Most valued = biggest spenders.
There are so many terms in travel which are misplaced, or at least are now. Like frequent flyer miles, many of which can be attained without ever leaving the house, just by spending, and elite frequent flyers, which can now simply be people who spend a lot, rather than fly a lot – at least with United.
United Airlines now offers the most sweeping and divergent path for its loyalty program than others have in decades, and the main takeaway is one thing: “show me the money”. That’s right: how you move through their frequent flyer tiers have nothing to do with how far you go, or even how often, just how much you spend…
United Airlines Mileage Plus New Premier Qualification Criterion
How many miles do you need to become a top tier flyer with United Airlines now? No one knows, because they’re no longer considered. But if you spend $24k in a (normal) year, you can guarantee it.
United’s new MileagePlus program is now entirely focused on “PQP’s” – or Premium Qualifying Points – which equate to 1 US Dollar spent. It’s how much you spend that matters when it comes to earning elite status benefits, and that’s pretty much it.
The only other criterion, which helps lower how much you need to spend, is how many flights you take. These are called “PQF’s” – or Premier Qualifying Flights. You can earn your elite status purely on spend, or with slightly less spend and a high number of “PQF’s”. Annoyingly, PQF’s won’t count if you book basic economy.
1 PQP = 1 USD spent on flights.
1 PQF = 1 Flight Segment flown.
No flying knowledge required or distances are needed to figure out where you rank in United’s loyalty program. All the targets are spending targets, not how far you fly, or how often even really.
Update: during covid-19, United has updated the number of qualifying points needed to earn or keep status. All information on what United is doing to help protect member statuses can be found here.
A Premier Qualifying Flight “PQF” is a single flight, aka one take off and landing. so a direct round trip would get you 2 PQF, and a round trip with a connection each way would net you “4” PQF’s.
The only other rule: you need at least four flights on United planes for your status to count. This is defined as United “metal”, where you fly on a United Airlines operated flight, with United crews, aircraft, etc. The new United Premier Elite qualification breaks down like this…
How Many PQP and PQF You Need For United Premier Status
New United Premier Gold 2020 Qualification Needs
2020: 24 PQF and 8,000 PQP or 10,000 PQP
New United Premier Platinum 2020 Qualification Needs
2020: 36 PQF and 12,000 PQP or 15,000 PQP
New United Premier 1K 2020 Qualification Needs
2020: 54 PQF and 18,000 PQP or 24,000 PQP
All your interactions with United, like seat purchases, upgrade co-pays and everything else will still count toward PQP spend, which is better than nothing.
Ok, That Makes Sense For Taking United Flights, But How Will United Premier Qualifying Points Be Credited For Star Alliance Flights?
Unfortunately, not in a good way for those who travel in premium cabins on other airlines, but perhaps ok for those who fly long distances in discount economy. United will now credit “PQP” points for Star Alliance flights based purely on an annoying math equation – 1/5th the United Miles you’d earned on Lufthansa, Air Canada, ANA or Copa or 1/6th the miles earned on every other Star Alliance, which you can calculate using WhereToCredit.com and GCmap.com.
The new Star Alliance PQP calculation is the flight distance divided by 5 or 6, depending on United’s relationship with the airline. So, a 5,000 mile flight on a Star Alliance partner could bring you out much lower, or just slightly ahead of earning on United flights. That’s a shame if you spend $6k, and end up with 1/6th of that PQP, just for booking onto another airline.
It’s clear United wants members on their own “metal”.
No. Despite all the moves and shakes in how you earn elite Premier status with United, how you earn miles has stayed exactly the same. All members earn between 5-11 miles per dollar spent, depending on where they rank within the program.
United has recently moved to more dynamic ways of pricing awards – which translates to “the prices will vary everyday” – rather than a set price and it’s either available or it’s not, but that’s the only real new(ish) piece of information.
United Mileage Plus Officially Says” Show Me The Money”
Airlines have tiptoed around turning their relationships with flyers into something purely transactional for years, but United just did it. People like to believe that there’s a relationship, or greater meaning to their flying loyalty, and for this reason, many airlines kept a system where how much you actually flew with your “butt in a seat” still mattered most.
If you were flying somewhere far, you wanted to feel like it mattered more.
But then airlines began adding revenue requirements, where you had to spend a certain amount to climb the ladder, still leaving the miles as the main criteria, to let people romanticise the relationship, and envision themselves as a frequent flyer based on their actual and frequent flying.
Premier Status Benefit Perks
Each level of United Premier Elite Status comes with different perks, and depending on travel habits, they can help justify loyalty. Star Alliance Gold, which also entitles flyers to a big list of benefits is also included with Premier Status earned starting from Gold.
Benefits include complimentary checked bags, lounge access and even confirmable upgrades which can transform an international economy ticket into business class. United recently also moved upgrades to be based on PlusPoints, which give all elite members more flexibility with how they’d like to use upgrades, such as earning one international upgrade, or 4 domestic upgrades.
With PlusPoints, you see how many ‘Points’ are required for a specific flight, then can cash in your PlusPoints for the upgrade, rather than being stuck with certificates you can’t, or don’t want to use.
United Takes Emotional Connection Out Of Loyalty
Emotion is out, transaction is in, and United must now live with the double edged sword this creates. United recently improved its upgrade system for elite Platinum and 1K travellers, but for many who already fly in business class most of the time – these upgrades weren’t that big of a deal. Who cares about earning status if you enjoy the same facilities and cabins anyway?
And if that’s the case, then just pick whichever airline is cheapest, not the one you have a long and romanticised relationship with. Do you see what door United just opened?
The very customers they are pandering to with this move (big spenders), are the very customers who don’t care about loyalty perks, because big spenders get big benefits based on the ticket they buy which already have the bells and whistles, not by sticking with an airline, even when it’s not easy to…