New: Earn United miles for gasoline purchases

Skimpy reward & one important caveat Chris McGinnis Updated 3:59 pm, Wednesday, March 7, 2018 Photo: United / Youtube Earn United miles when filling up at BP stations Earn United miles when filling up at BP stations This promotion falls into the "better than nothing" category. But why not go ahead and sign up? United and BP rolled out a new plan to offer Mileage Plus miles for fuel purchases. It's a nice add-on but the standard reward is skimpy at just two miles per gallon purchased. That means you'll earn just 30 miles when filling up an average 15 gallon tank. But still, small amounts of miles can add up over time. Plus these transactions can help keep your account active if you are not flying as much as before. However, just signing up for the program and buying the first tank of gas gets 200 bonus miles. LATEST TRAVEL VIDEOS Now Playing: Now Playing Airlines Could Soon Start Charging Different Fares for Different People Travel & Leisure Avoid Flying on These Days if You Want a Smoother Spring Break Buzz 60 Cherry Blossom Forecast 2018: Washington, D.C. Festival Season Arriving Early Travel & Leisure JetBlue Is Having a Spring Sale With Flights Starting at $44 Travel & Leisure The Ceiling Collapsed at a Crowded Airport in China Because of Heavy Storms Travel & Leisure Calling All Foodies! These Are The Cities With the Most Diverse Food Scenes Buzz 60 Priests Threw Snowballs and Nuns Built Snowmen During Rome’s First Snow in Years Travel & Leisure Study: This Is The Most Violent City In The World Buzz 60 These are Some of the Most Instagram-Worthy Vacation Spots Buzz 60 Some Airline Ticket Prices Could Be Based On What Customers Can Afford Buzz 60 Too bad: Currently to program is "not available in California" and residents cannot even sign up to use it while traveling in other states. BP operates ARCO and AM/PM Continue Reading

Should Spirit Airlines Investors Fear United Airlines’ Growth?

After starting 2018 on a strong note, airline stocks have plunged in the past week. It's no secret why: United Continental (NYSE: UAL) announced on Tuesday afternoon that it plans to boost capacity by 4%-6% this year -- with similar increases in 2019 and 2020 -- making a clean break from the capacity discipline of the past decade. United's aggressive growth plan caused its stock to plunge on Wednesday. Most other airline stocks moved lower as well, because of fears of an industry price war. Among United's rivals, Spirit Airlines (NYSE: SAVE) was one of the hardest hit. Spirit Airlines and United Continental weekly stock performance data by YCharts. However, while Spirit Airlines was hurt by a brutal price war with United in 2017, it might not be a major casualty of United Continental's 2018-2020 growth plans. Let's look at what derailed Spirit's turnaround effort last year -- and why this time might be different. Last year's fare war hurt Spirit a lot During early 2017, Spirit Airlines seemed to be on the road to recovery following a long period of steep unit revenue declines. Revenue per available seat mile (RASM) rose 0.9% in the first half of the year. RASM probably would have increased even more but for a pilot dispute that began in May and caused a massive spike in flight cancellations. However, Spirit's revenue momentum abruptly ended around mid-year, when a new fare war with United Airlines broke out. RASM plunged 6.3% in the third quarter. According to Spirit Airlines' management, the unit revenue pressure was concentrated in a few markets: primarily Chicago, Houston, Newark, and Dallas/Fort Worth. (The first three are all major United Airlines hubs.) Executives at Spirit and United disagree about who started the fare war, but once it began, the two carriers matched each other's prices down to ridiculous levels -- as low as $10 one way! -- to avoid losing market share. The 2018 dynamics may be different With this backdrop, it's Continue Reading

