For those willing to invest the time, the changes to United MileagePlus actually may make it cheaper to qualify for top-tier status on United than it is now. But it will take some serious and creative mileage running…
United will now let you earn Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) via Star Alliance partner-issued tickets. PQPs replace Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs), though will be awarded in largely the same way. But there is a new twist, in that you do not have to book an -016 issued United ticket in order for your spend to qualify toward elite status.
Since United Airlines does not have access to how much you paid partners for flights, it will calculate PQPs based upon distance flown plus any fare class multiplier (reduced earnings for cheaper economy class tickets and increased earnings for premium cabin tickets).
Let’s say you are flying a J fare on a Lufthansa-issued ticket from LAX-FRA. Currently, J fares earn 200% of actual miles flown. That means the 5,806 mile journey earns 11,612 award miles.
|Star Alliance partner||PQP total|
|Preferred partner PQP||Award miles divided by 5|
|MileagePlus partner PQP||Award miles divided by 6|
Preferred partners include:
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air New Zealand
- All Nippon Airways
- Austrian Airlines
- Azul Brazilian Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Copa Airlines
- SWISS International Airlines
United will award PQPs based upon dividing that award mile amount by five for preferred partners and six for other partners. So since Lufthansa is a preferred partner, divide 11,612 by 5 and you get 2,322.40 PQP.
Imagine if you could piece together long-distance trips that are relatively cheap and earn top-tier status on United without spending $18,000 (and 54 segments).
So let’s do the math.
Take the 17,954 miles and multiply by 1.25. You get 22,442.5 miles.
Air China is a preferred partner, so we need to divide that 22,442.5 by five. That equates to 4,488.5PQP.
So instead of spending $2,331.85 and earning 2331.85PQP, you are spending $2,331.85 and earning 4,4488.5PQP.
This is just one example…the possibilities are staggering. Throw in an attractive fare sale to SE Asia or India and you can further push up that ratio between dollars spent and PQP earned.
Let the games begin.
It is a tad ironic that United’s efforts to simplify earning status and take away the distance metric have actually resulted in a new way in which distance matters more than ever.
I’ll look into this more as time permits, but wanted to start the conversation on the opportunity to, at minimum, offset the increased spending requirement, and potentially even secure 1K status for cheaper than has been possible in years.