United Takes the Lead on Simplifying Elite Qualifying By Focusing on Spend

One of the knocks on United’s loyalty strategies over the years has been that the airline just takes what Delta does and slaps its own name on the change. When it comes to qualifying for elite status, however, United has decided to be the first mover. The airline announced on Friday that it is simplifying elite qualifying metrics and better matching them up with what people pay starting with travel in 2020 for 2021 status. Though it is simplifying the process, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to learn. There are now two new metrics replacing the three old ones, and as always, there are asterisks that make understanding them difficult.

Before we can talk about what United is going to do, I need to back up and explain how it works today along with the problems behind that method.

2019: PQMs, PQSs, and PQDs

Up until the last few years, United let people qualify based on either the number of miles they flew (called Premier Qualifying Miles, or PQMs, in the current language) or the number of flights they took (called Premier Qualifying Segments, or PQSs, in the current language). This opened up the ability for people to do mileage runs. Short by 10,000 points? Just study fare rules and find a cheap ticket at the end of the year. This became a cottage industry that spawned all sorts of websites and strategies to help re-qualify.

The airlines tried to solve the problem of people not spending much to get status by giving bonuses to those who bought expensive tickets. But even that wasn’t enough for United when it followed Delta by introducing the Premier Qualifying Dollar, or PQD. This added a minimum spend requirement to being able to qualify for elite status. Those last minute mileage runs became much tougher to do unless you had already spent a ton of money and just needed more miles.

In other words, United kept piling on requirements on top of requirements to try to jury-rig a system that would reward those it wanted to reward. This led to mass confusion with multiple ways to qualify.

For 2019 travel and spend qualifying for 2020 status, this is how United has things set up:

You either need to earn a certain number of qualifying miles or you need to fly a certain number of flights (both adjusted for high or low fares) in addition to meeting the minimum spend. But what counts as a PQM, a PQS, or a PQD? I won’t bother getting into it, because this system dies at the end of this year.

2020: Hello PQFs, and PQPs

Starting for 2020 travel qualifying for 2021 status, United is introducing only two metrics for qualifying, the Premier Qualifying Flight (PQF) and the Premier Qualifying Point (PQP).

The PQF will replace PQS. What’s the difference? There is no longer any bonus for buying an expensive ticket. One takeoff and landing = one PQF*. That’s easy, oh, except for that asterisk. *Basic Economy earns nothing.

The PQP is a little more complex. This replaces the PQD, and you continue to earn one PQD for each dollar you spend on airfare (excluding tax) on United-issued tickets and paid seating options. But now, you also earn PQPs for the following:

  • paid upgrades (online, at the gate, etc)
  • co-pays on upgrade awards
  • Star Alliance operated flights on non-United (016) issued tickets

It’s that last one that’s likely to make the biggest difference going forward for most people. Today, if you buy a ticket on a Star Alliance partner, you get no PQDs. PQPs will take those into account, and that can add up quickly.

This is where complexity creeps back into the system. United still doesn’t know how much money you spent on those non-United tickets, so it will take the number of regular redeemable award miles you earn and divide by 5 for flights operated by so-called “preferred partners” which are Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Avianca, Azul, Copa, and Lufthansa Group* airlines. For all other Star partners, you’ll divide by 6. Details are here.

There’s that nasty asterisk again. For Lufthansa Group, it’s really Lufthansa, Swiss, Brussels, Austrian, and… Eurowings. For some reason, Edelweiss and Air Dolomiti are left out. [Updated 10/17: United tells me that Edelweiss and Air Dolomiti will be moved to the same rate as other Lufthansa Group airlines before 2020.] And why is Air China a preferred partner? Maybe United had to suck up to the Chinese for labeling Taipei as being part of Taiwan at some point. But I digress.

The end result is that you can now earn status in two ways. Here’s the chart:

As you can see, the biggest change is that PQMs disappear entirely. It now doesn’t matter at all how far you fly. Effectively, United is saying there are two ways to earn status. You either fly a lot or you spend a lot.

