United Merger - I've finally woken up!

United announced they were merging with Continental last year but foolishly I didn't worry too much about it. I wasn't flying a lot and presumed, incorrectly, that while it would open up Continentals routes in South American and Asia it wouldn't bring many other negative changes.

I was wrong and it's taken me months to catch up. So what are the major changes for us?

Premier - Silver 
More than 25,000 miles with United annually.
If you are a Premier like us, there is very bad news. The single most important factor for me is that from 2012 Premiers  no longer qualify to book Economy Plus seating in advance. Economy Plus is almost our entire reason for staying loyal to United, and now it's gone. They say it may be available at checkin but I'm not sure I'll fancy the middle seats that may be on offer.

We will still get the priority lanes, 25% mileage bonus and technically will qualify for unlimited domestic upgrades, but on the routes we fly (coast to coast)I have never been upgraded as a Premier flyer.

Premier Executive - Gold 
More than 50,000 miles with United annually.
There is bad news for flyers in this category too. 

The most significant news is that the mileage bonus has been reduced from 100% to 50%. This means far fewer redeemable miles for flyers in this category and you'll notice the impact on your mileage balance quickly. If you fly 60,000 mile per year with United in 2012 you've just lost 30,000 miles - compared to last year when you had the 100% mileage bonus. That's more than a domestic flight within the US costs in miles for every flyer over 50,000 miles. Thank United for making us all feel so special! 

You still get Star Alliance Gold perks (lounge access internationally and Business Class checkin) which are  now the single reason to strive for Gold status.

Premier Platinum 
More than 75,000 miles with United annually.
This is a new category and matches Continental's recognition of 75,000 mile flyers. It's good news for those who fly more than 75,000 but have failed to make 100,000. The new status means their upgrades will clear after 1K flyers but before Gold flyers. Regional Upgrades have been introduced at this level and fees are also reduced for these flyers. Along with 1Ks they can now get compensation for the Global Entry application fee . 

However, while you'll receive a 75% mileage bonus in this category (25% more than Premier Executive - Gold flyers) you're still getting less than they did last year, when United gave out 100% to everyone above 50,000 miles. It seems United giveth and taketh away.

Premier Executive - 1K 
More than 100,000 miles with United annually.
A few small additions but much the same as far as I can see. 

In addition United are offering many of the Premier benefits to all holders of their new $95 Chase card which will make the priority lines even busier, bad news whatever your frequent flyer status. 

This is not a comprehensive assessment, just my belated realization of the downgrade. Though I do try to maximize our frequent flyer mileage accumulation, it's not something I generally blog about, in fact I had to create a new label for this post! I rely on Flyertalk, the Boarding Area bloggers and  View from the Wing to dissect all the minutia. These are the places to go for further information if you want it, they tend to be on top of things before United makes its announcements.

In conclusion....

United has gutted the value of their frequent flyer program for those of us at the lower end of the spectrum, while adding some smaller benefits to those higher up. It angers me because while we're currently Premiers, we have been both 1Ks and  Prem Exec. Like us many of United's customers move between these categories. 

Normally at this time of year I'm thinking through my ticket purchases for the year and considering the implications for status. After this I'm rethinking, and will be redeeming instead of accumulating miles. I do enjoy the benefits of Star Alliance Gold status when we qualify at the 50,000 level, but without the 100% mileage bonus I'm  much less concerned about making it back to this level again next year.

So, I woke up rather late but it didn't stop me writing to United to complain, if any of these changes have negatively impacted you why no do the same. As the folks over at Flyertalk have demonstrated United does respond to sustained complaints form their elite flyers.