United Changing Requirements And Benefits For Elite Status

There’s nothing quite like a Friday afternoon announcement on the last day of the quarter to demonstrate confidence in your business decision, but that’s the approach United MileagePlus has chosen to take with these updates to their elite program.

In emails being sent to members today, United is sharing changes to the benefits and requirements of the MileagePlus Premier program, some of which take effect today.

At first glance these seem mostly benign, and for some people they may even be beneficial (as always, it will depend on your specific situation). But notifying members of changes that went live in your systems before you bothered to communicate with them is never a good look.

New United MileagePlus Premier benefits

Baggage

As of today, all elites (even those of us with lowly Silver status from Marriott), receive the same domestic baggage allowance when flying economy. Everyone gets 70lbs now, rather than the 50 lb limit Silvers had previously.

For flights to Europe, Premier Silver members flying economy can now check two bags for free, again with a maximum weight of 70 lbs each.

Gold members traveling to Europe in economy, or elites traveling in a premium cabin to any international destination, can check three bags for free, also with a 70lb limit.

United describes the changes as:

These changes make our Premier member baggage benefits consistent when flying long-haul international: Premier Gold, Platinum, and 1K members flying in United Economy between the U.S. and Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, or the Middle East are now allowed up to three bags with a maximum weight of 70 lbs. (32 kg) per bag. Premier Silver members flying in United Economy on flights between the U.S. and Europe enjoy both a higher baggage allowance — two bags — and higher weight — 70 lbs. (32 kg) per bag.

So, for those who check bags, that seems generally fine.

Boarding

I haven’t flown United for a minute, and the last time I did they were still optimizing the boarding zones. It felt very 1990s Southwest, but I assume those kinks have been worked out.

So I’m not sure if this has been an improvement or not, but apparently as of last week 1Ks are being called to pre-board, and Golds board in Group 1.

Any feedback from United flyers as to how that is working (or if it makes a difference)?

New United elite status qualification rules

Beginning January 1st (so in order to qualify for 2020 status), the Premier Qualifying Dollars requirement for United Premier 1K status will be $15,000 as opposed to the current $12,000.

Additionally, P fares (which are the discounted first and business class fares) that are flown next year will only earn 150% of Premier Qualifying Miles, rather than 200%.

This bothers me, as I expect most people purchase tickets with certain expectations of mileage earning, particularly elite members of a frequent flyer program. It would be much more reasonable to say that P fares for tickets issued after January 1st (or even today!) would earn at a lower rate, but United’s IT probably can’t handle that nuance.

Still, if you have an already-issued ticket in P, I would grumble.

United claims:

We’re adjusting qualification requirements for Premier 1K status with the goal of offering our most appealing program benefits to our most loyal customers and making these benefits, such as upgrades, more easily available.

So basically United feels they still have too many over-entitled elites, apparently.

New United upgrade certificate earning

Currently, United 1K members who fly more than the required amount to achieve status earn additional upgrade certificates — two Regional Premier Upgrades (RPU) for every 25,000 PQM, and two Global Premier Upgrades (GPU) for every 50,000 PQM.

American has a similar policy, where elites who over-qualify for EXP receive additional System Wide Upgrades, and the general idea is to encourage your most prolific flyers to continue to fly (and spend!) on your airline, rather than dividing their loyalties.

Beginning January 1st, 1Ks will no longer receive bonus RPUs for over-qualifying. Instead, 1Ks will get an additional GPU for every 25,000 PQM or 30 qualifying segments.

Given the comparative price of first class over economy these days, and the kvetching I’ve heard about using RPUs, and the general lack of R space domestically, this seems like it may be an okay trade for many? Of course, using GPUs is difficult for some as well, so this isn’t a universally positive change.

Bottom line

I am not a United flyer these days, so I hesitate to speak with any authority. I asked Travis for his take, which he summed up as “picking up kids, seems pretty positive for most; people aren’t going to like raising the spend requirements” so I’m going off that. 😉

But for the most part these don’t seem like outrageous changes, I just really don’t like the messaging of making them so suddenly, and announcing them after some have taken effect.