  • Fly a Lot: If you fly a certain number of flights and spend an average of $334 on each flight, then you will qualify. If you fly more than the required number of flights, then the amount you’d have to spend on average drops, because… math.
  • Spend a Lot: If you buy expensive tickets, you can qualify just by taking 4 United flights the entire year. You just have to hit those dollar amounts in the chart above to qualify.

This is actually a good way to handle this, because it deals with the issue of value. If you fly the airline a lot, even if it’s on shorter flights in coach, you can still qualify as long as you have at least some moderately-priced tickets (or a couple of really expensive ones in addition to cheapies). On the other hand, if you don’t fly a lot, but you buy very expensive tickets, United will still reward you with status. Miles really don’t matter in a world where you have spend and number of flights.

While the increased simplicity is nice, whether you like it or not depends upon what this does to your individual ability to earn status and nothing else. When I spoke with Luc Bondar, VP of Loyalty for United, he said “in broad terms, this will grow the total Premier population.” But he then said it will “rebalance” things. I take that to mean that there will be more elite members, but it will skew more toward the lower tiers.

Of course, this doesn’t apply until 2020 travel for 2021 qualification, so it’s not in effect yet. Travelers will probably be crunching numbers to figure out how they need to change their behavior. At least the new calculations should be simpler than they are today.

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54 Responses to United Takes the Lead on Simplifying Elite Qualifying By Focusing on Spend

  1. David says:

    So United is now saying they will target their rewards at the customers who are most profitable. Sounds like what any rational business should do

  2. Noah says:

    I think any loyalty change creates upheaval, especially since it generally hurts those who are getting outsized value.

    It is no surprise airlines are rewarding big spenders. And frankly, I prefer rewarding segments and dollars over miles. If work sends me to Florida vs DC, I’m not any more or less loyal and my 2x per week flights still happen and the prices are very similar. And if everyone is a top tier elite, no one is.

    Good luck with the experiment!

  3. Oliver says:

    The basic concept makes sense to me.

    However…

    The amount they require now for top level status (the only one I would strive for as a Million Miler with “guaranteed” Gold level) is insane. I know United doesn’t care where the money comes from, but as someone who is funding all travel myself I am just not getting enough value out of 1K status to justify $18k (or $24k) in spend. It is ultimately cheaper for me to be a free agent (with a slight bias to AS due to geography and traditional mileage program) and buy upgrades/bags/seats when I need them instead of keeping myself on the United treadmill.

  4. A says:

    I’ve always been a fan of rewarding $$$ spend over hours spent in the seat (aka miles). On the surface I like this move over the old Delta-clone setup.

    The big question is, can a big spender on a credit card get status without setting foot on a plane? At the end of the day I know the airline is in business to make money and how that is done doesn’t matter to them but call me traditionalist, I’d like to see actual FF’s get the rewards.

    • Oliver says:

      You can get a small fraction of the needed PQP via (huge) credit card spend, but you can’t charge your way to status.

      My legacy card allows me to earn 3000 PQP for $72k in annual spend. Not really attractive to me.

    • James says:

      Not with this change.

      I’m one that UAL has clearly targeted to eliminate: I do a few long haul int’l trips per year, and don’t pay attention to dollar spending since it’s waived when you spend 24k+ on the Chase/UAL branded cards. I easily meet that for home/personal/small business spending.

      Now spending that same 24k on Chase will only get you 1,000 PQP (points). A few cardholders that have been grandfathered in will get you 3,000 PQPs, but that’s only after spending 72k – and those aren’t available to new members.

    • Alex says:

      Not on United, but on some other airlines.

      If you spend $50k on the JetBlue Plus card, you’ll get Mosaic status, which is their only elite status tier. This is only worth it if you live near one of their bases (JFK, BOS, FLL, or MCO).

      You can also earn status on Frontier via spending on their credit card: $20k for 20k status, $50k for 50k status, and $100k for 100k status. In my opinion this would only be worthwhile if you live near DEN, but you could make a case for it at some of their other bases (MCO, LAS, even PHL) if you regularly fly to destinations they serve.

      Delta used to have ways to spend to status, but they’re going away next year.

  5. NSS says:

    This is so measured and rational, and so far, so are the comments. It’s weird how much people are angrily freaking out on some of the other popular travel blogs.

