When United Airlines announced a revised loyalty program based almost entirely on spend, rather than how far or how often you fly, there was one last opportunity to relish the old concept of loyalty. If you flew on a partner airline, like Air Canada, Lufthansa or ANA, you could earn elite status based on the miles you’d earn, divided by either 5 or 6.

It meant someone flying on a cheaper ticket, or stuck often flying on other airlines, but flying far or often could still earn valuable perks.

You can now say that United’s loyalty program is entirely based on a concept of “show me the money”, because that last loophole which rewarded flying in any other way is now gone. You want perks? Show United the money…

united-airlines-tailUnited Premier Qualifying Points

United ia making loyalty incredibly simple to understand, even if it fails to address or rewards many of the key tenets of loyalty. The airline will give you one Premier Qualifying Point (PQP’s) for every dollar you spend, and has set thresholds where these PQP trigger elite status, and the associated benefits.

Spend $12,000, earn 12,000 PQP – which in light of current times, earns top tier 1K status.

Basically: United doesn’t care if you fly every week on a cheap ticket, just how much you spend. Someone flying once, but paying an egregious amount of money could enjoy better perks for a year than someone devoting themselves to the United brand. That’s one way of doing it.

The Last PQP Loophole Gets Curbed

Flying on partner airlines, with tickets issued by Star Alliance airlines other than United was the last way to rack up United MileagePlus elite status based on distance flown, with the price of the ticket playing a much smaller part.

To curb that behavior, or opportunity, Loyalty Lobby notes United is capping what can be earned via this method of earning elite status. United is effectively punishing those who fly on partner airlines, but earn miles with United. For tickets issued after April 29th, 2020, caps will be placed which limit PQP earning to 1,500 points, or less.

The airline could claim its to weed out status chasers, but in reality it’s just making its loyalty program less attractive to those who end up flying internationally often, and prefer better on board customer service, or products.

Reading the fine print, you’ll even need to reach out proactively to the airline if you want your flights counted properly in the interim!

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger?

United continues to march headstrong into a world where loyalty simply means customers who spend the most. There are, of course, arguments of why this is a fair system. On the other hand, flying is a game of choice and one where emotional attachments exist.

Telling people who were never going to spend $25k a year, but gave the airline their business day in, day out, week to week that they can go pound dirt just sends awful messages. Without the ability for that customer to still earn top tier perks, it creates an aviation market based purely on price, and that’s unlikely a war United will win.

Is this program harder, better, faster and stronger than the others, or just harder to enjoy?

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