United loyalists — what do you make of these changes?

(Tip of the hat to Scott C.)

Comments

  1. As a 1k with ~$30k spend each of the last two years (90% international J-Fare) the PQD requirement isn’t a huge ding for me, but I can see that being a major hurt for my domestic road warrior brothers and sisters that grind out their PQD’s $200-$500 at a time. This being said it does bring the $ requirements inline with Delta for diamond, but you can easily argue that 1K still comes with less perks (lounge pass, tarmac transfer etc.) than Diamond.

    I’m for the scale back of RPU issuing; currently there are too many RPU’s out there and thus a bad ratio of RPU’s to R Space. I would like to see a “hey, we’re not giving out as many, but we made them more useable” message, but I won’t hold my breath!

  2. This doesn’t make me too happy, especially the 4 GPUs instead of 6 GPUs and the additional ~$4K in spending (since taxes/fees don’t count). It looks like my 1K days will be over next year and I’ll have to live with Permanent Platinum. Delta might earn my business going forward as they are really competitive in Portland.

  3. @ Brian — Delta has the same spending requirement as United is implementing, at $15,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars. The difference is that Delta also offers a spending waiver if you charge enough to their co-brand credit card (that’s the $250k you mention), whereas United doesn’t offer spend waivers for 1K at all.

  4. As a UA Platty and MM’er this doesn’t affect me too much.
    I get the spending waiver via my Chase UA card at $25k and then after that it’s 75k in PQM which is a breeze.
    I still get Group 1 boarding and am sandwiched in between the plethora of Golds and the few GS and 1Ks which means my Polaris upgrades and free domestic RPU usually clear if I’m thoughtful about how I book.

  5. Bring on the spend requirements! I already am at $15k for this year but still 10k miles away from 100k and was just recently wondering why the requirement is so low for the dollar amount.

    No one should be complaining about this. It’s 2018 and you can pay for first class for $150 on most routes. Pay for what you want – these programs are designes and optimized to incentivize you to fly the airline and spend more so join the game or fly WN.

  6. Meh … Haven’t flown UA in a while. I’m going to need to at least once before the end of the year to use a credit in our travel system. I went with WN this year and am pretty happy. Already have A+ status, and pretty close to locking in the companion. I just missed Platinum with UA last year by 4,000 miles. In 71,000 miles of flying during 2017 I got one complimentary upgrade. On a CRJ. At 6AM on a Wednesday. Upgrades just can’t factor into the decisions anymore like they used to. My S/O on the other hand has accompanied me on nearly a dozen flights for $5.60 each way. I think I’ll take that over a seat up front. Since most of my UA flights were 2-3 hours anyway, it’s not like I’m losing much.

    As far as their new boarding process, from what I saw in DEN while I was having a drink with a co-worker, the 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s were all crowding the gate area. Group 1 seemed to be over half the plane, and they were lining up before the inbound flight was even there. (Man did that bring back some memories of camping out for WN.) When each group was called there were some me-first type maneuvers. I think the change is a step backward.

    Now … what do I do with the 520K UA miles in my account? I need to plan a nice long vacation to Sydney in First with my two favorite thing … the boyfriend and ambien.

  7. Flew UA 2 weeks ago from Orange County to SF. I’m UA gold and can confirm that 1Ks pre-boarded and that I boarded with group 1 even though I was seated in economy. First time for me with these changes.

  8. Baggage and boarding change is largely irrelevant to most. So this is a devaluation in P fares and EQD. P fares is the bigger downside IMHO.

  9. I disagree that the baggage isn’t so bad. As a gold and above, you now get 2 bags. This reduces it to one. I rarely check two as a gold domestically, but it’s a nice benefit when you need it. Also, not allowing 1Ks at least two bags seems weak.