    • Chris says:

      I was just thinking the same thing. Given the target audience of this blog, I can’t say I’m surprised. We all seem to be a little more “well read” on the airline industry as a whole along with the challenges the industry faces.

      As a UA GS member, I just hope this doesn’t make qualifying for GS any more difficult, even though no one really knows what the qualification process entails.

      • James S says:

        The audiences on the other travel blogs are largely credit card churners who know this change was aimed squarely at them. Some of the bloggers never seemed to realize that by blasting tricks and loopholes out to the whole Internet, they would eventually blog themselves out of existence. Rewarding spend rather than distance flown and frequency makes a lot more economic sense for the airlines and takes a lot of the game out of the system.

        If you’re an actual road warrior who travels regularly for work, this isn’t going to impact you much (and in many cases, may help you.) If you’re a miles-and-points arbitrage junkie, this move makes it clear United doesn’t want you in its top status tiers. A bitter pill to swallow for folks who’ve had a good ride these last ten-odd years, but they must have known this day would come eventually.

        • SEAN says:

          Good point. I think of those who became famous on YouTube & act as if they are on the level of Brad Pitt or Sandra Bullock.

    • henry LAX says:

      @NSS : yea feel free to ignore those resident trolls on FTalk. And you can totally tell they’re BS-ing cuz on UA forum those who post the most hate for UA and most praise for DL somehow never post on DL forum themselves. You’d think they would want to be discussing DL tips if they’re so passionate about it. And of course, there are those admins who openly encourage and reward the trolls. And you wonder they’re so desperate to have you ask you to disable your browser ad-blockers.

  6. A_B says:

    I made silver under current arrangement, probably would via the new; so I’m probably not what united would call a high value customer, but…

    I think everyone would have been happier if:

    1. Keep the miles or segments to accommodate both travel styles
    2. Add the “or spend” bit
    3. Shrink the number of pqs and gut the multiples as before.

    Also raising the qualifying amount every year is kinda crappy but whatever; then again if my E+ prebooking did not count before, having it count to that could make it a wash, at least until gold level when it is free.

  7. USBusinessTraveller says:

    I agree it’s logical and measured, though there’s sticker shock for some.

    As it happens it would have no effect on me based on last year’s and this year’s flying (I’d have hit 1K under the new rules already). In some respects it’s better as I can now take advantage of cheap J fares to Europe and Asia on the likes of LH, AC and CA if they come up and get a very decent number of PQPs. Or, if things aren’t going so great I can go unaligned and try out other carriers.

    At the end of the day, people are flying more and spending more and if you don’t raise the bar on qualifying you’d end up with too many top level elites chasing the same number of upgrades. And I suspect this is at least partly driven with Premium Economy rolling out on more long hauls (PQM and PQS multipliers and decent PQDs would have swamped the 1K ranks) and will have people on a “buy PE for $2500 and upgrade to Polaris” strategy. Get too many doing that and there won’t be the upgrades to go around and folk will be complaining again.

  8. Bgriff says:

    It’s interesting that presumably part of United’s thinking in making this move was to reduce loopholes and gaming the system, but they may actually increase it instead — while AA and DL have allowed you to earn qualifying dollars for partner airline flights for a few years now (which opens up some arbitrage opportunities around certain long cheap partner flights), United has not given dollars for those flights at all, unless ticketed on United stock, so you really had to spend the dollar requirement or get a credit card waiver, there was no other way around it.

    Now, there are potentially significant arbitrage opportunities, especially with Air China offering some very cheap business class fares to Asia, although the dollar earning rate won’t be as rich as with some of AA and DL’s partners, and the required dollar amounts are higher of course. But it’s still much better for those who prefer to fly mostly on Star partners.

  9. Stuart Weltman says:

    When Premier minimum spend was introduced (2) years ago, the 1K-oriented spend amount was $12,000. This year – $15,000. Next year – $18,000 (+ 54 segments in the new model).

