
The biggest question on my mind is whether or not these programs will keep their award charts the same or change them. It will take a really long time for the average flyer to get 160,000 miles at the new revenue based model. That is unless, you’re a 1K who pays thousands for your airlines tickets. I believe that United will change their award chart and actually have two for United metal flights and partner flights.
I really do believe that the only way to sustain travel on miles for the average person is to either sign up for a billion credit cards or just do some manufactured spending. Now, Marathon Man might hate me for saying this but as I have said before, there is plenty to go around. It’s all about how we treat this next endeavor that matters. We need to collectively understand this hobby and help those who don’t. It will not only benefit us all but it will also make sure people don’t hand over gift cards to Wal-Mart cashiers asking what to do with them. It’s either that or jumping alliances to different airlines every year until eventually, they all go revenue based. It’s time to pick your poison and just stick with it. The game is changing and it is going back to the roots. Reward the people who actually need to fly and reward others occasionally by spending elsewhere.
What are your thoughts of where this game is headed? Am I wrong or did I miss anything in my thought process?