Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images
By Tom Huddleston Jr.
June 10, 2014

Frequent travelers on United Airlines (UAL) will soon earn rewards based on the amount of money they spend on tickets, rather than on the distance they travel.

The airline has announced plans to change its MileagePlus frequent-flier program next year, altering the way members earn award miles. Starting March 1, 2015, United will award members with miles based only on the price they pay for tickets, rather than on the cumulative distance they’ve traveled. The airline said the new rule will take into account both the base fare for a ticket as well as carrier-imposed surcharges.

MileagePlus members will earn at least five miles for every dollar they spend, with Premier members earning anywhere from 7 to 11 miles per dollar spent, depending on their membership status. Members will still be able to qualify for Premier status through a combination of distance-traveled and spending thresholds. The airline said members can earn a maximum of 75,000 award miles per ticket purchase.

“These changes are designed to more directly recognize the value of our members when they fly United,” said Thomas O’Toole, president of United’s MileagePlus program.

United also said that next year it will offer new ways for frequent-fliers to use their award miles, including on certain types of seat upgrades and checked-baggage subscriptions.

While multiple low-cost airlines already offer similar fare-based programs, United is the latest of the large carriers to go that route. Delta Air Lines (DAL) announced in February that its SkyMiles program would start basing frequent-flier miles on how much travelers spend on tickets. The changes to Delta’s program will go into effect at the start of 2015.

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