United Airlines has a funny way of showing loyalty to its Mileage Plus loyalty program members. For those who didn’t re-qualify for status in 2021, the chosen few were given a reprieve, for everyone else, a price.
UPDATE: United Clarifies PlusPoints
A representative from United Airlines reached out to indicate that while they had a technical error that caused some upgrades to not include PlusPoints, this error has been fixed:
“After reading your recent coverage of United’s latest MileagePlus Premier status purchase offer, I wanted to reach out to share some good news. Happy to confirm that customers who purchase Platinum, 1K or GS status through our latest offer will receive PlusPoints. We experienced a technical issue that has delayed the deposit of annual PlusPoints to select members who are purchasing to maintain status. All eligible members should see their PlusPoints deposited to their accounts in the coming weeks.”
This is good news for those who decided to spend the money. It also highlights that at the time of publication, it was correct that some upgraders were not getting the PlusPoints when they upgraded, but this has been corrected.
United Airlines MileagePlus Program Offers Status Retention
Many holders of elite status in United Airlines’ MileagePlus program were recently presented with an opportunity to pay to retain their status if they were unable to re-qualify the prior year. Depending on the amount of PQPs earned and their prior level, offers ranged from $2,000-5,000+. This represents yet another cash grab from elites following the “Fly to the Finish” promotion.
In my own experience, I accumulated around 11,000 PQPs (I failed to record the exact number following my last flight before it reset to zero but it was between 10,800 and 11,600.) I had just 15 segments leaving me well short of the requirements and beyond any mileage run opportunities that might have renewed my status organically. I more than qualified for the third-highest published tier, Premier Platinum, short of 1K.
My price for moving back into the good graces of United’s upper echelon? A staggering $4,530 – but only if I do so before February 4th at which point my price increases to $5,030. If a 1K takes them up on such an offer, initial results indicate they will not earn additional PlusPoints which can be valuable for upgrades if granted (see above note on PlusPoints), they will earn more miles on flights during the year but no MileagePlus miles for the upgrade itself.
There was no opportunity to redeem miles for the upgrade, something I might have considered depending on the number of miles required.
Some Were Granted Status For Free
As “reported” (….whined about by me), some were granted a free extra year at their current status level. In Facebook groups, some reported earning as few as half the PQP requirements required for 1K status (13,000) and a more limited run with United than others but were given an extra year anyway.
Some expressed anger at the notion that others who failed to meet the requirements received the same status and most of the same benefits as those who qualified outright. Others were unable to earn the needed MileagePlus credits to retain premier statuses in the frequent flyer program had previously been incredibly valuable to United Airlines Holdings, but haven’t been lately and received nothing.
How Many Will Become Free Agents?
In a year where everyone is eligible for a status match or challenge, this is risky behavior for the United MileagePlus program. Anecdotally, (because where would one find the figures for this anyway?) some MileagePlus members have expressed that they will take their business elsewhere. Some of them will actually do that, some will just huff and puff about it (present company excluded) and some will see how the year plays out.
I see little value in Premier Silver to Premier Platinum. Many love the Star Alliance partners and their vast connections, but I haven’t found as much value in partner airlines. I recently flew Austrian and Aegean and was surprised by limited checked luggage and little benefit to holding Star Alliance Gold status which offers fewer perks as the top level in the alliance than peers like oneworld.
That said, the upcoming year will likely require at least one trip to Armenia which is virtually impossible at present from oneworld while Star Alliance offers several options.
Pushing aside the benefits in participating in one of these status retention offers, like the miles you earn on flights or access to lounges when traveling abroad, there is a use case for considering such an offer. For flyers based at United hubs like Newark Liberty International Airport or Houston Bush Intercontinental, upgrades are hard to come by even for top-tier elites, though they stand a good chance. Paying for upgrades throughout the year may add up to as much as this retention offers cost. Personally, my travel will be mostly abroad this year, and PlusPoints just aren’t a guarantee for a seat in the front so I will likely move elsewhere.
What do you think? Did you receive a retention offer? Did you take them up on it?