United MileagePlus has just made it harder to earn status if you’re traveling on partner airlines. I’m not sure what’s stranger — that they’re making this change while global travel is non-existent, or that they’re making this change just months after having introduced this system for earning status.
United’s new system for earning status
As of 2020, United has made major changes to how you earn MileagePlus elite status:
- Prior to 2020 you earned status based on a combination of how many Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) or Premier Qualifying Segments (PQSs) you earned, plus how many Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs) you earned
- As of 2020 you earn status based on a combination of how many Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs) you earn
For travel on United:
- You earn one PQP for every dollar you spend
- You earn one PQF for every flight you take
Here’s the chart showing how status is earned based on the above:
If you’re traveling on a partner airline on a ticket not issued by United, you earn PQPs as follows:
- Your PQPs will be equal to award miles earned divided by five if traveling on a preferred partner
- Your PQPs will be equal to award miles earned divided by six if traveling on another partner
United’s new limit for partner PQP earning
United MileagePlus is putting a cap on how many PQPs you can earn for travel on partner airlines, as follows:
- This applies for tickets issued by airlines other than United
- This applies for flights as of July 1, 2020
- The limits are per segment, not per ticket
- MileagePlus members who purchased tickets prior to April 29, 2020, can still earn PQPs beyond the cap by emailing [email protected] with the subject line “OA PQP Review”
The above potentially greatly limits how many PQPs you can earn for travel on partner airlines. To give a couple of examples…
If you fly roundtrip from Newark to Singapore on Singapore Airlines in premium economy:
- You’d ordinarily earn 19,068 redeemable miles (100% of the distance flown)
- You’d ordinarily earn 3,178 PQPs (the award miles earned divided by six)
- With the new cap you’d earn just 1,000 PQPs, which is about a 70% reduction in PQP earning
To give a less extreme example, if you fly roundtrip from New York to Frankfurt on Lufthansa in first class:
- You’d ordinarily earn 15,376 redeemable miles (200% of the distance flown)
- You’d ordinarily earn 3,075 PQPs (the award miles earned divided by five)
- With the new cap you’d earn 3,000 PQPs, which is only a very mild reduction in PQP earning
United MileagePlus is making it significantly harder to earn status based on partner airline travel as of July 1, 2020. Not only is the timing of this strange (given the state of the global airline industry — it’s not even the only negative change they’re making), but I also am surprised by the fact that MileagePlus didn’t consider this when introducing the program a few months ago.
It’s not like they’re changing the rules on a program years after it was introduced, but rather this change comes just months after the new mileage earning style was introduced.
Arbitrage opportunities when crediting partner flights to a complicated program have long existed, so how did United not account for this when introducing the program in the first place?
Will you be impacted by these MileagePlus rule changes?
(Tip of the hat to Zach Griff)