  10. Correction, I was looking at a flight this year. Checking a domestic flight next year yields the following:

    UA Silver 1 x 70lbs
    UA Gold 2 x 70lbs
    UA Plat and higher 3 x 70lbs

    *A Silver no bags free
    *A Gold 1 x 50lbs

    MileagePlus Explorer Card Holders 1 x 50lbs
    MileagePlus Club Card Holders 2 x 50lbs
    Presidential Card Holders 2 x 50lbs

    Active military personal travel 3 x 70lbs
    Active military on orders 5 x 100lbs

  11. I’m one of those who bought P tickets a week ago, for travel next year, specifically on UA, specifically for 200% PQM. I’m pissed.

    I haven’t gotten an email yet from them either. Thanks for the report.

  12. I’m one of those who bought P tickets a week ago, for travel next year, specifically on UA, specifically for 200% PQM. I’m pissed.

    I haven’t gotten an email yet from them either. Thanks for the report.

  13. Screw United. Their pqm requirements are too high and I’m still stuck in silver even though I spent 5000+$ so far (still a long way to go to reach gold)

    Changed to Southwest. Atleast the seats are not cramped now.

  14. I don’t fly United much, but I imagine the P fare change is a very big deal. I believe AA still offers 200% elite mileage credit for similar discounted business fares while DL and now UA don’t. For example, for those that buy business transcon flights, it makes a huge difference whether you earn 7,500 miles or 10,000 miles round trip.

  15. Mostly positive changes: heavier bags allowed for ALL elites; lower threshold spend to get additional GPUs; 1Ks pre-board (yea!).

    Neutral change to me that is not too surprising: P fare earning 150% rather 200%.

    Mildly negative for me: Increased PQD requirement.

    Overall, a slight net positive.

  16. It is not acceptable to change the EQM earnings on a P fare after it is been sold. I only feel validated in my new approach to simply buy whoever offers me the cheapest business class tickets. Shame on United as this undermines trust and their credibility to deliver on their promise when the ticket was purchased.

  17. For all those correctly identifying the changes to PQM earn for tickets with fare basis P, call United and threaten them with a chargeback.

    United’s program is already questionable compared to SkyMiles and AAdvantage in one very important respect – no PQD earn on non-UA ticketed fares.

  18. I must admit that if I wasn’t able to use my GPU certificates to travel to Japan and Australia the 1K benefits would be useless because it is almost impossible to find availability for RPUs for cross country flights. And GPUs for flights to and from Europe often involve paying $400 extra to be put on a waitlist and HOPE it clears. I know it would never happen but:
    1) I am more than willing to pay an extra $300 to use a GPU if I can get that $300 back in case it doesn’t get through. Ditch the need to pay for a different fare class and make a GPU equal to the miles needed to be spent to do an upgrade with miles. Instead of miles and cash it is GPU and cash.
    2) In the past two weeks I have flown a segment from EWR to LHR that earned $98 of spend and another segment to Amsterdam that earned $44 of spend. So more flights to Pittsburgh from Newark for $800 roundtrip are clearly in my future!

  19. The new boarding process with UA Gold getting group 1 is certainly a welcome change. Group 2 used to be more than half the plane with mainly credit card holders.

  20. I absolutely hate the new boarding process and it is the opposite of what should have been done. Group 2 was previously ridiculous but the credit card holders should have been moved to group 3 instead of Gold being moved to group 1. It took me years to get to Platinum and move up to group 1. I now really don’t see any benefit to Platinum.

    Oh and thanks United for the emails. #lostincyberspace

  21. Have been 1k for years, and given I fly road warrior in the mid-west and central; $12K was always a difficult push each and every year. So between that, the reduction in P class (after purchased is BS), and general fact that De Nada Oscar and his idiot sidekick Kirby are still running this airline, after all the antics under their watch, not too mention driving this program into the ground, have me finally fed up with United and its horrible service; I am moving after 25 years with them.

  22. I flew 6 domestic flights on United this week in the US. As a 1K I appreciated boarding with the global services members. I also found the food in first had improved. For the one flight in economy, my headphone jack wasn’t working. I was moved to one of two empty seats on the plane, comped food and beverage and given $150 for future travel, which I thought was a good response.

    As Cathay requires 125k miles for Emerald, I don’t think the increase to $15k is onerous – though as I live in Japan it is still miles for me.