    At the same time the ability to qualify for 1K was getting harder, the ability to USE the benefits of qualifying (specifically GPUs and RPUs) was dropping off a preverbial cliff with far, far fewer upgrade seats being made available in advance to allow for proper redemption. PlusPoints probably will help a little (I’m going to assume PPs equal to 2 GPUs will get you an easier confirmed seat), but one has to ask whether the chase for these 1K upgrade instruments will be worth the investment. For me as a 2MM and lifetime 75K, it’s hard to see why I would.

    At least we can officially begin the retirement ceremony for the term “frequent flyer program” as we transition to the “how much you spend” programs.

    • Oliver says:

      Actually, PQD were announced in 2013 and started getting tracked in 2014 for 2015 Premier status. And the requirement for 1K status was 10k PQD. See, e.g.,

      https://www.travelcodex.com/new-2014-earning-pqds-united-airlines/

      So… $10k -> $12k -> $15k -> $18k/$24k

      Someone draw that as a chart.

      I stopped chasing UA status (and sending boatloads of personal money to them) in 2014, my last year as 1K and first year as Million Miler.

  10. Jon says:

    I agree that this makes sense. But at this point, you’re paying $4-5000 just for a single free checked bag. In their own words, this will likely swell the ranks of Silvers and Golds even further, making the already extremely unlikely chance of an upgrade that much more unlikely. Further, this makes even an E+ upgrade a gamble.

    Unless you’re hub-captive, I just don’t see the reason to prefer UA over just going with the cheapest option if the best you can get is saving $30 on a bag – assuming you check a bag.
    And if you’re hub captive, the FF program is secondary to just being able to get where you’re going…

    Historically, the drive of a loyalty program included trying to gain new customers, rather than just rewarding existing revenue. How does this change help drive people who might book elsewhere to book and become loyal to UA?

    • SEAN says:

      I think the idea of attracting new customers & attempting to keep them is a thing of the past. As a customer you are now viewed as a dollar transaction, the more dollars you spend the more value you bring to a given carrier.

      If you want to look at this in a certain frame of reference for different groups of flyers, you could have…

      Bill Gaits class, elite of the elite
      Paris Hilton class… one step down
      Donald Trump class… wanabe elite but think they are deserving of being elite
      Jersey Shore class… the rest of us.

  11. Pilotaaron1 says:

    I miss SW rapid rewards 1.0

  12. Bobber says:

    Brett, how does this affect things for us pesky foreigners who currently don’t need to worry about PQD’s? I’ve noticed the value of being Gold reduce year on year, rarely get up to Platinum, and won’t ever see 1K – so I’m reckoning these changes only make things even worse for me, right?

    • A_B says:

      No more spend waiver, but your porcupines will be award mileage/5 or 6 and flights are flights

      • ptahcha says:

        Only for non-016 tickets. For flights issued under United ticket, it’s earning PQP based on ticket price.

    • CF says:

      What he said. Foreign addresses have no more spend waiver since you can earn miles on partner airlines now.

      • United International flier says:

        So this basically really hurts people flying business class on partner airlines.

        • United International flier says:

          I calculated this and a normal cross Pacific flight on EVA airways in business class would previously earn 6.5% of 1K qualification (6500 miles out of 100k miles, which is already a terrible rate) and now will only earn 4.5% of 1K qualification (1079 points).

          The very poor conversion of EVA business class was already on the verge of knocking me out of Mileage Plus; this will probably knock me out completely. Only 1K is worth it and it will be too hard to get it now.

          • Oliver says:

            But before you would not have earned any PQD on that flight. Now you do. You need to compare PQD to PQP.

  13. James says:

    Should just go all-in on $epdning and be done with it.

    Why keep segment qualification now that mileage does not matter either.

    • Alex says:

      The idea is probably that flying a high number of segments this year is predictive of being a really profitable customer next year. If I’m a consultant based near IAD, I might be on an engagement in CLT for 6 months – flying down Monday morning and back Thursday evening every week. That’s a short flight, so I might not spend enough money to hit the normal 1K target, but I’m not going to be flying to CLT forever. My next client might be near SAN, or in a smaller metro like VPS where I need to take a connection to get there. I’ll spend a *lot* for flights on those engagements, so it pays to keep me around as a customer. In order to keep me around, you give me a “discount” on how much spend it takes to hit each status tier.

