United Airlines to Honor Original Partner Elite Qualification Mile Earnings on Flights Already Booked

United Airlines Boeing 757 aircraft lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Photograph ©istockphoto.com by Chris Parypa.

The Gate reported two days ago that United Airlines apparently reduced the number of elite qualification miles earned on certain airfare classes on select partner airlines from as much as 150 percent of miles flown to 100 percent of miles flown.

FlyerTalk member UA Insider — also known as Shannon Kelly, who is the director of customer insights at United Airlines — posted the following official update on FlyerTalk:

“Hi Everyone, I’m sorry we are late to post on this particular topic. Typically, we would have given you a heads up on a change like this, and I apologize for that.

“This past week, on Jan. 1, we adjusted the Premier qualifying mile (PQM) and Premier qualifying segment (PQS) accrual percentages for certain premium cabin and full-fare economy class fares on select Star Alliance member carriers. Before going into the specifics of the change, I’d like to offer some background on it. In March 2012, when we migrated to a single system, we unintentionally increased PQM and PQS earnings for some of our partners to our former OnePass levels, instead of taking them to their intended MileagePlus levels.

“While these higher earning levels remained in effect for the remainder of 2012, we are now reinstating the PQM/PQS earning rates for the following carriers and fare classes to 100% as of Jan. 1, 2013:

  • Air New Zealand (NZ): A, B, C, D, E, J, O, U,Y, Z
  • Asiana (OZ): A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
  • Croatia Airlines (OU): A, B, C, D, F, Y, Z
  • Egyptair (MS): A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
  • LOT (LO): A, C, D, P, Z
  • Singapore (SQ): A, C, D, F, J, P, R, S, Y, Z
  • South African (SA): B, C, D, H, J, K, M, Q, S, Y, Z
  • TAM (JJ): A, B, C, D, F, J , Y, Z
  • TAP (TP): B, C, D, J, Y, Z
  • THAI (TG): A, B, C, D, F, J, P, U, Y, Z
  • Turkish (TK): C, D

“We realize that some of you booked flights on these partners prior to Jan. 1 and were expecting the higher PQM/PQS earnings. In this particular case, given the circumstances, we will honor the higher rates regardless of your travel date. There are a few complexities involved with posting miles at the higher rates, so please bear with us. Specifically, if you booked your ticket through United, we will proactively adjust amounts after their initial posting (typically within a few days of when the original flight is credited). However, if you booked through someone other than United (like another airline or travel agency), you will have to contact the MileagePlus Service Center after your miles have initially posted in order to make the adjustment.

“Also, worth noting, there are still several Star Alliance partners which earn 150% PQM/PQS on select fares, including Copa (CM), Air Canada (AC), ANA (NH), Austrian (OS), Brussels (SN), Lufthansa (LH), SAS (SK), SWISS (LX) and US Airways (US).

It is nice to know that United Airlines will still honor the higher elite qualification mile earnings rates for those who already booked flights for this year on the affected partner airlines and classes — but it is the least United Airlines could do for its customers for not giving advance notice of this policy change, in my opinion. Still — along with the apology — it is a nice gesture which should be followed by other airlines and lodging companies which do not give advanced notice of policy changes to their customers.

I speculated yesterday that perhaps there was a computer error or a test of the system and not an actual change in policy. The reason why I speculated anything is because it is not like Shannon Kelly — who otherwise usually does an excellent job of keeping FlyerTalk members updated and informed as to news and policy changes which affect FlyerTalk members — to not announce anything officially beforehand.

Apparently what happened was that United Airlines adopted the elite qualification mile earnings rates on partner airlines from Continental Airlines when the two airlines formally merged — and now United Airlines has supposedly reverted to the original elite qualification mile earnings rates on partner airlines which was in place before the merger.

While FlyerTalk members are not exactly happy about the new policy change pertaining to elite qualification mile earnings rates on certain partner airlines, they at least are grateful for having earning elite qualification miles on certain partner airlines not change for flights already booked, as well as for receiving an official announcement on the policy change.

This is nothing against United Airlines, but rather just a general thought: I personally believe a change in policy such as this one should be announced well in advance — perhaps two or three months, at least — to give those who are adversely affected by such a change a chance to book their airfares on other airlines if they believe that they would benefit from that and not already be tied to an airline where earning elite status suddenly becomes more difficult for them.

What do you think?

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