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Can DL, UA and AA really call them "miles" anymore?

Can DL, UA and AA really call them "miles" anymore?

Old Nov 29, 15, 8:39 pm
  #1  
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Can DL, UA and AA really call them "miles" anymore?

Apologies if this has been raised, but I find myself looking through sites like Faredealalert and mentally trying to calculate if a fare like, say, ATL-DEN for $116 RT on UA is a good deal.

Irrespective of FF earnings it likely is IF you want to go anyway or have a good reason, but what about incentivizing a trip that wouldn't otherwise happen? But then ya realize the the thing would earn maybe 500 "miles" under the new system rather than at least 2,400 under the old.

And so the question: Should DL, UA and soon AA still be calling them "miles?" Or is that now a misleading term left over from a system that no longer exists?

I think they need to change it. Points, AirRupees, SkyPesos, or invent a term.

This is more than just semantics. If they have to describe it with a new term then it serves as a reminder that things have fundamentally changed (which they have). There's also stiff competition on the credit-card front from points-based programs like US Bank and CapitalOne, so the giant banks with "miles"-based cards may resist it, as they've essentially bought exclusive rights to convert purchases into "miles" directly within the program.

But eliminating distance-based earning in favor of revenue-based would seem to make "miles" patently misleading. Maybe they try to cling to a thread that some things like status qualification are still tied to miles flown, but that's a separate count in which no miles/points/whatever are awarded. The "miles" are a function of revenue, not miles flown.

OTOH, if they have to come up with a more accurate term (revenue points?) going forward it'll remind Joe Sixpack who's been saving up for years for a trip to Hawaii with mostly non-flight points that there's a new order now (and maybe he should adapt, like by getting a cash-back card instead). The only link left to miles was flying for them, and now that's being quashed.

I'm not a lawyer but maybe someone should raise this with 'em.
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Old Nov 29, 15, 10:18 pm
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Can DL, UA and AA really call them "miles" anymore?

They can call it what they want, regardless of what you think. Airlines are a business, and like most big businesses, they specialize in obfuscation. Just like all the made up fees they tack on to awards, hotel resort fees, etc. I remember in the 70's, during the gas crisis, small fuel efficient cars were selling at a premium over the sticker price. There was actually a line item called ADP, and it was tacked on to the bottom line. I discovered later that it stood for "Additional Dealer Profit".
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Old Nov 29, 15, 10:19 pm
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Many words in English have multiple meanings. Get over it.
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Old Nov 29, 15, 11:12 pm
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Originally Posted by Mr. Breakfast View Post
I remember in the 70's, during the gas crisis, small fuel efficient cars were selling at a premium over the sticker price. There was actually a line item called ADP, and it was tacked on to the bottom line. I discovered later that it stood for "Additional Dealer Profit".
Lol, I remember the same thing during the more recent fuel spike, around '03 or '04' when it started? I was working for Volkswagen (America) at the time and many dealerships marked up the diesel VWs with a few grand ADP and at the time there was still a quota as to how many VW could import as a ratio to gasoline versions (EPA B.S.) so supply was very short compared to demand.

Back to the OP, I think continuing with the term miles is fine because (at least for now) status is still earned at a % of miles flown and most overseas partners still are using miles for both redeemable and status miles. For the real frequent flyer the status miles are probably worth significantly more than the redeemable points/miles. That's precisely why Mileage Plus sells extra miles fairly reasonably in conjunction with a ticket but the extra PQM booster is at an exorbitant rate.
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Old Nov 29, 15, 11:58 pm
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Originally Posted by mahasamatman View Post
Many words in English have multiple meanings. Get over it.
Well, believe it or not, even in a country with lax standards like the U.S. there are still ways to get into trouble for misleading advertisements. Look no further than....airlines. They got worse and worse about inventing their own fees (like Spirit's bogus "passenger usage fee" and even trying to make them look like taxes that the actual final price bore no resemblance to the price advertised in big letters. So the DOT, following the lead in other countries, required all-in pricing (of mandatory fees) early on in the Obama administration. The airlines don't like it and will try to get a friendlier administration to undo it against the wishes of customers, but it shows that concepts like transparency and accuracy do matter.