‘Mileage runs’: On these trips, the airline miles trump the destination

 TORONTO – The end of the year means holiday parties, family gatherings and the inevitable New Year’s Eve countdown. But for many frequent-fliers, the expiring calendar means it’s time for something else: a “mileage run” for elite status. For the uninitiated, a “mileage run” is a trip booked specifically for the purpose of earning frequent-flier miles.This time of year, the trips are often taken by loyalty program members who are close to earning an elite status tier, but need to take just one more trip to get there. And since the qualifying window for earning elite status resets at the end of each calendar year, December becomes the prime month for such flights.What those mileage-runners are seeking are miles (or dollars) that count toward elite status. At most big airlines, it is given when a traveler flies 25,000 “elite qualifying miles” (EQMs) in a calendar year. Higher elite thresholds are typically earned at 50,000, 75,000 and 100,000 miles, though the details vary by airline. (Delta’s highest “Diamond” status, for example, takes 125,000 EQMs.)Adding to the mix, airlines now have spending requirements for elite status – creating a second component for some mileage-runners. Qualifying for the 50,000-mile status at most big airlines, for example, also requires hitting a spending threshold of $6,000 “elite qualifying dollars” (EQDs) that are spent on airfare.TODAY IN THE SKY: First look: Delta shows off new 'flagship' Airbus A350 in Atlanta (story continues below) With that requirement now in play, that means some elite fliers have now hit their EQM targets but must still buy another ticket to hit their EQD threshold. What makes these hoops worth it for many frequent-fliers are the perks that come with elite status. Perhaps the most sought after are upgrades to lie-flat seats on overseas flights. Also to be had: Priority checking and Continue Reading

Delta, United Airlines put a price on loyalty — should you pay it?

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines recently announced that they will start rewarding passengers based on dollars spent rather than miles flown — a move that experts have described as bad news for most travelers. But strangely enough, frequent fliers and industry authorities aren't always so quick to denounce price-based earning structures. Starting in January 2015 for Delta and March 2015 for United, both basic SkyMiles and MileagePlus members will earn five miles per dollar spent. To put this into context, a Delta flight from New York City out of John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) that costs $500 currently earns basic SkyMiles members 4,950 frequent flier miles. Under the new system, the same trip at the same ticket price would only earn members 2,500 miles — nearly 50 percent less than under the current system. See: Best Airline Rewards Programs of 2014-2015 While Delta and United face harsh criticism for their 2015 updates to the SkyMiles and MileagePlus programs, JetBlue and Southwest — which also reward loyalty members based on how much they spend — earn continuous praise from travelers. JetBlue TrueBlue took the No. 1 spot on the U.S. News Best Airline Rewards Programs ranking, while Southwest Rapid Rewards claimed second place. But loyal Southwest and JetBlue customers don't earn much more than that; the Rapid Rewards and TrueBlue programs award members six points per dollar spent. So why are Delta and United receiving so much flack for adopting the same earning system used by competitors? Hack My Trip founder and U.S. News blogger Scott Mackenzie says it's because the business models are fundamentally different. Low-cost carriers "have more price-sensitive customers who prefer a regular discount over aspirational redemptions," Mackenzie wrote. Delta and United, on the other hand, place a heavy emphasis on elite membership, which comes with perks like priority boarding Continue Reading

WATCH: Drunken passenger punches United Airlines pilot

That’s not how you earn frequent flyer miles. A Philadelphia man instead won a one-way ticket to jail after, police say, he assaulted his plane’s pilot following a drunken rant during a flight delay. The wild antics of Donald Gee, 53, were all caught on camera by a fellow passenger at the Washington, D.C., area’s Dulles International Airport who was waiting for a United Airlines flight to Philadelphia. His profane, slurred rant got him kicked off his flight and booked into the Loudoun County jail on assault and public intoxication charges. As the video begins, the large, clearly intoxicated Gee can be seen berating the pilot, complaining about a flight delay. The pilot eventually snaps after Gee threatens to punch him in the face. “You ain’t getting on an airplane tonight!” the pilot tells him. But Gee, slurring his words and swaying, can’t resist: “F--- you! Yeah, well you pay for my hotel!” The pilot can already tell where this confrontation is going, even before a punch is thrown: “You’re going to wind up in a cell, you fat a--!” he tells the unruly passenger, who continues to curse out the air captain. “Too bad TSA’s here cause I’d punch your f------ lights out,” the passenger bellows. The pilot is doubtful — until Gee gets out of his seat and stumbles towards the pilot, delivering an open-handed sucker punch to the surprised pilot’s head. The waiting passengers gasp, and the pilot’s colleague helps tackle the obnoxious drunk, who is restrained until police arrive. Gee continues to mumble incoherently until he’s dragged away. “What the hell are you arresting me for?” he says in disbelief. “I am drunk, but that pilot is a f------ c---.” Gee was held in lieu of a $2,500 bond after his June 18 arrest, WJLA-TV reported. The long-delayed flight was Continue Reading