  23. “Currently, United 1K members who fly more than the required amount to achieve status (now 100,000 PQM) earn additional upgrade certificates…two Global Premier Upgrades (GPU) for every 50,000 PQM.”

    “Beginning January 1st, 2019, 1Ks…will get an (= ONE) additional GPU for every 25,000 PQM….”

    Seems to me these are the same, that is, no real change: 2 GPU for 50,000 miles over 100,000, or, going forward, 1 GPU for each 25,000 miles over 100,000.

    However, I got 6 GPU last year for 157,000 miles. Now I guess it would be only 4.

    Am I misunderstanding any of this?

    Also, in the email I received, I did not find any change in the 100,000 miles required for 1K status (+ $15,000 from now on). Am I correct in that there was no change to the total required?

  24. GS here feeling Losing unlimited Confirmed Regional Upgrades is just as well as they are useless.

    The way 1K’s will earn GPU’s over the six they earn annually is mildly beneficial.

    1k now costs $15k in addition to the old 4 segments on United. Clearly bad news for some but maybe UA wants to prune the ranks. Doesn’t start till next year but there used to be no spend requirement. Or for foreign MP Addresses – seems a bit harsh and mean spirited.

    Overall no affect on me but I hate the the polarization of the halves and have nots on UA. Clearly Mgmt knows people use price as their main determining factor on carrier selected so blame rests with them too.

    I think United has more challenges from Chinese carriers to be concerned about, than these petty tweaks.

    On the positive side, UA is slowly returning profits to stock holders and the airline is getting back to where it was pre summer from hell. I don’t begrudge them making some good money so long as hard and soft product, and reliability, are way up. FFP is still way better than DL and AA I know zilch about. So a little more decorum and advance notice on these changes would cost you nothing Oscar & Co. Yawn!

  25. Does United still keep it secret as to how one acquires GLOBAL SERVICES status? They lost me 10 yrs ago (when I was already at 1.8mio lifetime miles) because there was no way to know how to achieve this status. Started from scratch with LH Miles and More and Happily HON for the past 6 yrs. The sad part of the story is that UA could have had my loyalty if only that had shared what it takes to achieve this status. It appears from this post that their “superior communication skills” continue in full flow. Good luck UA.

  26. Will the New United MileagePlus Premier benefits take affects for flights that booked before Jan 1, 2018 or when you use the schedule flight during 20019?

  27. Congratulations United, for the improvements and the new 787 series. However, I wonder if economy passengers matter. While business and first class passengers are corporate travelers or a small percentage as the very rich, economy is where the loyalty is. They fill your planes and pay out of pocket. Why would you squish seats with less leg room and make their life more miserable.? Take a page out of southwest will ya? They serve good snacks…still. My old loyalty starting from Continental Airline days to now with United will have to be reassessed how and with whom I travel!

  28. Personally I don’t think this is a big deal. Of course, recent industry consolidation (and therefore competition contraction) means that no one should be surprised. There will be no enhancing loyalty programs, only degrading them. That said, as a 20-year 1K member and Lifetime Plat, these things aren’t a big deal. $15K from $12K: I would venture to guess that most 1K members are business flyers and therefore this does not represent another $4000 (grossed up for fees/tax) out of personal pockets for the most part. Pre-board: it matters if you’re a habitual late gate arriver (which, other than a bad connection is your choice), or if you’re boarding an RJ170, 175 or sometimes CRJ700 where the overhead space is doable but very limited. Otherwise, old Group 1 vs. pre-board doesn’t really have a downside to me. Baggage: 1K unaffected really. Less Regionals: not too big of a deal and affects a small subset, plus the Global flexibility sort of compensates. Overall, for me, no biggie.

  29. Sounds like an improvement in the boarding process. UA is one of the only carriers I fly that does not offer a First Class pre-board. With a 1-K preboard, possibly that quirk will not be overlooked in the future.

    I am lifetime 1-K so qualification changes do not effect me personally but I understand how others can be effected. Consider buying some P fares. They are no longer that expensive in many markets and keeping 1-K is worth it. You do not have to be “super rich” to afford them.

