In March, Jeff Smisek of United Airlines was mum about upcoming changes to United’s Mileage Plus and Continental’s OnePass programs. United launched its “Mileage Plus Explorer” card.
As far as benefits go, it mostly resembles the legacy OnePass Plus card that I recently applied for to grab a 50k bonus mile sign-up while it lasts. The headline benefits are a “40k” bonus mile sign-up bonus, a free checked bag, priority boarding, and two United Club passes a year. To actually obtain the “40k,” one has to add an additional authorized user to the account (for 5k miles) and hit $25k in spending in a calendar year (for 10k miles). With targeted 50k mile sign-up bonuses floating around for both the United Mileage Plus Select Visa Signature and the Continental OnePass Plus cards, the effectively 25k sign-up bonus is meager.
As a United 1P, I can already check three seventy pound bags for free and I get to board over the red–soon to be blue–carpet. Like the OnePass Plus card, the card extends upgrade benefits for elites on domestic award tickets. That said, since my miles are already destined for international travel in premium cabins, I’m unlikely to use this perk. In terms of mileage earning, it’s a step-down from the United Mileage Plus Select Visa Signature card with its 3 miles (and 1EQM) per $1 spent with United, 2 miles per dollar for Star Alliance and “every day” purchases, and 1 mile per dollar for everything else.
What’s more telling of the changes to Mileage Plus to come is an official company representative’s post made on FlyerTalk. Standard awards are being eliminated for those Mileage Plus members without the card or elite status. While the standard awards can often be horrible values, especially for domestic travel, they at least give options to Mileage Plus members.