Let’s Talk Flight Loyalty Programs

It seems these days, every company and industry under the sun has its own loyalty program. From grocery stores to cell phone manufacturers, everyone is working on ways to thank, reward, and encourage returning customers with discounts, perks, and fancy little cards. And to me, most of these are pointless. Yes, I like fuel points for my groceries, but beyond that, most of the programs just add new cards and numbers for me to remember. But I have a different mentality towards flight rewards.

Every airline has their own flight rewards programs, and most even are part of a larger group that allows you to earn across different airlines like Star Alliance. In my case, and as should be unsurprising to most, I am a member of United’s MileagePlus program and have been for about 4 years now. Before that, I was losing out on some great perks, and ultimately status, by flying based off price of the ticket and not amenities, options, and ultimate earning potential.

So let’s take a look at these flight loyalty programs, specifically referencing the United MileagePlus program as I have the most experience with it, and answer a few underlying questions.

Why should I sign up even if I don’t fly enough?

These days, flying is often a stressful time for most. I’ve worked to make the process for me as comfortable and easy as possible, and one of the best things I did was sign up for United Milesage Plus. Now, let’s note that I didn’t reach Silver status for 3 years, meaning even without that premium status, I still reaped some great benefits from the program.


When I was flying every other week for short trips, I started to see that I was being selected for TSA PreCheck instead of normal security. Now, in talking with United, this is not a guaranteed perk, but one that does appear under specific circumstances even when basic members of the program. Because all of my flights were purchased and tracked through my MileagePlus account, there was a record of where all I had been and where I would be going. There also came Priority Boarding, again not always, but enough times to really give me a taste of Silver Status. Being able to board and grab my seat (27A or 27F almost every time) with relative ease made that perk very appreciated. Bumps to Economy Plus occurred as well, but honestly not as frequent, but never a bad place to be sitting.

So while I wasn’t constantly getting these perks, they were there, and with them came the comfort in knowing every purchase and mile was being tracked to help me get

Does the minimum status really impact me?

Yes, and in every way. When I earned Silver, it opened a door for me in all my flying that was beyond comfortable. Finishing off 2015 in Silver, I was upgraded to first class 3 times, economy plus every other time, provided with priority checkin and security and boarding, and was able to decrease my level of airport stress even more. While some airlines have made their bottom tier perks feel, well, bottom tier, I have found United’s and the rest of the Star Alliance to be very fair in earning potential.

There also comes the 3rd party perks, ones I did not realize would be impacting me. In this case, it’s Complimentary Hertz Elite Status, which has been great for getting a little extra for my dollar when renting. And as you can see in the chart below, there are other partner perks that come as you climb the ladder.

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What if I am flying on multiple airlines for a trip?

Well, this is one of my favorite aspects of loyalty programs, especially those partnered in a central group like Star Alliance. As long as you are flying on airlines within the same group, you will be able to earn points and even reap the benefits of status (usually starting with Gold) across the different airlines. In my case, I have flown Lufthansa, Canada Air, and ANA all while earning full benefits for my United Mileage Plus. The trick here is to book through United for the whole flight, or your respective airline of choice, to ensure the ticket number provided comes from one source. This will also allow you to track any changes and progress, and increases your global destinations and flight options by being able to connect through partner airlines.

So while your wallet might be filling with loyalty card after loyalty card, in mine, there is only one that matters; my United MileagePlus card. All the rest just seem to lead to more sales coupons and e-mails, with hoops to jump through, while this and other airline cards really reward me with benefits of customer loyalty. And in the end, that’s really the best return.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of United Airlines. The opinions and text are all mine.