From listening to its customers, United Airlines will change its frequent-flier loyalty program and award miles based on ticket price rather than distance flown. The major shift in the loyalty program will take effect on March 1, 2015.

United Airlines Public Relations Manager Karen May told Loyalty360 that the decision to change the loyalty program model was made after listening to customers.

“We’ve been hearing from our members that they want to be recognized for their spending at United,” May said. “From listening to them, we decided to make changes to enable us to reward them in that way. We started hearing more and more from customers who spend more. They want us to reward them for their spending. We wanted to find a way to do that. This was the way. We’re making the change based on what we’ve heard from customers.”

United’s MileagePlus loyalty program has about 95 million members. When the changes become effective March 1, 2015, customers who have no status in the plan will receive five miles for each dollar spent on tickets, excluding government taxes and fees. The number of miles awarded will increase based on the passenger’s elite status, with the lowest silver members receiving seven miles per dollar and top-level 1Ks receiving 11.

May said it’s difficult to predict how the change will impact customers.

“We’re hoping that because we’ve been hearing from our customers that they want to be recognized, that they will appreciate the fact that we have taken this step,” May said.

May couldn’t offer specific metrics that will be used to measure progress of the loyalty program.

“We have several teams within the company that work and impact the customer experience,” May explained. “We are basically a company focused on providing the best experience and engaging with customers to receive their feedback. That tells us what our customers want.”

Text Box: Customers are telling us they want to be recognized for what they spend with United.Historically, May said, “we’ve at least partially defined loyalty based on how many miles customers flew with is. Now, more customers are telling us they want to be recognized for what they spend with United. As a result, that has helped us evolve how we reward loyalty.”

 

In February, Delta Air Lines announced a similar change to its SkyMiles frequent-flier loyalty program that will allow passengers to earn award miles based on the fare they pay, rather than the distance in miles they fly.

“It reinforces the benefits of being loyal,” Delta spokesperson Paul Skrbec told Loyalty360 in February. Delta’s new business model won’t take effect until 2015. Skrbec explained at the time that Delta officials found redeeming miles was getting to be more and more challenging, and as a result, they sought feedback from customers.

Before making the major change to the SkyMiles program, Skrbec said Delta sought feedback from a variety of sources including focus groups, customer surveys, 1-on-1 conversations at events, corporate accounts, industry experts, and Delta employees.

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