The announcement, which follows a similar change in Delta's awards program, will now give MileagePlus members between one and five miles for every dollar spent on fares and surcharges. Currently, members earn an award mile for every mile flown, with passengers flying business or first class getting bonuses.
Under the new system, a person purchasing a $574 ticket would earn 2,870 miles, whereas a passenger purchasing a $1,284 flexible-fare ticket on the same flight would earn 6,420 miles. United has said that it is not changing its redemption charge and premium status for MileagePlus passengers, which gives them perks such as seating upgrades and priority check-in.
"It enables us to better ensure that those customers who are flying the most and spending the most get the greatest benefits from the company, which we expect will drive further loyalty," Rahsaan Johnson, a spokesman for United, said.
Delta announced a similar change to its rewards program in February, becoming the first major carrier to link awards to the price of tickets. Smaller carriers, like Southwest Airlines, already use such a system and analysts expected bigger carriers to follow suit.
The changes are likely to benefit passengers who spend the most money on tickets rather than those who seek bargain fares.