  30. United Airline forgotten that during the bad economic times in the past fifteen years, the loyal customers, us, is what kept United airline flying and prevent it from going under like TWA and Pan Am.

    Bad times for airlines come in cycles driven by bad economy. Also price of oil drive ticket pricing high and affect the financial health of all airlines. During bad economies, companies order their managers to stop flying and use available communication technology such as Smart Phones and Social Media for meetings and training instead of face to face meetings.

    When that time comes, loyal United Airlines customers will not be so loyal anymore to save United Airline once more.

    As the plan wheels touchdown and hear the pilot announces “We know you have a choice in airlines.” Do NOT BELIEVE IT! You don’t have a choice if you are flying point to point within United States.

    Foreign airline are forbidden from flying point-to-point destinations domestically. These laws, which are meant to protect American consumers and jobs, are having the exact opposite effect. These lows left the domestic airlines to gang up on the American travelers by controlling ticket pricing, routes, and element any real free market compotation.

    As United, Delta and American Airlines keep screwing their customer; sooner or later the U.S. Congress will take action to open domestic air travel market to foreign airlines. U.S. Congress will be driven by consumer dissatisfaction of pricing, customer service, and lack of competition. Also pressure will increase from European, Asian and Emirates airline and their governments to free the American market for them to compete.

    When the international and domestic flying markets merge as one market, it will be all over for these three companies and go by the side way like US auto manufacturing in the early seventies.

    I have been flying United since 1983. I achieved 1k States ten times in the past 12 years. By the end of this year I will have two million one hundred thousand miles with United. I have clear strategy for flying United for the next three years. Simply achieve the three Million miles plateau. 1K status is 1K for life time! then I need not worry about $15,000 PQD. $15,000 PQD in realty is $25,000 to $30,000 of spending on United airline tickets. Fees, Taxes, and additional fees for upgrades are not counted by United Airline toward the $15,000 PDQ.

    Most of my flying now is international, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Manila, Singapore, London, Tel Aviv, Cairo, etc. I will book the lowest cost tickets to these distensions to achieve three million miles without focus on achieving 1K.

    Cheers,

  31. I started out flying UA about this 10 years after you, but my MM status is very similar.

    So I feel your pain as a long term UA flyer as the airline has morphed through several stages of greatness and terrible.

    Some points:

    1. America still has the US3, SW, Jetblue and Alaska so 6 airlines which compete domestically. Better than most countries.

    2. Don’t you agree UA today has improved immensely compared to 2000?

    3. $15,000 PQD in realty is NOT $25,000 to $30,000 of spending on United airline tickets, unless you buy tickets with very high change fees.

    4. Canada, the USA, Australia, Russia, Japan and China etc do not allow foreign carriers domestic traffic rights. Singapore and Hong Kong are city states and have no domestic market. I would say that of all the large geographical nations I mentioned, the USA has more open skies agreements than anyone else, with EK having 4-5 flights a day to NYC 1 being via Athens and a second Milan. Canada iso mainly bilaterals, China is, not sure about OZ / Russia / Japan.

    5. Once you get to 3MM 1K for life you will still have to buy up to W class to use your GPU’s.

    6. If the economy tanks to such a low degree, I think the US government would support the US3 over smaller rivals. Legacies tend to have a closer ties to the US military for charters and their size makes them more like to meet national security needs. The US is not going to give up controlling interests in the US3 to foreign states for that reason.

    7. If you are 1K you can fly any other Star Alliance carrier outside of the USA, when you are GS you are more or less in a committed relationship with UA.

    I hope you achieve your goal soon of 3MM 1K LT status!

    Adam

  32. I just spent 45 minutes on the phone with the United Premier desk, because I was unhappy that four P tickets I just bought were now apparently going to earn 150%, despite my having purchased them before the announcement. Fortunately, justice prevailed. The agent was able to confirm that the 200% earning would be honored for P tickets purchased prior to 28-Sep-18. They were unable to do anything automatically, but the agent noted the policy on each ticket and advised I call after travel to have it corrected if I do not earn the 200% as expected.

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