Noobtraveler contributor, and United elite flyer, Ethan, weighs in on the new United spending requirements.
Everyone knows elite status with airlines is great, getting you more award miles when you fly, letting you skip lines, check your bags for free, get upgrades, etc. Well Tuesday United joined Delta in adding a revenue requirement to qualify for elite status. Here’s the detail from their website:
Starting in January 2014, Premier® qualification requirements will include a minimum annual spending level. We will track qualifying spending with Premier qualifying dollars (PQD): dollars spent on most United® tickets, including partner flights and Economy Plus® purchases. The changes do not affect Premier qualifying miles (PQM) or Premier qualifying segments (PQS).
These changes apply to 2014 qualifying activity for status through 2015 and do not affect your 2013 qualifying activity for 2014 status.
So in addition to achieving miles or segments, you must also spend a certain amount of money on United tickets. More “changes we will like”, I suppose. Essentially it will be required that you spend at least 10 cents per Premier Qualifying Mile in order to qualify for status. Here are the required spending levels:
How will PQDs be Calculated?
The PQDs must be purchased on United tickets, that is tickets that start with 016. This generally occurs anytime you book your flights on the United website, or through a 3rd party agency exclusively on United metal. Where it is bothersome is that if you fly a United flight on a ticket from a Star Alliance partner, like Lufthansa to Europe or TAM to South America (like my recent trip), they will not count toward your PQDs. However, if you fly a Star Alliance partner on a United ticket, that will count toward your PQDs.
Exceptions, provisos, quid pro quos…
First, these changes don’t go into effect until qualifying during 2014, so it doesn’t affect any elite status plans you have this year on United. Unless, of course, you wanted to switch carriers in light of the changes, but I wouldn’t completely rule out American joining the club.
There is an exception to the revenue requirement if you can spend $25,000 on your Chase MileagePlus Explorer card. However, it should be noted that this only applies to levels up through Platinum. To reach 1K, however, you will have to spend the $10,000 PQD. If you have more questions, check out United’s FAQ page about the changes.
How bad is this?
Well, it depends on your circumstances. If you only fly a lot on long-haul, economy flights on low fares, it could be difficult to meet some of the spending thresholds, and it seems like a lot of money on its face. However, as I gave it more thought, if you fly a few short-haul flights that are high-fare (say, for business, or to go to a friend’s wedding), it could help offset this effect.
Everyone’s circumstances will be different, but it will certainly change the equation on mileage running. If you try to make up a lot of miles for elite status at 4 cents/mile (CPM), that won’t meet your spending threshold. That said, if you’re like me and have short haul flights throughout the year that are very high CPM, and then possibly add a mileage run (or a cheap vacation fare) to augment your mileage balance, you still might meet thresholds.
The Bottom Line
One theory is that airlines are trying to take some of the “game” out of elite status. My biggest concern is about how this affects alliance partnerships, since it will require ticketing through United in order to meet spending levels. So even a full-fare business class ticket won’t count, if ticketed through a Star Alliance partner. That said, it seems to be the way airlines are headed now that two of the big
four three airlines have gone to this model. For most people it won’t be too big an issue, though it will certainly inconvenience a lot of people!
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— Ethan Carter