United backs points for spend trend

30 Jan 2015 by GrahamSmith

United's managing director of international sales in the UK and Ireland has backed the airline industry's move towards awarding frequent flyer miles based on ticket price rather than distance flown.

Bob Schumacher said the changes being made at Mileage Plus in March will result in a more logical, and fairer, loyalty programme.

He told Business Traveller: "The distance you fly should have no bearing on how much we want to reward your loyalty. Clearly, in any other programme — Tesco Rewards, for instance — it's all done on expense.

"So, in a way, it's remarkable it's gone on in that old-fashioned way for as long as it has done."

From March 1, Mileage Plus members will earn award miles based on ticket price rather than distance flown (see news, June 2014). Delta is following a similar path and British Airways this week announced that it is too (see news, January 28).

Schumacher added: "It's a case of trying to put fairness back into the mix there — if you pay more, you get more rewards from us and you get better access to redemption as well. We're not the first ones to have gone down this path. We believe it's the fairest way to reward our customers' loyalty."

United was the first airline to move into Heathrow Terminal 2 when it opened last summer (see news, June 4). It had sole operation of the terminal for two weeks; the staggered opening saw the other carrier move over to T2 gradually, with all in place by the end of October.

Schumacher hailed the terminal's successful opening and said he fully expects this year's summer peak, the terminal's first at full capacity, to pass without incident.

He said: "It was a stroke of genius to do this [T2 opening] in an orderly fashion, particularly when the timing just had it that the move was going to happen over a summer peak... There was an orderly procession over to T2.

"Christmas and New Year loads are a challenge, for any airport to function over that period, [but] T2 functioned seamlessly, it was perfect. We're delighted it did so well and, of course, the next big challenge will be when schools break up at the beginning of July. We have every confidence that just as it sailed through the Christmas period, we can do exactly the same then.

"We've got a well-designed facility that works."

Any premium travellers hoping for United to roll-out its tarmac transportation service to Heathrow may be in for a disappointment.

The chauffeur service, operated using Mercedes-Benz GL-Class vehicles, is offered to some Global Services members and United Global First passengers who connect at select US airports to a domestic or international flight (see news, May 2014).

However, when asked about the chances of a similar service operating at LHR are slim, Schumacher said: "I doubt it, just negotiating around this very tight geography that is Heathrow, I can't see that.

"Whether there's a regulation that stops this, I just don't know, [but] I think what we've achieved in Terminal 2 is a product that almost makes that redundant. The facilities to transfer and the transfer times are as efficient as almost any offer."

Graham Smith

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