The travel industry in general has a long history of questionable practices generally trying to make something appear cheaper or more beneficial than it actually is, everything from PPDO hotel pricing to car-rent prices advertised in large type with zero included miles to the very business model of some all-inclusives, where the economic incentives are to promise everything and then try to deliver as little as possible (e.g. an open bar but only one per 300 guests, ensuring long lines).

I realize there are caveat-emptor purists who think basically anything should be allowed as long as it's a business doing it (individuals are held to higher standards!), but that's an extreme minority. It's also bad for business because it destroys confidence and makes people so cynical they decide the safest thing to do is stay home or go see relatives by car. If you reward the bad actors then competition results in a race to the bottom, as we've seen in areas like the proliferation of bogus "resort fees" in Las Vegas, even at 1-star hotels. You could do a whole masters thesis on questionable practices just in the travel industry alone and why they keep happening.

I don't expect the situation with the "miles" term to change overnight, but yes, language DOES matter (a lot), and if airlines were proactive they'd see the coming problem with this one. OTOH, assuming proactivity can be as foolhardy as assuming total honesty in marketing, so if I had to bet money I'd say the change would come late and under duress, i.e. only after the general public figures out that a mile flown is no longer a mile earned. People here are only the most-informed tip of the iceberg, and no one is really advertising the changes (unless CapitalOne or someone with a vested interest starts doing so), so awareness will build slowly.
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Old Nov 30, 15, 12:13 am
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Originally Posted by dvs7310 View Post
Back to the OP, I think continuing with the term miles is fine because (at least for now) status is still earned at a % of miles flown and most overseas partners still are using miles for both redeemable and status miles. For the real frequent flyer the status miles are probably worth significantly more than the redeemable points/miles. That's precisely why Mileage Plus sells extra miles fairly reasonably in conjunction with a ticket but the extra PQM booster is at an exorbitant rate.
What percentage of the general public has elite status or even knows it exists and what it means? My guess would be maybe 2% and 10%. While airlines clearly are trying to cater increasingly to the 2%, the credit cards and other tie-ins for non-flying "miles" are trying to incentivize and get revenue from a much, much wider swath. For that much larger group it's a simpler matter of how many miles/points do they get from doing X, and how many does it take to get the award they want. Things like different counting methods for elite status don't even really apply and would totally confuse people anyway.

It may well be that the way most people learn that a mile flown is no longer a mile earned will be through advertising either from a ULCC or a large points-based credit issuer like CapitalOne (which, BTW, has done wonders for awareness of and getting rid of things like blackout dates).
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Old Nov 30, 15, 3:15 am
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Can DL, UA and AA really call them "miles" anymore?

Jetblue, Virgin America and Southwest go by points now that they all have revenue based frequent flyer programs but I dont see the big legacy players changing the name of miles to anything else (although as OP said, I really think they should be called SKYrupees!). Buried in the tiny print of all FF program literature is always the ubiquitous and foretelling "subject to change" statement so they will continue to do whatever they like until it actually hurts business.

As long as air travelers have a choice of carriers and programs to choose from these carriers will do whatever they think they can get away with to maximize revenue and minimize cost.

What most people overlook within all of this is how the carriers have so incredibly diluted their programs by selling them to users of the various co-branded credit cards. Now instead of having to wear out your ... in a cramped seat to get miles you can just spend your way to get them.

While I still enjoy flying and seeing new places and even at times "flying for the sake of flying", I have friends who have been playing the credit card games and have amassed ludicrous amounts of miles and never spend a dime on tickets or hotel rooms. For that sometimes I feel I wish I had listened to their plans a few years back!

So...vote with your butts, if you dont like a carrier for its FF policy then switch to another. If enough people do this then things may (slowly) change. Just dont hold your breath too long and dont think for a minute that the government will step in...unless somehow a congressman gets inconvenienced!
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Old Nov 30, 15, 3:44 am
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A: "Miles" should have been and should be called precisely what they are...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_scrip
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Old Nov 30, 15, 4:46 am
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Originally Posted by RustyC View Post
Apologies if this has been raised, but I find myself looking through sites like Faredealalert and mentally trying to calculate if a fare like, say, ATL-DEN for $116 RT on UA is a good deal.

