United Airlines will make earning MileagePlus premier status easier in 2021 with reduced qualification thresholds, free boosts for current elites, new credit card opportunities, and a lucrative promotion to start the new year.
United Airlines Lays Out Elite Status Roadmap For 2021
Getting a jump start on its competitors, United has laid out its roadmap for how MileagePlus members can earn elite status qualification for 2021.
United Reduces Thresholds For 2021-22 Elite Status
In a normal year, United requires the following spending (PQP, premier qualifying points, earned at one point per dollar on tickets issued by United) or flown segments (PQF, premier qualifying flights) plus spending:
- Premier Silver – 4,000 PQP + 12 PQF or 5,000 PQP
- Premier Gold – 8,000 PQP + 24 PQF or 10,000 PQP
- Premier Platinum – 12,000 PQP + 36 PQF or 15,000 PQP
- Premier 1K – 18,000 PQP + 54 PQF or 24,000 PQP
But we are in an extraordinary era and United has preemptively reduced both PQP and PQF thresholds in 2021 (to earn status through 2022):
- Premier Silver – 3,000 PQP + 8 PQF or 3,500 PQP
- Premier Gold – 6,000 PQP + 16 PQF or 7,000 PQP
- Premier Platinum – 9,000 PQP + 24 PQF or 10,000 PQP
- Premier 1K – 13,500 PQP + 36 PQF or 15,000 PQP
That represents a drop of up to 36% over prevailing levels.
Free PQP Boost To Start 2021 For Existing Elites
Next January, United will give existing elites a head start on status re-qualification by gifting PQPs. Members will receive 25% of the PQP-only requirement for 2021 based on their Premier status for 2020.
- Premier Silver – 875 PQP
- Premier Gold – 1,750 PQP
- Premier Platinum – 2,500 PQP
- Premier 1K – 3,750 PQP
That alone essentially drops the 1K spending requirement under $10,000 to re-qualify, contingent upon 36 segments flown.
Bonus PQP During First Quarter Of 2021
In addition to the automatic bonus coming to current MileagePlus elite members, United will offer a PQP bonus during the first quarter of 2021.
On the first three PQP-earning trips next year taken between January 1st through March 31st, members without Premier status will earn 50% bonus PQP and Premier members will earn 100% bonus PQP.
Earnings under this bonus will be capped at 1,500 PQP per trip for elites or 1,000 PQP for general members. There will be an earnings floor of at least 150 PQP, regardless of ticket price.
Earn Elite Status Via United Credit Cards
In what could potentially be the most interesting development, United promises that credit card spending will also count toward your PQP total.
PQP earned from eligible MileagePlus credit cards – including the MileagePlus Explorer card – will now count toward Premier 1K® status if the PQF requirement is met.
I asked United’s Vice President of Loyalty, Luc Bondar, about whether this would create a glut of new top-tier elites and he cautioned me that there will be “appropriate conditions” to “prevent loopholes.”
It appears United will cap PQP credit card earnings at 500 PQP after spending $12,000 and another 500 PQP for crossing over $24,000 in spending, but stay tuned for more details.
More Upgrade Opportunities
For those who actually do a lot of flying, earning upgrades will be easier than ever before. After earning Premier 1K status and 15,000 PQP, members will earn 20 PlusPoints for every additional 2,000 PQP in 2021 versus every 3,000 PQP in 2020. There is no limit to how many PlusPoints can be earned.
In addition, all PlusPoints that are set to expire on or after Jan. 1, 2021 will be extended by an additional six months.
Will This Work?
This is an optimistic plan. It is also a generous plan, especially if Chase/United co-branded credit card spending will count toward elite status. Whether it will work or not depends upon how the United States and other nations address COVID-19 in the weeks and months to come. Already, officials from the incoming Administration have floated the idea of a new nationwide lockdown for 4-6 weeks.
Bondar stressed what he saw as the wisdom of the new MileagePlus program moving away from a distance-based model:
“Don’t fly frivolously. Our new model is quite beneficial in the current environment. Currently, everyone pauses and says ‘do I really need the this trip. Since elite status is not driven my by mileage or distance, it reduces the need to travel or take unnecessary trips. We require a lot less flying of our members compared to our competitors because we have removed the distance-based component.”
While I think distance is still a barometer of loyalty, United’s model is indeed probably better suited for the pandemic era than that of American and Delta.
United Airlines will reduce thresholds for earning elite status in 2021. It will also offer a number of bonuses to help get once-frequent travelers toward that goal.
Will this news impact your elite status roadmap for 2021?