Frequent flyer programs used to award miles to members based on the distance they’ve flown, but most programs have now moved to a revenue-based model. That means the number of miles you’ll earn on a flight is determined by the cost of the ticket, but elite status can multiply that. The details of how that works depends on the airline. Let’s take a look at United’s policy.
With a few exceptions which we’ll deal with later, United flights booked through the airline’s website will earn award miles based on the price of the ticket and your elite status. If you’e not sure where to go, register for RewardExpert to find the best places to use the MileagePlus miles you have or plan to earn.
This is United’s earning chart:
|MileagePlus status||Base miles (based on fare)||Premier bonus award miles (based on fare)||Total award miles earned (based on fare)|
|Member||5 x fare||-||5 x fare|
|Premier Silver||5 x fare||2 x fare||7 x fare|
|Premier Gold||5 x fare||3 x fare||8 x fare|
|Premier Platinum||5 x fare||4 x fare||9 x fare|
|Premier 1K||5 x fare||6 x fare||11 x fare|
Standard United MileagePlus members earn 5x the cost of their ticket. So multiply the cost of your ticket by five and and you’ll get the number of miles you’ll earn for that flight. Elite members earn more, with the total miles equaling between 7x to 11x the cost of the ticket.
There are a few tricks to this though. First, taxes and fees are excluded from the cost of the ticket when calculating miles. For instance, if your ticket costs $386, you’d expect to earn 1,930 miles. But you don’t. You’ll get 1,790 miles because you need to subtract $28 in taxes and fees from the final ticket price. In the following sections, we’ll show you how to see the taxes, fees and miles earned per ticket before you make your purchase.
The other issue involves calculating the miles that count towards elite, or premier, status. United’s elite status is based in part on Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) and Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS), not on the standard miles you’ve earned. PQM and PQS are based on the distance flown and the fare class, not the cost of the ticket. This chart shows what each class earns:
|Eligible purchased fare classes||Premier qualifying miles (PQM)||Premier qualifying segments (PQS)|
|A, C, D, Z, P||200%||1.5|
|M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G, N||100%||1|
So what exactly is a fare class? It is the class associated with your ticket when you’re booking it and is a letter such as J, D, or Z. Each letter stands for a fare that represents different prices, amenities and other characteristics, such as how many PQM and PQS you’ll earn on your flight. It’s a bit complicated, but it’s the basis of how airline pricing works.
If you want to maximize the PQM you’ll earn on your flight, it’s very important to choose the right fare class. You can view the mileage accrual rules for United’s fare classes to ensure you get it right. Keep in mind that these rules change, so you may want to check with United before you book.
How to See the Fare Class on United’s Website
With United Airlines, it’s necessary to turn on Expert Mode to see what fare class you’re booking. Here’s how to do it:
- Sign in to your MileagePlus account
- Click on the View Account button
- Scroll down to Profile and choose Manage Profile
- Scroll down to Preferences and click on View All Flight Search Preferences
- Scroll down to Expert Features and click the check box to accept the terms and conditions
- Click Save
This will allow you to see the fare class when you search for flights.
How to See the Miles You’ll Earn Before Purchasing Your Ticket
- You can book from United’s homepage or the Advanced Search page
- Enter your flight information, including departure and arrival airports and travel dates
- Choose Economy or Business/First
- If you’re using the Advanced Search, select Yes for Show Mileage Earnings in Search Results
- Click Search
Below is a sample booking. In the results, click on Details. This will show you your mileage earnings for the ticket, as well as the PQM, PQS and Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQD). This is an easy way to see exactly what you’ll earn on your flight without having to calculate your earnings based on the cost of the ticket, fare class and distance flown.
There’s also a section at the bottom of the search results that says Available Fare Classes. This tells you how many seats are available in each bucket.
Select the fare that matches the earnings you want by hovering over the price and clicking on it. Repeat for all your flights on your itinerary.
It’s possible to mix fare class, too, so you can book a J, which is a full-fare business class ticket, on the outbound flight, and D, which is a discounted business class seat, on the return flight.
If you click on Details on the next page that shows your final itinerary, you’ll see all the fare classes you’ve booked. It will also tell you the total miles, PQM, PQS and PQD you’ll earn.
When booking flights operated by United’s partners, use the partner earning chart. Typically, if you fly in business or first class, you’ll earn anywhere from 100 to 150 percent.
Tickets Not Issued by United and Other Exceptions
Award mileage accrual for tickets on partner airlines that are not issued by United, and for specialty tickets where United does not know what fare was paid (including unpublished, consolidator, bulk, group and tour tickets), is based on fair class and distance flown, not the cost of the ticket.
For the former category, you can find the most current Star Alliance/MileagePlus partner information by going here. Below, for example, is what you’d earn by fare class on Singapore Airlines’ flights:
Eligible Singapore Airlines Fare Classes
|Class of service||Purchased fare class||Award mile earnings
(including fare class bonus)
|Business||Z, C, J||125%|
|Discount Business||U, D||100%|
|Full Fare Economy||S, T, P, Y, B||100%|
|Discount Economy||H, W, L||50%|
For specialty tickets, you’ll earn miles based on this chart:
|Eligible fare classes on specialty tickets for flights operated by United or United Express||Base award miles earned (based on flight distance)||Fare class bonus (calculated from base miles)|
|J, C, D, Z, P, F, A,||100%||50%|
|Y, B ,M||100%||0%|
|E, U, H, Q, V, W||75%||0%|
|S, T, L, K, G, N||50%||0%|
Compare United MileagePlus credit cards you can earn your miles with: