United devalues mileage accrual for premium cabin travel on partner airlines

To kick off the new year United has made a huge devaluation to their earnings structure for premium cabin travel on partner airlines.

As most of you probably know you can earn United PQMs (Premier Qualifying Miles) for travel on any Star Alliance airline. For the most part premium cabin travel on partner airlines would accrue 125-150% PQMs, just as United issues bonus PQMs for paid premium cabin travel on their own flights.

However, with the exception of Air Canada, ANA, Austrian, Brussels, COPA, Lufthansa, SAS, Swiss, and USAirways, United is no longer issuing more than 100% PQMs for travel on partner airlines.

For example, take a look at the accrual chart for Singapore Airlines:

As you can see, even a paid suites class ticket only accrues 100% PQMs.

This is a huge devaluation for those that credit partner airline flights to United. I suspect United is either trying to thin their elite ranks or incentivize passengers to travel on United instead of their partner airlines, or probably both. It would have been nice if they gave some advance notice of this (since I assume passengers have booked travel on partner airlines with the intent to credit United and earn bonus PQMs), or at the very least announced the change rather than just updating their accrual charts.

(Tip of the hat to Miles from Blighty)

Filed Under: United
  1. It seems the common practice among many travel companies is to simply act and ask forgiveness later if enough people become vocally upset. It’s a tough business to be in, running an airline, and I would assume this was a calculated, quiet move to further those two purposes you spelled out. All the same, transparency is a virtue that has been lost on most occasions by the industry. We should all miss it.

  2. The reason you get the extra EQMs is to incentivize the extra revenue the company will get from the premium fare. My guess is that with the exception of the airlines that remain with the PQM bonuses United was not seeing any extra cash come in. The airlines that remain, I believe, all have JVs/rev sharing agreements on particular routes.

    If I recall it wasn’t so long ago that this use to be fairly restricted. I remember flying LH in the past and only getting the 50% bonus on the TATL segments as, in theory, that was the only routes UA was actually seeing additional rev from.

  3. I suspect this is due to them trying to get people to book more on UA or certain partners- notice how their JV partners LH, AC and NH aren’t impacted by this change?

  4. Hi Ben

    Got a quick question related to united miles.

    I don’t have enough miles in my account alone to book an award. If my wife has some miles in her account and I have miles in my account. Can we book an award using both account’s miles without transferring miles to each other?

  5. “To kick off the new year United has made a huge devaluation to their earnings structure for premium cabin travel on partner airlines”

    Calling this a devaluation to earning structure is a bit of a stretch. Just more flying needed to requalify for status (which may not be even a moderate concern for someone regularly flying on partner premium cabins).

  6. Any advise for an American living in Singapore temporarily? I would like to accrue on a North American carrier because of no fuel surcharges, etc. I do fly some paid Business class. At the same time, I would have no problem qualifying for 1k even without the bonus for premium classes. So would USAirways be a better option?

  7. @MT – This change doesn’t impact mileage earning rates, only status qualification. United miles are still generally better than US for mileage redemption – but this largely depends on what you redeem miles for (e.g. LH first, Asia-America business, etc). Of course you still have the differences like SWU’s/domestic upgrades.

  8. MT – i would accrue to USAirways. They don’t fly to Asia, so there are a few gems in their award redemption matrix. You still get the PQM bonuses for premium cabins on SQ.

    North Asia (HKG and north) to USA is only 90k miles in business round trip vs. 120k miles round trip on UA. SIN to HKG is a relatively short hop and you can save quite a few miles.

    Here is my favorite. and i just flew this award a few days ago. South and Central Asia for 30k miles round trip. Practically, being in SIN temporarily, seeing Asia is a perk, distances are far, equipment and service is top notch. You can go to India or other countries, stop by the spa in BKK for fewer miles than a US east coast to Caribbean flight. UA is 80k rt for SIN-BOM.

  9. Doesn’t United get paid by the operating carrier for issuing miles? Are the partners paying UA less starting Jan 1?

  10. @ Dan — As Antonio said if you can book it as two one-ways that’s a way to split up the accounts from which miles come from, but otherwise you can’t pull miles from two accounts for a single award.

    @ oleg — By that logic requiring more miles for an award ticket isn’t a devaluation either, right?

    @ MT — Even with this change I’d say United is a better option than US Airways due to the lack of Lufthansa blocking and more generous (published) award routing rules.

  11. Requiring more logic is certainly a devaluation. At least to me, elite qualification isn’t earning. When I hear earning devaluation, that means less miles deposited in my account, rather than something about a temporary counter.

  12. Requiring more miles is certainly a devaluation. At least to me, elite qualification isn’t earning. When I hear earning devaluation, that means less miles deposited in my account, rather than something about a temporary counter.

  13. I don’t have a problem with these changes, no need to incentivise your frequent fliers to fly the competition when UA flies the same routes. The global alliances seem to be weakening and the JV’s getting stronger. And when have they ever given notice about earning chart changes.

  14. Clearly related to revenue sharing with LH. UA profits when u fly Inferior LH biz class so you get rewarded. But no reason to incentivize customers to fly SQ. so now you are forced to choose between superior product (SQ NZ Thai etc) and bonus EQM on UA. Of course this choice is clear – UA won’t win any new business so its really just some misguided MP mgmt executive being petty by penalizing his best customers for choosing to fly a partner. Maybe the best customer response is to fly Cathay…

  15. UA is already way more generous than AA. With AA, you *must* buy their overpriced code-shared CX flights if you want to accrue any miles (RDM or EQM) in discounted economy, and I’m sure this arrangement holds for other AA partners too.

  16. Speaking of thinning the elite ranks, due to a mis-posting of a PQM bonus, I ended the year at 99600 PQMs and they were going to drop me to Platinum…

  17. Well, that answers where I am crediting my SQ First class ticket to – I was on the fence but no more!

  18. Can you show that this is a change? I’m nearly 100% certain that SQ F, among others, only earned 100% PQMs in PMUA (and possibly last year as well). PMCO may have been different.

    UA has always reserved the extra EQM benefit for Lufthansa group, Air Canada, and US Air. *A just isn’t as tight as Oneworld.

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