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United Airlines New Mileage Plus Program

United Airlines has updated its Mileage Plus program, asserting the revised program will “reward our premium customers with highly competitive benefits, while responding to increased demand for United’s new international first- and business-class cabins.” The revisions are all about the elite members. If you’re one of the commoners in the airline program, this isn’t going to do much for you.

500 Mile Minimum

Many airlines have put the kabosh on the 500 mile minimum accrual for members. United is bringing it back, but only for elite members. If you’re a sometimes-flyer, you’ll still only receive the actual number of miles flown if fewer than 500. The change will go in to effect on January 1, 2009, but will apply to flights taken at any time after July 1, 2008.

Saver Awards

Rewards levels will be changing as of January 1, 2009. Saver and Standard awards within the continental United States will stay the same, but other routes and classes will change. For full details, you’ll have to download the big fat Saver Award Chart (or if you have Firefox, you can view it in your browser with the super handy PDF Download Plug-In).

Upgrade Awards

According to the press release, United is “reducing the mileage requirements and will be collecting a co-pay when miles are redeemed to upgrade an Economy ticket.” Co-pay? What the hell? That’s what my insurance company charges me to go to the doctor. Beginning in 2009, Mileage Plus members will be charged a “co-pay,” the cost of which will be determined by the origin and destination cities and the type of ticket purchased. The good less bad news is that upgrades from Business to First class will not be charged a co-pay. In addition, all Mileage Plus members will have the opportunity to upgrade from Steerage Economy to Business or First class on international flights (provided they fork over the miles and “co-pay”), rather than only a select few of the Economy fares that are now upgradeable. Check out the Upgrade Award Chart for details.