Less for More

It’s no secret that this year has been an extraordinarily light year in terms of travel. As late as September, I had not boarded an airplane since returning from California in early January. Since then, I have flown one revenue flight on United this year, amounting to a paltry 3,186 elite qualifying miles and two measly segments.

My revenue flight map for 2014 looks pretty bare.

My revenue flight map for 2014 looks pretty bare.

This is much less than last year, for example, where I flew enough to qualify for Premier Silver on segments instead of my usual method of qualifying on miles. Last year, I flew thirty segments over 24,472 miles. That was possible when I visited Sarah’s family, who all live in the middle of the country and visiting them almost always requires a connecting flight, more than my own kin, where I can rack a bunch of miles with each nonstop flight to LAX and back.

I sat in more planes in 2013 than I probably had ever before.

Where I sat on more planes in 2013 than I probably had ever before.

I also spent well over $1,200 compared to the $130 I spent so far this year. The only other flight I have planned for 2014 is to visit my family in California over Christmas. And that flight is on American Airlines, although I seriously considered taking the three-day train from New York to Los Angeles, via Chicago.

My decline in travel will cost me my elite status on United. But I’m not upset about losing it, especially since United has announced cuts to its Mileage Plus elite program despite raising the spending requirement by 20% earlier this month. The biggest cut that would affect me is losing the ability to upgrade using miles on p.s. flights, between JFK and LAX/SFO, without paying a fee. Currently, Premier members are exempt from paying the the fee for upgrading with miles, which costs between $75 and $250.1 The exemption to this fee will be cut on February 1, 2015. I do have a revenue flight in early January that involves a SFO-JFK segment on a cheap K fare, and I wonder if I should use miles to secure an upgrade, or if it’s even worth it because it’s a shorter flight than the westbound segment, or whether I should just use those miles to snag a Saver award down the line.

These cuts are exactly why I cut my air travel spending on a single airline for the sake of loyalty. It’s just not worth it.


  1. The fee depends on the booking class of your economy class ticket. The lower your booking class, the higher the upgrade fee. 

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