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United Adds Spend to Elite Qualification Requirements

United Adds Spend to Elite Qualification Requirements

Following in Delta’s footsteps, United today announced on FlyerTalk that, beginning in January 2014, MileagePlus elite status will be awarded on the basis of a combination of elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) or segments (EQSs) and elite-qualifying dollars (EQDs), as follows:

  • Premier Silver – 25,000 EQMs or 30 EQSs and $2,500 EQDs
  • Premier Gold – 50,000 EQMs or 60 EQSs and $5,000 EQDs
  • Premier Platinum – 75,000 EQMs or 90 EQSs and $7,500 EQDs
  • Premier 1K – 100,000 EQMs or 120 EQSs and $10,000 EQDs

Elite-qualifying dollars include spending on “most” flights operated by United, United Express, or Copa Airlines, and flights operated by Star Alliance or MileagePlus carriers and issued on a United ticket.

The new minimum-spend requirement only applies to MileagePlus members whose accounts are registered to U.S. addresses.

Other terms and conditions

  • Members must fly at least four paid flights operated by United, United Express, or Copa Airlines during a calendar year to qualify for any Premier status.
  • For 2014, members who hold a United MileagePlus Presidential Plus or Club credit card are exempt from the four-segment minimum as long as their credit card account is open and not in default at the time of qualification.
  • For 2014, the EQD requirement is waived for existing Presidential Plus Cardmembers for Premier Silver, Premier Gold, and Premier Platinum qualification, but not for Premier 1K qualification.
  • For 2014, the EQD requirement is waived for Premier Silver, Premier Gold, and Premier Platinum qualification for members whose address with MileagePlus is within the 50 United States or the District of Columbia and who in 2014 have spent at least $25,000 on a MileagePlus co-branded credit card issued by Chase at the time in 2014 they qualify for Premier status. There is no EQD waiver for Premier 1K qualification.

That’s a lot of requirements and exceptions to wade through and process. But the bottom line is that, going forward, elite status and spend will be aligned. No more long cheap flights just to qualify for elite perks.

Although it will come as a rude shock to some, the new system is fair and eminently sensible. Elite status was always intended to recognize and reward customers’ contribution to an airline’s bottom line. And keying status to spend does just that.

Winnowing out the mileage-runners will reduce the ranks of MileagePlus elites, although it remains to be seen by how much. What is more certain is that there will be at least somewhat fewer elites competing for upgrades. So it’s a win for those who qualify for their status the old-fashioned way, by earning it.

Reader Reality Check

Will you be a winner or a loser under United’s new elite-qualification policy?

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  • tfd2

    they’re just going out of their way to make it more and more difficult, aren’t they? united is very close to losing my business.

  • EnoughIsEnough

    That’s a self-serving analysis. I flew over 125,000 miles last year, most of it to places like Munich, Cairo and Milan. At that ratio of miles to dollars, I’d probably be lucky to be Platinum. If what United is after is to cull the ranks of elites, they should stop letting everyone with a credit card get in the elite lines. I’ve flown almost 250,000 miles the last 2 years. I have the Platinum Plus credit card. Why the HELL should I need yet another requirement for status? And I’ve never done a mileage run in my life.

    In these lean economic times for Americans, United should be ashamed of this policy. I’m ashamed of United, and I know I’m not alone. Why would a company, year after year, take away value from its customers? This is really the last straw. I get better rates and schedules from AA and US from my market, but I’ve stayed loyal to United because … I don’t know why. For value to me of using their service. This erodes that value enough for me to finally switch as soon as this policy takes effect.

  • Kelly J B

    I couldn’t agree more with the commentary. I’m a business traveler and ran a quick analysis on the last few times I qualified for 1k. There is no way I would have made the $10,000 requirement – and I shop for flights based on schedule first and price second! After the change fee increase to $200 (which doesn’t seem to qualify for EQD), this is too much. Southwest is starting to look less ridiculous every day.

  • orpheusrises

    Actually the qualifying amounts (EQD) are very low if you are flying business class abroad. Two trips to Europe and you’re done! But if United really wanted to show value, they should up the perks for 1K and Platinum, otherwise it does come off as just a cost saving stunt.

  • C.J. Bunny

    Wow. People are worried because they are flying 100,000 miles for less than $10,000? No wonder the industry is in trouble. I didn’t get where am I today without thinking that that means US ticketed flights are far too cheap. UA should raise their ticket prices dramatically and then all you moaners would have no problem reaching the EQD levels based on their flying. UA might then even to be able to afford to offer an internationally competitive product and make a sensible profit.

  • Joe Lowry

    It is perfectly logical to set criteria for top level elite based on revenue. Miles never made economic sense as the criteria for elite status.

  • disabilityadvocate

    It says you are exempt from the PQD IF you have a “Presidential Plus Credit Card” in 2014. Does anyone know if the “United MileagePlus Club Card” credit card qualifies for this exemption? Technically, the Presidential Plus Credit Card is no longer available. Both include access to United Clubs. If buying the United Club Credit Card is an exemption, then that makes a big difference as to whether I will continue to fly United.

  • yme?

    Why do customers have to fly ‘em at all? Just sell the status, period. Why make customers suffer uncomfortable seating and indifferent service multiple times when they may just want status for a trip or two? What’s the difference if they get the money on one First Class Int’l flight or four domestic trans-cons, anyway? I don’t know.

  • ken

    Disabilityadvocate

    Please read the new rules carefully as the notes above clearly state “For 2014, members who hold a United MileagePlus Presidential Plus or Club credit card are exempt from the four-segment minimum…”

  • Kklems

    I wonder how the Marriott/United elite sharing program will be affect by this if at all.