Airlines still don't get it

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This is the chart I encountered when trying to figure out how to use existing miles to upgrade to business class for a flight to Hawaii this summer. It's a long flight from the East Coast, so I thought great, I'll cash in on some miles. Unfortunately, this chart (download above) from United just gives me a headache. Of course, I'm not a math whiz, but I challenge anyone to figure out in 5 minutes (because that's as long as it should take) how far I can get on 50,000 miles.

In the last couple of years, we have seen several companies in the hospitality industries, including JetBlue, Southwest and Intercontinental Hotels Group, overhaul their loyalty programs with the aim of simplicity and removing barriers. Clearly, though, the industry still has a ways to go. Confusing charts such as this one only put people off. Considering the research out there that shows loyalty program members spend more and more often, making these programs easy to use seems the better approach.

For example, look at this simple first class mileage upgrade formula from US Airways:

Within the U.S. and Canada (not including Hawaii)

  • 15,000 miles

Between Hawaii and the rest of the U.S./Canada/the Caribbean/Central America/Mexico

  • 17,500 miles

Between South America or Europe and the U.S./Canada/the Caribbean/Central America/Mexico

  • 30,000 miles + $300

Between the Middle East and the U.S./Canada/the Caribbean/Central America/Mexico

  • 40,000 miles + $300
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