Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Miles&Points > Airlines and Mileage Programs > United Airlines | MileagePlus
Reload this Page >

Does being a United frequent flyer make any sense in my situation?

Does being a United frequent flyer make any sense in my situation?

Old May 13, 19, 7:32 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Asia
Programs: United
Posts: 12
Question Does being a United frequent flyer make any sense in my situation?

I live overseas and come back to the States twice a year. I enrolled in United's FF program because my father said I was stupid to let money go down the drain like that. I replied that I would never make enough points to get free flights, and not being a FF preserved my flexibility in choosing flights. Long story short, he won the argument and I enrolled. You'd think with these big long flights I'd be rolling in the miles by now. Nope. Turns out, they don't measure by the miles you traveled but the money you spent. This probably sounds stupid to all of you professionals but it was a surprise to me.

I have a grand total of 19,870 miles since December 2016. It was my goal to eventually be able to upgrade to business class for one of my big cross-ocean flights but that seems out of reach. They want 30k miles plus $550 for that. I don't fly domestically so that's out. Does it even make sense for me to keep flying on United? Or should I forget about trying to accumulate miles and spread it around? I ask since my summer trip is coming up, and I see that there's a nonstop flight into DFW on American. United is the typical one-stop flight that adds another 5-6 hours to the trip duration.
Just in Economy is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 7:43 am
  #2  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: MSP
Programs: DL PM, UA Gold, WN, Global Entry; +others wherever miles/points are found
Posts: 11,344
On the face of it, you had nothing to lose by enrolling in UA MP if you were flying United anyway. It's actually a very good FFP for the casual accumulation of miles; as long as you accrue at least once every 18 months (or do any of several $2 tricks) your miles will never expire and they will eventually be good for something someday. You can get free one-way flights starting from something like 6k miles now, with 12.5k being a more common threshold. (You can fly a nonstop Star Alliance flight outside of North America for 8k if it's 800 miles or less in length.)

This is not really a climate that rewards loyalty of low-profit customers though. Even if you had your 30k miles, you would quickly find it extremely difficult to upgrade a segment to Business (the upgrade would waitlist and odds are it would never clear), not to mention that for the cost of the waitlist you would be better off buying Business outright (I'm assuming you are based in Europe, which has seen many deals to the US in J below EUR 1,600 return). Really, you have to ask yourself what's the opportunity cost of flying United? It sounds like you won't be making status any time soon, so the benefits are going to be exceedingly small.
BearX220, jsloan and Aussienarelle like this.
findark is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 7:45 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 2,024
Originally Posted by Just in Economy View Post
I live overseas and come back to the States twice a year. I enrolled in United's FF program because my father said I was stupid to let money go down the drain like that. I replied that I would never make enough points to get free flights, and not being a FF preserved my flexibility in choosing flights. Long story short, he won the argument and I enrolled. You'd think with these big long flights I'd be rolling in the miles by now. Nope. Turns out, they don't measure by the miles you traveled but the money you spent. This probably sounds stupid to all of you professionals but it was a surprise to me.

I have a grand total of 19,870 miles since December 2016. It was my goal to eventually be able to upgrade to business class for one of my big cross-ocean flights but that seems out of reach. They want 30k miles plus $550 for that. I don't fly domestically so that's out. Does it even make sense for me to keep flying on United? Or should I forget about trying to accumulate miles and spread it around? I ask since my summer trip is coming up, and I see that there's a nonstop flight into DFW on American. United is the typical one-stop flight that adds another 5-6 hours to the trip duration.
I doubt anyone can give you a quality answer without knowing if you travel to places other than the USA. Care to share?

