We’ve seen most airlines extend status this year due to the circumstances, and we’re now starting to see airlines announce plans to make status easier to earn in 2021. Well, United has just announced something along those lines.
United MileagePlus Premier status shortcuts
United Airlines has just revealed several initiatives that will make it easier to earn MileagePlus status in 2021, for the 2022 program year. Go figure it was just this year that United completely redesigned how MileagePlus status is earned.
To recap, United’s new system for earning status is based on the following (as you’ll see, number of miles flown isn’t a metric at all):
- Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs), and members earn one PQP for every dollar of eligible airfare
- Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs), and members earn one PQF for every eligible flight taken
For the upcoming year, United is lowering the PQP and PQF requirements for status, depositing 25% of the PQP-only requirements in Premier members’ accounts, launching a promotion for flights in early 2021, and making it easier to earn Premier 1K with credit card spending. Let’s take a closer look at the details.
MileagePlus Premier thresholds will be reduced
In 2021, the requirements for earning status will be reduced, whether qualifying based on a combination of PQPs and PQFs, or qualifying exclusively based on PQPs. Requirements are being lowered by somewhere around 33-43%, depending on the metric you’re looking at.
Here’s what’s changing:
- Premier Silver will require 3,000 PQPs + 8 PQFs OR 3,500 PQPs (previously it required 4,000 PQPs + 12 PQFs OR 5,000 PQPs)
- Premier Gold will require 6,000 PQPs + 16 PQFs OR 7,000 PQPs (previously it required 8,000 PQPs + 24 PQFs OR 10,000 PQPs)
- Premier Platinum will require 9,000 PQPs + 24 PQFs OR 10,000 PQPs (previously it required 12,000 PQPs + 36 PQFs OR 15,000 PQPs)
- Premier 1K will require 13,500 PQPs + 36 PQFs OR 15,000 PQPs (previously it required 18,000 PQPs + 54 PQFs OR 24,000 PQPs)
MileagePlus Premier members will get a head start
Not only is United lowering elite thresholds, but existing Premier members will also get a boost based on their current status. On February 1, 2021, MileagePlus Premier members will receive 25% of the PQPs based on their Premier status from this year.
To be clear, you don’t receive bonus PQPs based on how much you actually flew, but rather based on your status level, as follows:
- Premier Silver members will get 875 bonus PQPs
- Premier Gold members will get 1,750 bonus PQPs
- Premier Platinum members will get 2,500 bonus PQPs
- Premier 1K members will get 3,750 bonus PQPs
In other words, you could ordinarily earn Premier 1K status with 24,000 PQPs. That’s being lowered to 15,000 PQPs for next year, and then existing Premier 1K members would get 3,750 PQPs to start next year, meaning they’d only need 11,250 PQPs to requalify.
It will be significantly easier to earn United status in 2021
MileagePlus offering 1.5-2x PQPs in early 2021
To start off 2021, United will also offer what it calls its most rewarding Premier qualification bonus offer ever:
- This applies to the first three trips taken by MileagePlus members between January 1 and March 31, 2021
- Members without Premier status will earn 50% bonus PQPs, and members with Premier status will earn 100% bonus PQPs
United will reward the first three trips taken in 2021
Credit card spending will count towards Premier 1K
Historically PQPs earned from eligible MileagePlus credit cards have only counted towards status up to the Premier Platinum member. That will be changing, as PQPs earned through credit card spending will also be able to count towards Premier 1K status if the PQF requirement is met.
Personally I still don’t consider spending money on MileagePlus cards to be a great deal, but for some this might be worthwhile.
Credit card spending will count towards Premier 1K status
United MileagePlus extending upgrades
Unrelated to the status shortcuts, United is giving MileagePlus Premier members more flexibility to use their upgrades, nowadays known as PlusPoints:
- United is extending all PlusPoints set to expire on or after January 1, 2021, by an additional six months (this includes PlusPoints earned from 2019 and 2020 activity)
- As a promotion, in 2021 United is giving Premier 1K members who meet the new requirements more opportunities to receive additional upgrades by reducing the milestones for earning extra PlusPoints; after earning Premier 1K status and 15,000 PQMs, members will earn 20 PlusPoints for every additional 2,000 PQPs (compared to 20 PlusPoints for every additional 3,000 PQPs previously)
United MileagePlus is extending PlusPoints
United MileagePlus has announced a series of initiatives that will make it easier to earn Premier status in 2021. Ultimately we’re going to see things like this from most major loyalty programs, though admittedly this is more of a guessing game than anything else.
No one knows how demand will recover next year, so further adjustments will be needed.
In the meantime, I think United’s approach here is pretty good — the airline is lowering elite thresholds, rewarding existing elite members, incentivizing travel early next year, and making it easier to earn status with credit card spending.
What do you make of United’s adjustments to 2021 elite status requirements?