Alaska Air, JetBlue take top spots in JD Power airline survey

JetBlue and Alaska Airlines continued their stranglehold atop the annual J.D. Power customer service satisfaction survey of North American carriers. Those airlines also had the highest customer satisfaction ratings for their frequent-flier programs, according to the 2015 J.D. Power survey released Wednesday.Overall, passengers' happiness with service on U.S. and Canadian airlines continued to rise, according to the J.D. Power survey. The industry's satisfaction score climbed to an average of 717 on a 1,000-point scale — a 5-point jump from the record-high in 2014. (Scroll down for a full list of the airline ratings)The uptick in the average score was driven mostly by gains in fliers' satisfaction with airline flight crews and with in-flight services. BOOKMARK: Add Today in the Sky to your favorites"Many airlines realize that they are not in a commodity business and that hospitality and service go a long way in differentiating them from the other airlines," Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power, says in a statement accompanying the 2015 survey results. "Hospitality and service impact loyalty and return on investment with a high percentage of loyal passengers who are better advocates for the airline."Passengers also reported higher satisfaction with airline "costs and fees," likely indicating the customers have become desensitized to paying more for perks that used to be free.The survey also found that passengers who picked an airline based on customer-service reputation rather than price reported a higher satisfaction score. Those passengers also were more forgiving of their carrier for late flights and other operational disruptions."When the airline provides good service, passengers are generally less critical when there is a departure delay or a late arrival," Garlick says.Results of the new J.D. Power survey -- conducted between April 2014 and March 2015 -- are tabulated from the responses of 11,354 passengers who flew Continue Reading

American Airlines changing frequent flier plan

American Airlines today announced major changes to its frequent flier program.The airline, the busiest carrier at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport following its merger with US Airways, will award miles based on the price of a ticket instead of the distance flown and is increasing the minimum number of miles needed for a free trip to bucket-list places like Hawaii, Europe and Asia.The move, which was expected and follows similar changes by United, Delta and Southwest, is designed to reward business travelers and other frequent fliers who pay top dollar for their tickets. Vacationers and other travelers who buy the cheapest tickets will see their mileage balances grow more slowly. Points earned when using the airline's frequent flier credit cards aren't changing.American, which has more than 100 million members in its AAdvantage frequent flier program, the industry's first loyalty program, wants to provide its best customers with the best benefits, said AAdvantage President Suzanne Rubin,"The changes that we're making today really help us take a step forward in that perspective,'' she said in a conference call with reporters.Frequent flier expert Brian Kelly, who writes  The Points Guy travel blog and has top-tier status in American's program, said few travelers will be cheering the changes."People who spend a lot of money on tickets will win with the new earning system but, no matter what, everyone across the board loses when the amount of miles needed (for a free trip) goes up,'' he said.On the plus side, he said, American did not go as far as other carriers in changing the frequent flier program, with no minimum travel spending for top perks, for example."This was inevitable but it could have been worse,'' Kelly said.The changes, which are being unveiled to members of the AAdvantage program in e-mails today, affect three major areas of the AAdvantage program:  mileage Continue Reading

