United’s recent wholesale program changes have left many wondering how they can still qualify for United MileagePlus Premier Status. For frequent business travelers who are trying to keep up with United Premier Status Qualification Requirements, these changes are important to assess, especially with the current moratorium on business travel.
Note: we fully understand that there are much more important things right now than trying to figure out United Premier Status Qualification Requirements. However, many of you have extra time on your hands right now, and things will eventually get back to normal, so might as well get smart on United’s changes, no?
In true Pyramid Principle fashion, we’re going to get right to the punchline. The changes are good for consultants, but detrimental for travelers who take a few international trips per year and bank on those to re-qualify for status. If you want to learn how to get Premier Status on United in 2020, continue reading.
What is United Premier Status?
In a nutshell, United Premier Status is given to the airline’s most frequent travelers, and the perks of United Premier Status give you a better and more enjoyable flight experience. Some of these benefits include complimentary upgrades to First Class, waived baggage fees, priority boarding, and more. However, the benefits vary for each Status level – United offers four tiers (Silver, Gold, Platinum, and 1K). Below is a detailed breakdown of the benefits for each tier.
Premier Silver: Complimentary access to Economy Plus or preferred seating, complimentary Premier Upgrades to First Class, 7x mileage bonus, priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage handling, complimentary checked bag, fee discounts/waivers
Premier Gold: All of the above plus 8x mileage bonus, 2 complimentary checked bags, waived same-day flight change fees
Premier Platinum: All of the above plus 9x mileage bonus, 3 complimentary checked bags, 40 PlusPoints, United Club annual membership discount, waived phone booking service fees, waived award travel change/cancel fees 61 or more days from departure
Premier 1K: All of the above plus 11x mileage bonus, 280 PlusPoints, waived CLEAR annual membership
What are PlusPoints? These can be used to “pay” for confirmed upgrades, even on flights where complimentary upgrades are available. As a Premier 1K, your PlusPoints are enough for eight confirmed upgrades from United Economy to Polaris Business Class. To dig even deeper into the benefits of United Premier Status, visit United’s Benefits webpage.
What’s Changed In United Premier Status?
Now that we’ve got the definitions and tier explanations out of the way, let’s dive into what United has changed. For one, the qualification requirements have been updated. The old program was based on a combination of three criteria: miles, flight segments, and dollars spent. The new requirements have been simplified into just two categories – Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) and Premier Qualifying Points (PQP).
What are Premier Qualifying Points? These points are calculated by the dollars you spend with United (comprising of ticket fares and paid upgrades). Previously, earning status used to be based on distance flown. Now, it’s status is earned exclusively based on the money you’ve spent with United and the flight segments taken.
Why did United make this change and transition from a “miles” program to one that doesn’t reward you for miles flown, but rather dollars spent? Quite simply, the airline wants to reward its most lucrative customers, who are not necessarily the ones that fly the farthest (or most).
For frequent business travelers that travel domestically, these changes are of considerable value. Most consultants are on 2 domestic flights per week for most weeks. And when you factor in that a flight from Chicago to St. Louis can cost as much as an international itinerary, you can imagine how quickly the segments and dollars add up (especially if your travel budget allows for business class tickets).
When you don’t pay for your own travel and don’t have price sensitivity, these are welcome changes.
Where most of the outcry has come about is that spend requirements have gone up for each tier. Last year, the minimum spend requirement for Silver Status was $3,000 (before taxes and fees). Compare that to a new minimum spend of $4,000.
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How To Qualify for Premier Status in 2020
As mentioned above, the requirements for qualifying for United Premier Status have been updated. See the new requirements for each tier below.
Premier Silver Qualifications:
- 12 PQF and 4,000 PQP or 5,000 PQP
Premier Gold Qualifications:
- 24 PQF and 8,000 PQP or 10,000 PQP
Premier Platinum Qualifications:
- 36 PQF and 12,000 PQP or 15,000 PQP
Premier 1K Qualifications:
- 54 PQF and 18,000 PQP or 24,000 PQP
For example, to qualify for United Premier Platinum Status, you will need to take 36 flights and spend a minimum of $12,000 before taxes and fees. An alternate way to reach Platinum Status would be to spend at least $15,000, including taking a minimum of four United-operated flights.
Each tier requires a minimum of four flights be operated by United as part of the PQF provision. United classifies a flight simply as a takeoff and landing. This means no more fare class multipliers – bad for existing elites who received them – but this also means no more confusing math when trying to figure out where you stand in the status game!
Another welcome change in 2020: even if you fly on a Star Alliance partner airline or MileagePlus partner airline, you will earn PQP. This was not the case last year. For preferred partner airlines, your PQP is calculated by taking the miles flown and dividing by 5. For other MileagePlus partner airlines, it will be miles flown divided by 6. This is a fantastic hack to quickly earn PQP – for example, taking a 5,000-mile flight on a preferred partner airline will land you 1,000 PQP on United. By comparison, taking this same flight on a United-operated flight may have only landed you 500 PQP if the fare was $500.
With this in mind, taking a number of long-haul international flights on partner airlines could help you qualify for status relatively quick and cheap.
In summary, if you’re a consultant that travels frequently, you should be happy with these changes. Qualifying for United Premier Status in 2020 will no doubt take a different strategy – and will very well hurt more travelers than it helps (contrary to United’s claims it will make status more accessible). Still, we are excited for the potential these changes have to help more of you earn United Premier Status and make your travel journeys more enjoyable!