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From United's page on earning miles, it seems that for most United flights, miles are awarded based on the fare rather than on the distance. As far as I've noticed, the miles I get from calculation based on the fare is substantially less than if the calculation is based on the distance -- approximately only half as much.

Is this a recent change that I've missed? The reason I'm asking is that I'm earning much fewer miles now than the same flight last year with the same fare class.

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Yes, something has changed. As explained in this article, the change was announced in June 2014, and went live in March 2015

United have put up a fairly good special website about the update at mileageplusupdates.com, which I'd suggest you review.

The number of miles you get, when flying on United or United Express now depends on two things:

  • How much you spent
  • What status you have with United

A base member will earn 5 MileagePlus miles per dollar spent, while a Premier 1K gets 11. Partner flights are different though, they seem to be close(r?) to the old style of earnings.

The key part of it is these two tables here:

United details

If you want to know more, there's a pretty epic FlyerTalk thread on the topic and a FlyerTalk master thread, if you wade through enough posts there you'll find everything you wanted to know on the change and the impact, amongst everything else...

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