Apart from that, there's no downside in being a Mileage Plus member. It doesn't force you to fly United.
JimInOhio is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 8:09 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Programs: UA Plat, BA Gold
Posts: 1,582
I would say that unless you have some specific goal in mind, to pick based on the route and times that works best for you at the best price. That said, I would also suggest to avoid LCCs if you can afford to, and belong to the frequent flyer programs of all the airlines you do fly. You never know when the miles might be useful, and I think it is good if the airline has your information in their records as a FF (for example, to have your passport on file, or if you were in the US, your precheck and known traveler numbers, and to get special offers). I accumulate them on a handful of airlines and they do add up over time. On one airline, not UA, I have a large stack of miles dating from compensation on multiple IRROPs on a single trip, almost enough for a saver award in TATL business class.
Artpen100 is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 8:27 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 3,359
There's two reasons to join any frequent flyer program: Elite Benefits that accrue from having status and points which can be used to book award flights (particularly useful for last minute redemptions).

For the former, you need to be flying at least 25,000 miles on United and star alliance partners to earn any status (i.e. Silver which gets you additional free baggage allowance and free E+ seating on UA flights). Realistically, though, status only makes sense if you're flying 50,000 miles per year on United and *A partners like Singapore, Asiana, ANA, Air Canada, Lufthansa, etc, since that would earn you Gold status with its lounge access, free E+ seating at booking, additional checked bag across all *A partners, free same day changes on UA flights, etc. If you end up clocking in that type of milage you'll really appreciate the benefits from being a UA Gold. The IRROPs handling by itself is worth the price of admission (i.e. if you mis-connect or your travel is impacted by "controllable" factors like weather, *A airlines will put you up in a hotel, give you meals, etc.) since you'll inevitably encounter one of those.

The second part, is frequent flyer miles which can be used to book award flights. Your pop is right that you should be collecting those miles given it's free money (so to speak). The real question you should be asking yourself there is which frequent flyer program to credit to. For instance, suppose you are based in Japan, then maybe the ANA MilageClub would make sense for crediting the miles to since you'll be able to earn miles domestically in Japan using ANA credit cards/promotions along with the UA and other *A flights you credit to your MilageClub account. Ideally you should identify the *A milage program that make the most sense for you and always credit there.

Keep in mind different people have different travel needs and no one person's answer will be right for you. Case in point, I credit flights taken on *A partners to UA since I can easily hit that 50,000 mile threshold per year and for the places I'm going to, *A tends to be the cheapest. On the other hand, as a Canadian, I also have a rival Aeroplan account which is used to collect frequent flyer miles from my various Canadian travel credit cards. At the same time, I have a British Airways Executive Club account which is used to collect miles from my Canadian travel credit cards as well. When it comes to booking award travel, I can then look into each program and see which one offers the best redemption. Granted, I have invested more into researching all of this than the ordinary payment traveller. However, in my instance of somewhat frequent long haul travel it works. What works for you will likely be quite different than this!

Safe Travels,

James
FlyerTalker70 is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 9:40 am
  #6  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 14,615
Originally Posted by Just in Economy View Post
I ask since my summer trip is coming up, and I see that there's a nonstop flight into DFW on American. United is the typical one-stop flight that adds another 5-6 hours to the trip duration.
I'd join American's program (or a partner program like BA's) and fly them if they make more sense. Flying UA when it's inconvenient isn't gaining you anything. You're right that you're not likely to get an upgrade anytime soon, so don't stress over it.

In other words, you and your father are both correct. You're correct that you should be free to pick the most convenient flights, and he's correct that there's little reason not to sign up for a frequent flyer program that covers each flight. Most of us have membership in at least one program in each of the three major alliances (Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam). That way, no matter which airline we fly on a given trip, we're able to get credit for it.

