When you fly a lot, you learn there’s no such thing as a free flight. But after 40 years, it’s nice to see a big airline offering something for nothing. That’s exactly what United Airlines is offering with its latest deal. Through April 30, MileagePlus members can earn double miles on all bonus award travel. If you can enjoy your next travel adventure without worrying about how to pay for it, you might want to take advantage of this promotion.

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, United is offering special promotions, prizes, and special offers. Customers can earn double miles between April 25 and May 21, 2015, for every one dollar spent on their MileagePlus credit card, and accumulate 5,000 bonus miles for every $25,000 in annual spend. For the more casual traveler, there’s the MileagePlus Explorer card, which offers 20% off all United tickets and lets you earn 1 MileagePlus mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

United MileagePlus turns 40 and celebrates newpromotions

Gary Leff 3. May 2021

The United MileagePlus program began as Mileage Plus, with a space between the two words, in May 1981, a few days after American launched AAdvantage’s first free flight program based on miles. After learning that American AAdvantage would be announcing its program, United held a Mileage Plus launch in just 10 days.

United is also notable because its predecessor, Continental Airlines, was the first to offer a co-branded airline credit card in 1986 – the Continental TravelBank Gold MasterCard from Marine Midland Bank.

To mark the 40th anniversary of United,

  • Allocation of one million miles each to 4 caregivers designated by the client. The main 40th anniversary offer is four million miles and, while attractive to the winners (who have to pay the tax), it seems rather modest for such an occasion.
  • Offers a number of bonuses, including up to 1,040 bonus miles for online purchases up to age 17. May, double miles on select MileagePlux X app offers through May 31. May and up to 40,000 bonus miles and 7 miles per dollar on cruises.
  • To celebrate, the United Clubs are selling you glasses of Moët champagne at discounted prices.
  • There will be an awards ceremony, details to be announced later in the week.

The downloadable .pdf infographic on the history of United includes such things as..,

  • 1983 Introduction of the Elite Programme
  • In 1984, the airline served all 50 states and added Wilmington, Delaware – but missed the remarkable element, the offer of unlimited free first-class travel for one year on any flight to any state on United.

Seventy-eight people traveled to 50 states in 50 days. Among them is golf great Craig Stadler, who won the Masters two years earlier. The group consisted of 69 men and nine women, including one person who had the intelligence to buy a Visit USA pass in Hong Kong for $860, which allows unlimited travel on United flights. The other sent postcards to United from each state as further proof of their presence.

Race participants stepped out of a United Boeing 727 flying from Denver to Casper, Wyoming. United stopped flights to Wilmington in 1991.

  • Their 1987 co-branded card (not including their 1986 card through Continental Onepass). First Chicago introduced the Mileage Plus First Card Visa with a $45 annual fee (waived for one year). Instead of miles, you got a check-in bonus in the form of a $25 certificate to use on United or Westin, Hilton or Hertz flights, which were common at the time. The card is also accompanied by an upgrade certificate from each of the four travel companies.
  • The 1K programme was introduced in 1992. United computer system had only two symbols to identify members, so 1K instead of 100K for those who had traveled 100,000 miles, back in the days when top tier elite status was earned based on miles traveled and not strictly on dollars spent. Here’s an overview of United’s status levels.
  • Millionaire status was established in 1997, which United Airlines explained to the court,

Judge Hamilton: To understand the difference between living and crossing your fingers? That life is not the same as living?

United: Life is life, unless…

Judge’s Wood: Unless we change our minds.

Judge Hamilton: Unless we change our minds.

United: Yes, it’s true. That’s it.

  • The Star Alliance awards in 2002 were one of the few instances where miles programs gained value (devaluation didn’t reach absurd levels until United changed its rules in 1987).
  • The ability for co-branded cardholders to redeem miles for 1 cent each was introduced in 2006 as part of the Choices program.

A walk through the past is fun, we did it last month with American AAdvantage as well. But from what we know so far of the marketing offerings, there’s little to be excited about. The programs seem to have lost their creativity and inspiration after 40 years, because there is nothing here that members can really get into, nothing that encourages people to participate.

Lake View from the Wing

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