Big changes: United to make it harder to earn status

Elite status: It’s the thing that all frequent flyers want, and United is about to make it harder to get.

United Airlines has recently announced changes to its MileagePlus program that will make it harder to earn or retain elite status.

Starting next year, the requirements for earning status will be significantly raised, which means United MileagePlus members may be faced with challenges to climb the membership ladder. In saying that, it looks like there’s little chance of avoiding the extra cost outlay involved.

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Here’s what we know about the changes:

What is changing?

Essentially, United flyers will have to fly or spend more to obtain elite status from next year.

First, let’s understand how United status works. The United MileagePlus program is made up of four membership tiers: Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K.

Reaching these status challenges members to meet the following requirements:

  • Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF), which are eligible flights flown
  • Premier Qualifying Points (PQP), which is the USD amount spent on flights

Here’s what United MileagePlus members will have to earn to reach Premier status from 2023:

  • Premier Silver: 12 PQF + 4,000 POP or 5,000 POP (was 8 PQF + 3,000 PQP or 3,500 PQP)
  • Premier Gold: 24 PQF + 8,000 PQP or 10,000 PQP (was 16 PQF + 6,000 PQP or 7,000 PQP)
  • Premier Platinum: 36 PQF + 12,000 PQP or 15,000 PQP (was 24 PQF + 9,000 PQP or 10,000 PQP)
  • Premier 1K: 54 PQF + 18,000 PQP or 24,000 PQP (was 36 PQF + 13,500 PQP or 15,000 PQP)

As well as the increased PQF and PQP requirements, United Mileage Plus members will no longer be able to achieve lifetime status.

As you can see, the changes will require significantly higher spend, with top-tier Premier 1K benefits like extra legroom seats and upgrades now costing USD24,000 in airfares each year.

Sweeteners (it’s not all bad news)

To ease the blow, United has made a few other changes that may make it easier for members to fulfill the new status requirements.

Jumpstart PQPs will automatically apply to members who start the year with status. Here’s how many Premier Qualifying Points you can expect to kickstart the year with:

  • Premier Silver = 500 PQPs
  • Premier Gold = 1,000 PQPs
  • Premier Platinum = 1,500 PQPs
  • Premier 1K = 2,500 PQPs

Award flights now earn status-qualifying points. MileagePlus members will earn 1PQP for every 100 miles flow, as well as 1 PQF for every United or United Express flight.

No more change fees on award tickets will also make using miles easier come 2023.

Summary: Are these changes a bad thing?

Not necessarily. While the requirements to qualify for elite status are going to increase, United has made other program changes that will introduce more ways to earn status.

Regardless of the ‘sweeteners’, earning and retaining United status just got a whole lot more expensive, which makes us wonder if the associated status benefits are worth the added cost.

United initially proposed these program changes back in 2020. However, they held off due to the pandemic, so they’ve been a long time coming and, as such, probably won’t catch most MileagePlus members too off guard.

These changes are now being introduced as rival airline Delta recently introduced a status match offer that could see Qantas and Velocity members easily earn SkyTeam Elite status until 2024.

How do you feel about United’s move to change status requirements?

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