If you’ve ever asked a United Airlines gate agent to swap out your MileagePlus number for another Star Alliance loyalty number, you may want to think twice next time…United is cracking down on double-dipping.
No More Swapping Frequent Flyer Numbers On United Airlines Tickets To Leverage Elite Status
For years, it has been relatively easy to book a reservation with your United MileagePlus number, take advantage of elite benefits (like EconomyPlus seating, a higher checked baggage allowance, and complimentary space-available upgrades), then swap that number at the gate in order to earn flight credit in another Star Alliance program.
Traditional reasons for the swap include easier qualification thresholds for other airlines or, once top-tier elite status was already achieved, a desire to diversify status due to minimal incremental benefits on United once 1K status is achieved.
Until now, when you removed your Untied number you remained in your EconomyPlus seat or on the upgrade list. But that does not appear to be the case any longer.
MileagePlus program rules (16(b)) now stipulate that if you take advantage of the benefits of MileagePlus status, you must leave in your United number throughout the journey:
Members receiving benefits at time of booking, check-in, travel or other activity in which Program benefits are provided, including but not limited to premium seating, fee waivers, additional baggage allowance, lounge access and other travel benefits must maintain their MileagePlus account number throughout the entire reservation and any subsequent reservations created from the original reservation, and for the entire duration of the original and future travel associated with these reservations. Further, if benefits are obtained by a companion traveler by virtue of a Member’s status or other benefits and such Member is no longer traveling on their original reservation, any companion traveling on the original reservation will no longer be eligible for the Premier and other benefits obtained as a result of the Member’s status or other benefit allowance.
This rule also appears to be enforced, as evidenced by the recent account on FlyerTalk of a MileagePlus elite member who was downgraded from EconomyPlus to regular economy when he swapped out his United number for an All Nippon Airways (ANA) number.
Lounge Access Via Other Star Alliance Program?
Over the years, I’ve held Star Alliance Gold status on Air Canada, British Midland (bmi), SAS, Turkish Airlines.
Status in these programs has allowed me to access United Clubs, United’s network of airport lounges, no matter what my destination or class of service is on United.
In the bmi days I would do the swap at the gate, but when it comes to Air Canada, SAS, and Turkish Airlines I have simply used my Star Alliance Gold card from those programs to access the lounge and left my United number on the reservation.
Are those days over?
I don’t think so, due to the Star Alliance-wide software used for lounge admittance. Using an alternate frequent flyer program to access the lounge does not require the Untied frequent flyer number to be swapped out on the PNR.
Instead, the lounge admittance software allows an agent to manually enter the alternate Star Alliance number without altering the MileagePlus number on your reservation.
Still, we will have to mark this as a developing situation.
United is cracking down on swapping frequent flyer numbers, which allows passengers to double-dip on benefits. Once you begin a journey with a MileagePlus number, you cannot swap it out if you have enjoyed any of the benefits that come with that status.
Will this change impact you?