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Before You Start Crediting Your United Flights to Other Programs, Consider This…

I’m seeing a bunch of posts elsewhere about crediting your United flights to other programs after the change to a revenue-based program next year.

Be careful about that.

In general people who fly more than 25,000 miles a year on United would still want to get status on United (upgrades, ability to grab Economy Plus seats for free), so I would be surprised if someone flying more than 25,000 miles a year would credit their flights elsewhere because of their fear of missing out on some miles. But either way…

Here is my concern:

If you credit your miles elsewhere, you will end up orphaning miles in another program. It will be difficult to earn exactly the number of miles you need for a trip, so some miles will likely be orphaned wherever you move them to. So you’re not really gaining all the miles you think you are.

If you already have United miles, the miles you add to those miles make a greater range of trips possible. In other words, adding 14,000 miles to your 52,000 miles means you can fly round trip to Europe. Adding 19,000 miles to Turkish Airlines’ program won’t get you a trip to Europe.

If you’re not flying that much, do you really want to manage multiple programs? To gain, what, 10,000 additional miles that you may end up orphaning anyway?

I could be convinced that it would make sense to credit your United flights to another program MAYBE if you earn the miles you need for a very specific trip, so that you’re earning and spending those miles quickly. But to earn 19,000 miles with the possibility of orphaning them (which means not only do you basically lose those miles, you didn’t get the lesser number of miles you could have earned by crediting to United) is not a risk I’m willing to take.

The reality is this: for some people they will earn fewer miles when they fly United (or Delta). For most people who have status, you may end up a bit worse, or you may end up a bit better (for everyone who complains about the $400 Transcon that only earns 2,000 miles, as a Gold I’ll now earn 2,400 miles for that $300 ticket to Detroit). In any case, for the infrequent flyer, having to manage multiple programs and take the risk of losing those miles, I just don’t believe it’s worth it.

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  1. Upgrades after 25K flight miles? SRSLY?

    I’m a Platinum – I don’t get them most of the time. Silver? Ha!

    And Econ+? If you’re Silver, maybe a middle seat sometimes. Maybe.

    • I’m Silver and I’m only occasionally upgraded, true. But I’ve gotten e+ every flight this year. As a gold I always got e+.

    • Yeah, Silver isn’t worth much, especially since you can get a credit card that gives it to you. But Gold is extremely valuable, allowing you to select seats – including exit rows or bulkheads – at time of booking. Upgrades for Gold are fairly sparse (and non-existent on transcons) but the ability to choose a seat that isn’t claustrophobic and where I might* be able to get work done keeps me loyal.

      *if the person sitting next to me fits in their seat. If not, I’m not going to be comfortable no matter how much legroom I have.

  2. Once again, a voice of reason in the midst of hyperbole. Keep it simple! As a low-tier flier on one airline a year, I’ll just stay with UAL and take my lumps until something really attractive presents itself. Thanks, Jared!

  3. Best analysis is the blogosphere. Keep up the good work!

  4. Hey Platinums: don’t make generalizations and say they apply to everyone, especially if you’re talking about a group you aren’t even in! ;) I got upgraded on my very first flight after becoming Silver (and no, that hasn’t been the only one).
    Now, it was out of LAS at 6am on a Thursday. I’ll give you that it’s an odd flight. But not all of us are flying transcon hub to hub on Fridays and Sundays.

    My Silver status, pathetic as it may appear to you gods of the sky, does make a difference to me and my flying loyalty, I do get upgraded occasionally (I’m not foolish enough to think that I deserve ANY upgrades, even if I was Gold or Platinum), and I have without fail gotten aisle E+ seats as desired at check in.
    I won’t get any of these benefits if I credit to Turkish, etc, so I’m sticking with it for now.

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