Earning one million miles doesn’t mean what it used to. I personally have a few million miles spread across multiple accounts. Gary at View from the Wing claims to have a few million miles just with American Airlines. In fact, the movie adaptation of Up in the Air had to change the main character’s goal of 1 million miles (from the book) to 10 million to make it seem more believable.
Million miler programs are meant to recognize lifetime loyalty to an airline, not just year to year, but they have been devalued repeatedly as this status becomes easier to achieve. American used to award million miler status for all miles, even those earned through its partners or credit cards. United used to include bonus miles earned from premium fares. Carriers have also reduced the benefits of lifetime status; if what you earned is “lifetime Gold” then just change the definition of the Gold tier.
An anonymous poster on FlyerTalk claims that United has found a way to devalue its million miler program even further. While this is unfounded speculation, there is some good reasoning at the end.
Update: UA Insider has denied the rumor on FlyerTalk, saying, “There are no plans to change the Million Miler program.”
At its core, all million miler tiers will drop one notch. For example, you can currently earn lifetime Premier Gold status (normally 50,000 miles per year) after 1 million flown miles. This will now earn you only lifetime Premier Silver. It follows that 2 million miles will earn lifetime Gold, 3 million miles will earn lifetime Platinum, and 4 million miles will earn lifetime 1K. Here’s the current million miler program:
I personally know someone who earned lifetime Global Services at 4 million miles. This will no longer be a published tier, but it will be available to some people by invitation.
Global Premier Upgrades and Regional Premier Upgrades will not be provided to people who have lifetime Platinum or 1K status just by virtue of that lifetime status. They’ll need to actually fly the 75,000 or 100,000 miles to earn the upgrades.
What doesn’t change? Anyone who already has lifetime status will be grandfathered in. You’ll also continue to be able to share your lifetime status with a companion.
Is This Real?
The original poster says he was skeptical until he took a look at the current million miler programs run by Delta and American. Each of those is more similar to what United is rumored to be proposing. American offers just Gold status (the equivalent of Silver at other airlines) when you reach 1 million miles.
Delta offers Silver status at 1 million, and sticks with Gold at both 2 and 3 million. Platinum isn’t available until 4 million miles, twice as many miles as United currently requires. You never reach lifetime Diamond.
It really isn’t hard to see how United is a little generous when it comes to lifetime status.
Just looking at United’s own program, I can understand why it would make some of the other changes. I commented this morning that I wanted to turn down my match to Premier 1K and accept Platinum as a substitute. One rationale is that I wasn’t giving up much: United doesn’t offer upgrades to status match recipients until they earn that status for real. This existing policy matches the proposed policy for lifetime elites.
I’ve also been a little surprised since United started offering lifetime Global Services status. This has always been an invitation-only tier with somewhat vague requirements. To create such a clear path to earning it through lifetime status seemed contradictory. It’s much more consistent to make it invitation-only just like it is from year to year.
As it is, all we have right now is rumor. Believable rumor, but still nothing you can take to the bank. If you are close to million miler status it might be worth squeezing in an extra mileage run or two. But don’t add hundreds of thousands of miles to your schedule just yet.