Irrespective of FF earnings it likely is IF you want to go anyway or have a good reason, but what about incentivizing a trip that wouldn't otherwise happen? But then ya realize the the thing would earn maybe 500 "miles" under the new system rather than at least 2,400 under the old.

And so the question: Should DL, UA and soon AA still be calling them "miles?" Or is that now a misleading term left over from a system that no longer exists?
They have always been misleading. The base reward might have been to receive 1 "mile" for each mile you travelled, but each "mile" in your account NEVER entitled you to 1 mile of travel. The value of them has and remains in the redemption, not in the accrual. So as the distance that you could travel for each "mile", was never a mile, they are no more "not miles", than has been the case for a long long time.
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Old Nov 30, 15, 8:42 am
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Originally Posted by RustyC View Post
This is more than just semantics.
No, it's not.

Originally Posted by RustyC View Post
I'm not a lawyer but maybe someone should raise this with 'em.
No, they shouldn't.
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Old Dec 2, 15, 9:54 am
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If you don't like the fact that they use the word "Miles", don't fly with them.

That'll show 'em.
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Old Dec 2, 15, 2:31 pm
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Yea I think this is just semantics.
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Old Dec 3, 15, 7:03 am
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Originally Posted by RustyC View Post
And so the question: Should DL, UA and soon AA still be calling them "miles?" Or is that now a misleading term left over from a system that no longer exists?

I think they need to change it. Points, AirRupees, SkyPesos, or invent a term.

This is more than just semantics. If they have to describe it with a new term then it serves as a reminder that things have fundamentally changed (which they have). There's also stiff competition on the credit-card front from points-based programs like US Bank and CapitalOne, so the giant banks with "miles"-based cards may resist it, as they've essentially bought exclusive rights to convert purchases into "miles" directly within the program.
You don't seem to realize that Capital One calls their points program "miles", and that has even less to do with miles (since you only earn them from credit card use, not from flying, and since you can redeem for any travel, including hotels where you stay put).

Why complain about airlines which still gives you "miles" for flying (even if not necessarily 1 miles for flying 1 mile) when there are credit cards that claim to give "miles" when it has nothing to do with flying (or driving, or taking a train, or anything involving actual miles of travel)?

And Capital One is no longer the only one. Discover card now calls its own points "miles" even when they're basically cashback!

So it's obvious that there's no legal definition of "miles", and thus anyone can use the term however they want.

Meanwhile, are you aware that you can still earn actual distance-based miles for UA and DL tickets that are purchased through partners, or that are bought in combination with something else (like flight + hotel or flight + rental car "vacation packages"). UA and DL either cannot or don't want to give you miles based on cost when the ticket was not bought (for a flight alone) on UA or DL ticket stock. So even in your logic, why can't they can them miles if you can still earn them based on the distance you fly, even if only under certain circumstances?
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Old Dec 5, 15, 6:18 am
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To paraphrase William Shakespeare, "Highway robbery by any other name would suck as much."

Originally Posted by Mr. Breakfast View Post
They can call it what they want, regardless of what you think. Airlines are a business, and like most big businesses, they specialize in obfuscation. Just like all the made up fees they tack on to awards, hotel resort fees, etc. I remember in the 70's, during the gas crisis, small fuel efficient cars were selling at a premium over the sticker price. There was actually a line item called ADP, and it was tacked on to the bottom line. I discovered later that it stood for "Additional Dealer Profit".
Originally Posted by Mr. Breakfast View Post
They can call it what they want, regardless of what you think. Airlines are a business, and like most big businesses, they specialize in obfuscation. Just like all the made up fees they tack on to awards, hotel resort fees, etc. I remember in the 70's, during the gas crisis, small fuel efficient cars were selling at a premium over the sticker price. There was actually a line item called ADP, and it was tacked on to the bottom line. I discovered later that it stood for "Additional Dealer Profit".
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Old Dec 5, 15, 7:21 am
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Originally Posted by AlohaDaveKennedy View Post
To paraphrase William Shakespeare, "Highway robbery by any other name would suck as much."
Indeed!

I agree with others in that I don't see how it matters what they label their loyalty currency/scrip, whether it's based on distance or revenue. It's not misleading since the program T&Cs clearly describe the basis for earning those miles, which is now or will be revenue-based.
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