United’s MileagePlus frequent flyer program is shaking up the way they track and award status in 2020 and it’s not all good news for loyalists.
United Announces New Qualifications for 2020
On Youtube and their website last night, United launched an announcement of how they would change their Premier Qualifying structure for frequent flyers of MileagePlus.
In 2020, members will no longer have to fly a certain number of miles to achieve status, just segments and the segments have been slashed. Premier Qualifying Dollars increase to the highest levels in the country. “PQFs” or Premier Qualifying Flights replace segments and eliminates miles flown. Here are the tier requirements:
- Silver – $4,000 (PQPs) & 12 PQFs
- Gold – $8,000 (PQPs) & 24 PQFs
- Platinum – $12,000 (PQPs) & 36 PQFs
- 1K – $18,000 (PQPs) & 54 PQFs
What Else Changes?
United will now award PQDs spent on upgrades, economy plus and premium cabins including mileage co-pay upgrades, all areas that earned spenders nothing before. United will now also award PQDs on Star Alliance partner flights, though how they will do so was not clearly spelt out in the video. On their website, they explain that Star Alliance flights will earn award miles divided by 5 or 6 depending on the preferred partner or standard. For example, if a journey would earn you 10,000 miles with Lufthansa, you would earn 2,000 PQPs qualifying toward your spend.
Basic Economy and Light fares on partner airlines will not count toward PQFs. You can learn more about Partner earnings here.
There is also an option for flyers who spend an inordinate amount of money on flights but only fly a few times per year. As long as a member completes at least (4) flights with United they will qualify and do not have to complete the additional PQF requirement if they outspend for their required category. For example, Silvers can qualify with $5,000 in spend, $10,000 for Gold, $15,000 for Platinum, and $24,000 for 1K.
Chase credit cardholders will not be happy. The previous spend waiver was granted for lower tiers if cardholders spent $25,000 on their United credit card. Now, they will be given a pittance for their spend with the credit card. Spending $24,000 on the card will give up to Platinum members just 1000 PQPs or $1,000 PQD equivalents. That won’t make Chase happy either.
Those with internationally-registered addresses no longer receive a spend waiver as they have in the past, the amounts are calculated in relation to US dollars.
How Does This Compare to Delta, American?
Bloggers like myself whine at the lack of differentiation between the carriers. Now that we have some distance between the programs, I fear, the whining will actually amplify. American and Delta, caught flat-footed at the time of writing, still have top-level published tiers requiring $15,000. American requires Executive Platinum members to fly 120 segments or 100,000 miles per year and can earn qualifying dollars based on fare classes and distance with alliance carriers. Delta is similar but has a requirement of 125,000 miles or 140 segments.
United wins the segment battle, and try as I might, I doubt the other carriers will waste any time moving up their requirements to match the dollars. The other carriers may also struggle with the IT integration required to apply EQD/MQD earning to ancillary purchases giving a true benefit to customers and a leg up to United over their peers.
I have long stated that if the airlines really want to focus on how much a client is spending with them over how far (distance) or how many times (segments) a client is on their aircraft, then they should just make it all about spending. United has done that and for that portion, I think they lead the industry. However, for 1K flyers, this represents a 50% increase from 2018 in terms of qualifying spend. While United flyers can earn PQDs in more ways than they couldn’t before, 1K members that struggled to reach $12,000 and stretched to hit $15,000 will find $18,000 a substantial reach.
What do you think? Are these changes good or bad? Do you see yourself qualifying more easily or will this make it harder? Will this change push you to other airlines, or toward United from the others?
Read Matthew’s take on the program changes below.