Just, make sure that you know the expiration policies, so that you don't accidentally watch your miles disappear. That's even worse than watching them accumulate slowly.
jsloan is online now  
Old May 13, 19, 9:44 am
  #7  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: PHX/SFO
Programs: AA EXP; AS 75K; WN A List; UA 1K 1MM; Hyatt Globalist; Marriott AMB; Hilton Diamond (Aspire)
Posts: 45,828
In your situation, I would choose flights based on quality of product, price, and schedule. You may wish to stretch your horizons beyond UA or AA for long-haul international, as many foreign carriers offer a substantially better experience in economy class.
jsloan and Baley like this.
Kacee is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 9:55 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: London & Sonoma CA
Programs: UA 1K(until 2022), MM *G for life, Hertz PC, BAEC Silver
Posts: 9,013
As a UA Flyer living abroad, I also enrolled my children in the program and both fly to the USA perhaps twice a year. It has made no sense to either and they are now enrolled in different programs which suit their needs better. One is based in London and earns principally on BA with some VS. The other is based in Hong Kong and is enrolled principally in CX but I think maintains the UA account for the odd *A flight. But it might be different if the OP is based somewhere where *A is strong.
jsloan likes this.
lhrsfo is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 10:16 am
  #9  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: ORD/MDW
Programs: BA/AA/AS/B6/WN/ UA/HH/MR and more like 'em but most felicitously & importantly MUCCI
Posts: 19,116
OP, you're a classic example of a customer who will find greater value / rewards in being disloyal, and shopping around for best fares. With one or two TPAC crossings per year and < 20k miles banked in 2.5 years, it might be costing you more to remain UA-loyal than to just fly whomever is cheapest.

If the difference between the cheapest possible ticket and a United ticket is, say, $100, and you spend that $100 ten times over, you have spent an aggregate $1,000 to earn miles that might be redeemable for a TPAC ticket that probably would cost you less than $1,000. Do the math. Loyalty at your level can cost you, not reward you.

At this rate it might take you 5 or 6 more years to rack up enough miles for one free TPAC ticket anyway, and there's no guarantee UA won't move the goal posts between now and then anyway -- now that dynamic pricing is coming in you literally have no idea of the real redemption value of your MP balance.
jsloan and 2sk21 like this.
BearX220 is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 11:18 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Programs: UA 1K, Marriott Gold, National Executive
Posts: 14
United also has some decent ways to spend low amounts of miles. This includes inflight WiFi and food at EWR and IAH. It isn't the best redemption of your miles, but let's you get some value if you aren't going to be able to fly or upgrade.
aevange8 is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 11:35 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 5,552
Ignoring the reward miles, it sounds like you should at least achieve silver status? That should at least get you some free E+ seats (I assume your are flying economy since you are only earning 10k miles per round trip)

It costs nothing to be a member so why would you not be? If doesn't mean that your have to fly them every time, although, if you have status, the benefits might make it more likely to choose them in a close decision.

If you fly with an airline who is not a UA partner, you should sign up for their FF program too. It's free, so why not?
Dublin_rfk likes this.
VegasGambler is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 12:57 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: PMD
Programs: UA*G, NW, AA. WR-G, HH, IHG, ALL. TT-GE.
Posts: 2,315
The OP really needs to understand the elite status side of the program and the alliance side of the program. It is possible that the OP is keeping the MP address in the US thus not getting Silver status.
HkCaGu is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 1:03 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Programs: DL Plat, Marriot Plat
Posts: 305
Join American mileage as well so you can earn there as well. Then you can pick which flight is the best for you and earn accordingly. As others have said, it costs nothing to join and the miles do not expire for 18ish months of no use. So earn and then when you can, burn (use them). Might take a while to get the flight award you want, but there are the various alliances both airlines belong to for you to use your miles there.
manually is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 1:09 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: YYC
Programs: UA 1K
Posts: 562
If you’re able to post your specific flying habits (typical routes etc...) you’ll probably get some better advice.

That said, I agree with most of the advice here. On the face of it, it seems you’d be better off just choosing the cheapest. However, a bit more info would be helpful.
david_oz is offline  
Old May 13, 19, 2:49 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 5,552
Originally Posted by HkCaGu View Post
The OP really needs to understand the elite status side of the program and the alliance side of the program. It is possible that the OP is keeping the MP address in the US thus not getting Silver status.
If he is earning 20k reward miles with no status over a year of flying... 20k RDM / (5 RDM/PQD) = 4000 PQD = more than enough for silver, so PQD should not be the problem.
VegasGambler is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: