Home News United Airlines Premier Status | Makes it more Difficult to achieve and introduces new ways to obtain benefits

United Airlines Premier Status | Makes it more Difficult to achieve and introduces new ways to obtain benefits

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United Airlines Premier Status | Makes it more Difficult to achieve and introduces new ways to obtain benefits

united airlines premier status 2023 changes

united airlines premier status

With travel demand returning to levels seen in 2019, United Airlines is making significant changes to its Premier program and qualification pathways.

The Chicago-based airline is raising the requirements for Premier status while also introducing new ways to earn Premier benefits.

The move comes just weeks after competitor Delta Air Lines announced changes to the Medallion program for 2023 — and the message from the airline industry is clear: travel is booming, and people are flying at levels not seen since 2019.

To that end, United is looking to make changes to the Premier status tiers that will help rebalance the program and ensure that its frequent flyers get the benefits they’ve been promised.

Here’s how United plans to do that.

United Premier requirements for 2023

To earn status in 2023 (valid through Jan. 31, 2025), you’ll need a bunch of Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs) and Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs), as you can see in the chart below.

TierPremier Qualifying Points (PQPs) + Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs)Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) only
Premier Silver4,000 PQPs + 12 PQFs5,000 PQP
Premier Gold8,000 PQPs + 24 PQFs10,000 PQP
Premier Platinum12,000 PQPs + 36 PQFs15,000 PQP
Premier 1K18,000 PQPs + 54 PQFs24,000 PQP

It’s worth noting that there are two paths to Premier status. The first combines PQPs and PQFs, while the second focuses solely on PQPs. Each track necessitates at least four flights on United or United Express — not partners.

In an exclusive interview with TPG, Luc Bondar, president of MileagePlus, stated that this change is being driven by travel demand. “This really reflects the frequency of travel we’re seeing from our customers,” he explained.

In an exclusive interview with TPG, Luc Bondar, president of MileagePlus, stated that this change is being driven by travel demand. “This really reflects the frequency of travel we’re seeing from our customers,” he explained.

united airlines premier status
ZACH GRIFF

These “new” thresholds may be familiar to long-time United passengers. That’s because they’re the same ones United released when it first introduced the PQF and PQP metrics in 2019.

However, the pandemic hit the travel industry and grounded frequent flyers just a few months after United launched the revamped Premier program in 2019.

United was the second airline to formally extend all existing status, and it did so quickly. At the same time, United cut the requirements for aspiring elites planning to travel in 2020 in half.

United reduced the requirements for 2021 and 2022 by about 25% to 30% (depending on the tier you were targeting) to compensate for lower demand caused by the pandemic.

And now, as 2023 approaches and there’s no sign of a slowdown in travel, United is reintroducing the requirements it first announced in 2019 but never implemented.

Of course, the change will be painful for anyone who became accustomed to United’s reduced requirements during the pandemic. Higher requirements will necessitate more spending and flying to achieve status.

However, as airfares have risen in recent months and demand has recovered, an increasing number of flyers have found themselves eligible for elite status.

While achieving elite status may feel good, the downside is that with so many members, airlines struggle to deliver the benefits they promised. Simply ask the TPG team how many free upgrades they received on United this year.

Bondar stated, “one of the things we expect to see is the volume of members who achieve status at each tier gets in line with our ability to ensure that we are delivering great value to members once they achieve that level.”

Everyone will have to crunch the numbers to see if the new metrics are applicable to their travel patterns.However, the airline is softening the blow by introducing new ways to achieve Premier status.

United Premier head-start bonus

If you achieve Premier status in 2022, you’ll receive a starter pack of PQPs in the new year, giving you a head start on requalifying.

Specifically, you’ll receive the following number of PQPs in 2023 based on the status you earned in 2022:

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

These deposits are expected to be processed in early 2023. Free PQPs are certainly beneficial, but they will not help you requalify for status. You’ll still need to do a lot of flying (or swiping, see below) to get to the finish line.

united airlines premier status
ZACH GRIFF

Interestingly, United has already promised to make this same deposit in 2024 based on your Premier status in 2023.

This starter bonus effectively makes it (a little) easier to requalify. If you’re advancing to Premier for the first time, you’ll need to earn the entire set of PQFs and/or PQPs.

Earn Premier status from award flights

This one is massive. United will grant PQPs and PQFs on award bookings for the first time.

When you redeem MileagePlus miles for flight awards, you will earn one PQP for every 100 miles redeemed and one PQF for each flight taken. Please keep in mind that Premier qualification on awards is restricted to flights operated by United or United Express.

United is technically catching up to Delta, which announced a similar permanent improvement earlier this year.

United’s announcement does not include the word “permanent,” so it will be interesting to see if this feature is extended past 2023.

united airlines premier status
ZACH GRIFF

This could change the equation for elites when deciding whether to redeem miles or pay cash for an upcoming United flight. You should definitely do the math before making a reservation.

For example, if you’re debating whether to pay $500 for a ticket or redeem 35,000 MileagePlus for the same flight, keep in mind that the redemption will earn you 350 PQPs (compared to roughly 500 PQPs from the cash ticket).

United is making this move in response to competition from credit card travel portals that allow cardholders to redeem points toward flights while still earning redeemable miles and elite credits, according to Bondar.

“As we consider what this looks like as a competitive offering, we recognize that other types of currency outside of aviation have had perhaps a perception of competitive advantage in providing award mile earning and status contribution for a long time,” Bondar said.

“I think it gives us a more competitive offering in that sense, and it gives our customers a reason to choose our products over competitive products, both to fly and to spend and pay,” he said.

Earn Premier status from credit card spend

Spending on a United cobranded credit card will also get you closer to Premier status.

For 2023, United is doubling the maximum number of PQPs you can earn from the United Quest℠ Card and the United Club℠ Infinite Card. These thresholds are going from 3,000 to 6,000 PQPs and from 4,000 to 8,000 PQPs, respectively. (You’ll continue to earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 spent on these cards, up to the increased PQP limit.)

Moreover, if you have multiple cobranded United cards, your total annual PQP limit will increase from 5,000 to 15,000 PQPs.

While United is making it easier to spend your way to status, it will not allow you to spend your way to top-tier perks, as American did with Loyalty Points earlier this year.

The PQPs earned from cobranded spending will not count towards the Premier 1K PQP-only track, so you’ll still need 54 PQFs and 3,000 PQPs to spend your way to 1K.

Bondar explained the reasoning behind this decision, saying that “We want to ensure that we maintain the integrity of the value we provide to our 1K members and that we truly reflect a program for our very best flyers at that level. Again, this is different from some of our competitors, and everyone runs their business the way they want to.”

Earning more PlusPoints

While exceeding the Premier 1K thresholds may appear threatening to many flyers, it does occur. And if it does, you’ll receive more PlusPoints (United’s upgrade currency).

united airlines premier status
ZACH GRIFF

Qualifying for Premier Platinum earns you 40 PlusPoints, while qualifying for Premier 1K earns you an extra 280. Beyond 18,000 PQPs, you will receive 20 additional PlusPoints for every 3,000 PQP earned.

As a result, if you are a Premier 1K who qualifies on the PQP-only track, you will receive 360 PlusPoints (40 from crossing Platinum, 280 from crossing Premier 1K and 40 for going 6,000 PQPs over the 18,000 PQP requirement.)

Award fees are finally gone

In August 2020, United will be the first airline to permanently eliminate change fees. Other US carriers followed suit by eliminating change fees, but they also eliminated a slew of other ancillary fees associated with changing travel plans.

While United eventually joined the majority of its competitors in eliminating other puzzling fees, it still charged an award redeposit fee for tickets canceled within 30 days of departure (though there were workarounds to avoid this).

United is now going to wave all redeposit fees, effective immediately.

Bottom line

United is preparing for what it expects to be a very busy year of travel by making significant changes to its Premier program.

The introduction of higher requirements to earn status is the highlight of the changes. For example, top-tier members who do not fly 54 flights per year will need to spend approximately $24,000 on United tickets to maintain their status.

The higher requirements are intended to rebalance the elite tiers and allow United to provide the benefits that it seeks to provide, according to Bondar.

Though the increased thresholds will sting for many, United is introducing the ability to earn status credits from award tickets and doubling the number of PQPs you can earn from cobranded credit card spending.

When combined with the head-start bonus, requalifying should be relatively easy, especially if travel demand (and airfare) remains at current levels.

Of course, with the economy in shambles and many businesses looking to cut costs, it’ll be interesting to see if United eventually needs to adjust these thresholds next year.

We’ll have to wait and see how the year goes, but until then, best wishes on achieving United status next year!

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