American Airlines making more frequent flier changes

Traveling on American Airlines this summer?The miles you earn you will be tied to the price of your ticket instead of the distance flown beginning Aug. 1. The change applies to travel beginning that day regardless of when the ticket was purchased.American, the busiest carrier at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport following its merger with US Airways, announced the switch in November  but did not specify when it would take effect beyond saying the second half of  2016.Members of the airline's AAdvantage program without "elite'' status will earn 5 miles per dollar of  base fare plus certain fees excluding government taxes and fees.  A $350 round-trip flight from Phoenix to Chicago will earn 1,750 miles, compared with about 2,800 miles today. Those with elite status will earn between 7 and 11 miles per dollar spent.Bottom line: Bargain travelers who fly infrequently will find it harder to rack up miles for a free ticket.American Airlines is far from the first airline to make the change. Southwest Airlines started the trend in 2011, when it began tying frequent flier miles to the fare paid. Delta and United made the switch last year.American also announced a big, but expected change to the AAdvantage program today. Beginning next year, frequent fliers who want elite status and all the perks it comes with will have to spend a minimum amount on tickets each year in addition to minimum travel volume. The airline is also adding a new tier, called Platinum Pro, to the program, giving it four tiers: Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum. The new dollar thresholds range from $3,000 to $12,000 per year.“The more you spend in travel the more benefits you will be offered,'' said Bridget Blaise-Shamai, American's managing director of customer insights and loyalty.Reaction to the changes were mixed on the American forum on frequent flier site Frequent Continue Reading

Frequent flier miles vanishing into thin air, Sen. Chuck Schumer says

Frequent fliers have rights too, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday.Schumer called for a government crackdown on airlines that wipe out customers' hard-earned frequent flier miles with scant warning. "A lot of people are going to go to Thanksgiving and be disappointed because ... their frequent-flier miles have been canceled with no notice," Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters. Consumers could lose an estimated 2 trillion flier miles if carriers don't clean up their act, he said. An estimated 10 trillion unused frequent flier miles are ready to be used. The U.S. Department of Transportation should forbid airlines from wiping out customers' frequent flier miles except in extreme cases, he said. And miles shouldn't disappear when airlines merge, he added. JetBlue miles expire when frequent flier accounts are inactive for one year. American Airlines, United and US Airways cancel accounts if customers don't earn or redeem miles for 18 months, and Delta after two years. "Playing games with frequent flier miles takes money out of people's pockets, plain and simple," said Schumer. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

American joins rest of ‘big 3’ in doling out miles by fare, not distance

And then there were three.American Airlines announced Tuesday that it will start doling out frequent-flier miles based on the fare customers pay and not on the distance they fly. American’s move closely mimics changes already made by Delta and United, the USA’s two other big traditional carriers.“American Airlines has spent the last two years being singularly focused on integration. Now we’re at a point where we can begin to look ahead and lay the foundation for the future of the AAdvantage program to ensure we’re rewarding our most loyal customers with the benefits they value the most,” Suzanne Rubin, president of American's AAdvantage frequent-flier program, says in a statement.Starting sometime in "the second half of 2016," non-elite American customers will earn 5 miles per every dollar spent on the base fare and "carrier-imposed fees." Elite customers will earn more, with Gold members earning 7 miles per dollar, Platinum 8 miles per dollar and Executive Platinum 11 miles per dollar. The earning levels closely mirror how Delta and United award miles.BOOKMARK: Go directly to the Today in the Sky homepageAmerican detailed several other changes, including changes to the miles needed for many frequent-flier awards. Unlike "redeemable" miles that can be cashed in for free flights, miles that count toward earning elite status on American will still be tied to distance flown. But the carrier is tweaking that too, making it easier for customers buying expensive fares to rack up those miles even faster. American customers earn elite status by accumulating at least 25,000 miles in a calendar year.But it’s the change in how American awards “redeemable” frequent-flier miles that appears to cement a fundamental shift in the nature of loyalty programs at U.S. airlines. Launched in the 1980s – first by American and quickly matched by most others – airline frequent-flier Continue Reading