I have previously noted that American Airlines has gutted their Advantage frequent flyer and because of that I am leaving American. Loyalty is a two-way street and American has worked hard to make it a one-way street, well I’m not riding any more. But of course that decision was reached only after I had already booked enough to re-qualify for next year. Oops. I status matched (challenge) to United and got a surprise, 1k! The real question is whether I pursue it.
Why Did I Start a Status Challenge?
At the halfway point through the year I have achieved Executive Platinum status through January of 2019 and I simply will not gain enough EQDs to move up to Concierge Key. The CK status level has been announced publicly for the first time this last year, but the requirements to reach it have not – data points from Concierge Key members seems to suggest $40,000/year is around the required spend. Sometimes, they give it away for free of course.
Since it is clear that I will not receive any additional benefits for my status with American and I do not anticipate earning status with them again next year, I need a new home. United has not been my cup of tea but so many high frequency travelers seem to love them, perhaps because of their Star Alliance partners, perhaps because of Nostalgia. Matthew is one of their biggest fans probably for both reasons.
When pursuing a status challenge, most airlines will offer them year-round but for those that begin their challenge after the midway point in the year (July 1st) status would be granted for both the current year and all of the next year. That means that next year, if I find value this year of course, I can pursue status with United while already holding their status which makes it all the easier to tolerate the long ride to entitlement.
How Does the Challenge Work?
United has a publicly available website that shows the details of the challenge. Matching status with one of the qualified airlines will adjust your Mileage Plus account for a 90-day trial period while you fly a prorated amount of miles. For those who hold status above the stated levels (American Airlines Executive Platinum, Concierge Key or Delta Diamond Medallion) status to one level lower (75,000 mile level) will be given instead.
The qualifications are a dream for those that typically do not spend enough money to qualify due to Premier Qualifying Dollar spending requirements. There are none. If you fly the prescribed amount of miles you are awarded the status level with no PQD requirements at all. If you fly less than what’s required for your status level match you will fall to another status level or if you fail to complete the very minimum, you will have no status at all following the 90-day trial.
For those current United status holders concerned about their valuable Systemwide Upgrade percentages dropping with a flood of challengers, not to worry – upgrades aren’t awarded until challengers are successful. When challengers are successful, they receive just one regional upgrade and two Global Premier Upgrades (SWUs). Here is the confirmation email I received:
Congratulations! You have been awarded a trial period of Premier® 1K status in the MileagePlus® program valid until 03 October, 2017! This will make your travel with us comfortable, simple and more rewarding than ever.
To remain a Premier 1K member through January 31, 2019, you will need to fly 35,000 Premier qualifying miles (PQM) or 40 Premier qualifying segments (PQS) on flights operated by United® or United Express® between 05 July, 2017 through 03 October, 2017.* You can check your progress toward meeting your goal by logging in to mystatus.united.com.
If you meet the above required PQM or PQS threshold(s), a Premier 1K kit will be issued and mailed to you. Until you have a card, be sure to add your MileagePlus number to your reservation in order to fully benefit from your Premier status.
MileagePlus members are allowed to earn Premier status through the Premier Status Match program a maximum of one time in a five-year period. In order to re-qualify for Premier 1K status in subsequent years, you will need to meet the published criteria. For details about the MileagePlus Premier program, visit http://www.united.com/premier
We hope you will travel with us often and take advantage of the exceptional benefits and service reserved for our Premier members around the world. Thank you for choosing United, and enjoy your Premier 1K membership.
Your MileagePlus Premier team
So What, You Status Matched – Why Is This Important?
The offer to match to 1k is not a published option. I have no reason to believe that I was offered this status level for any particular reason. Qualifying for American Airlines Executive Platinum status halfway through the year with a trend of $13,000+ in spend and 104,000 miles before July 1st might have something to do with it, but I doubt it. I am speculating (nothing more than that) United simply does not want to be held to offering the top tier status match publicly but will do so in private.
Interestingly, the rest of the status match requirements are all loosely to the corresponding PQMs required for each level. For example:
- Silver requires 25,000 Premier Qualifying Miles per year, the challenge is 7,000 for a 90-day period (equivocating the trial period to 28,000 miles/year).
- Gold requires 50,000 Premier Qualifying Miles per year, the challenge is 12,000 for a 90-day period (equivocating the trial period to 48,000 miles/year).
- Platinum requires 75,000 Premier Qualifying Miles per year, the challenge is 18,000 for a 90-day period (equivocating the trial period to 72,000 miles/year).
However, the challenge for 1K is substantially higher.
- 1K requires 100,000 Premier Qualifying Miles per year, the challenge is 35,000 for a 90-day period (equivocating the trial period to 140,000 miles/year).
That amount is staggering, but they hold their status in high regard. Then again, if I hit it I should have nearly uninterrupted upgrades on United for the next 19 months domestically and that might be worth it.
So, Should I Do It?
The thing is, I didn’t really plan on doing any more than 12,000 to 18,000 max during the period. I can hit 7,000 points no problem with regular travel patterns that I can switch to United, 12,000 wouldn’t be a stretch, 18,000 would. But given the chance to move straight across from top tier to top tier with no revenue requirements is potentially too hard to pass up.
In order to hit it I would need a some old-fashioned mileage runs. That’s right, they are BACK! So what is top tier worth to me for next year? Can I get it done on two runs from Newark to Bangkok via Tokyo? Yes – 38,360 miles and the last fare sale I saw had prices for about $500 roundtrip.
Help me out here, for $1,000 out-of-pocket and 72-80 hours in coach would you go for 1K?