I can’t count the number of emails and Facebook messages I’ve received about the changes to the United’s Frequent Flyer Program. Everyone seems so distraught about the changes, but let’s be realistic, the changes only impact a small number of travelers. Let’s compare:
Frequent Domestic Business Travelers: All of the frequent business travelers I know spend a good deal of money on their airfare, so they probably will be okay under the new scheme. In fact, some of them who don’t have the highest status because they don’t fly enough might do better.
Independent/Small Business Frequent Traveler: This group maybe impacted by the changes because they often look for discounted fares. They will still earn miles and status, but perhaps not as much as before.
International Business Travelers: If you fly internationally on a regular basis you’re probably going to be just fine.
Family/Leisure Travel: Travelers who only take a few trips a year likely have earned status through some other program or have no status at all, so they won’t be impacted.
Mileage Runners: This is really the only group of people who is hurt. Those people who like to earn status by flying on lots and lots of cheap fares will have to rethink their strategy because they likely will be most impacted by the changes.
Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, did a great post today about the changes. He created a chart that outlined what the revenue based program would really mean based on route and ticket cost in 2014 compared to 2015. Here’s a screen shot of that chart:
For those people who are just beside themselves about the changes United has made, I guess it’s time to look at a new airline loyalty program. Consider a program like JetBlue. If you’re a frequent domestic business traveler and JetBlue flies in your market, they might be a great alternative airline. Here are some of the key benefits of JetBlue’s TrueBlue program:
- No Blackout Dates on JetBlue operated flights
- Use points for any seat, any time
- Award Flights start at 5,000 points and $2.50 taxes/fees
- Points don’t expire
- Earn 3 points per dollar spent. And if you book a flight on jetblue.com, earn double with 6 points per dollar.
This weekend JetBlue unveils their Mint first class product in Los Angeles. Mint is “a new front-of-the-cabin experience, revolutionizing transcontinental travel.” Mint offers fully flat beds, some private suites, dual power outlets with USB ports, amenity kits and a tapas menu on flights between New York and Los Angeles.
In March JetBlue offered a status match challenge and while that program has ended, perhaps with the news from United JetBlue will try to attract more fliers with another match/challenge? We’ll have to wait and see what happens. I think that JetBlue becomes a very attractive alternative for many more travelers now. Casual travelers, independent/small business frequent flyers, and even some traditional domestic business frequent travelers.
In the end, I’m sure some travelers will stick with United because they just don’t care about the changes or they’re not impacted enough by them while others will switch to another program that fits them better.
Which camp do you fall into?