      I think the way they’ve communicated it is a mistake, though – bloggers and commenters are focused on the segment qualification, and most seem to not realize that it will be the less common way to get status – most people will hit the spend target first. In my opinion, they should have just presented it as “bonus PQPs for flying X flights/year”, with a table showing targets and bonus PQP counts.

    • Noah says:

      segments also help target non-hub fliers. If you are connecting, then presumably, you can connect on UA or AA or DL with much more indifference than being in a hub flying nonstop where schedule is a big draw.

      Similarly to Alex’s comment – there is some level of high value people not necessarily controlling their routes (distance or dollars) so some “smoothing” is needed. That being said, many businesses, like mine as a consultant, do not allow any premium cabins or extra legroom and our fares are negotiated, so even a last minute ticket can be quite inexpensive. The drive for more and more dollar spend is harder and harder as companies restrict employees ability to spend a lot on flights.

  14. Bill in ATL says:

    I think United needs to change the name of MileagePlus since mileage doesn’t mean anything anymore*.

    *Except for non-016 partner tickets earning redeemable miles

  15. E2 says:

    My (significant) frustration around this change is twofold:

    1) I’m 100% hub bound, as 90% of my travel is SFO/SJC to ORD. My options for a nonstop flight are UA, AA, or a single former VA flight on AL. Given that AA is a garbage fire, UA is my only real choice.

    2) I’m going to end the year as a Platinum, with around 80K miles flown. However since my schedule tends to firm up about 30 days ahead of time, and because I hate middle seats, I book in advance. As such, my spend will probably barely cross 7.5K. That’s not an issue though, because I bought into the whole United ecosystem, and also have a United Club card (with a spend waiver).

    3) That same spend waiver is now going away on the cards, as is my motivation to actually use it for anything now. Assuming my travel stays roughly similar, I should (again) end the year with around 36 PQF, but won’t even qualify for Gold.

    Assuming that outcome, and that silver offers basically zero advantages for my normal travel, there’s zero point in me maintaining any loyalty to United. I can also drop my Club Card and membership, and look at other lounge options as well.

    I get that United is attempting to maximize revenue, and focus on their highest value travelers (12K+/year), but at the same time they’re saying they don’t value anyone below that watermark.

    • Noah says:

      agree that all carriers need to learn how to reward lower level elites. The promise of an upgrade that never comes when loads are in the 90% range and a free checked bag that most business customers don’t use simply aren’t compelling. And they can’t turn their planes into 90% premium cabin seating and make money (or can they?)

      They will need to find ways to offer meaningful rewards or recognition. Perhaps it will be special award pricing (though you could argue that is covered by higher earning), better on the ground experience (Clear, lounges, etc.), travel plan flexibility, enhanced onboard food or drinks – even if not in a premium cabin. But for now, post mergers, the carriers are drowning in business overall, and more than enough people who spend significant dollars.

    • Alex says:

      You probably know this, but Southwest flies SJC->MDW 2x daily, SFO->MDW 2x daily, and OAK->MDW 4x daily. Based on your description, you should qualify for A-List Preferred, and you’d probably get Companion Pass as well if you got one of the credit cards.

      Obviously switching to WN would have serious downsides (lower frequencies, no premium cabins to upgrade to, no international partners, flying 737s all the time…) but a flyer with your travel patterns would also rack up a crazy amount of Rapid Rewards points, so you could go to Hawaii, Cabo, etc. for free whenever you want.

    • A_B says:

      I’ve got UA silver, if I did swing Gold what would that get me anyway?

      No plus points, so no longhaul upgrades

      I guess lounge access and free e+? I could see that being worth it, I guess

      • E2 says:

        Lounge access only on International flights. The E+ at booking is nice, and the ability to change flights same day is handy, but that’s about it. The Group 1 boarding is handy, but the bins still fill up overhead for E+.

  16. JayB says:

    You would think that after all these years, the airlines would have figured this out. It comes down to this:

    “We love our customers, big and small, rich and poor. We know who you are and how good of a customer you’ve been, and why…our opinion, not yours…dollars spent, miles flown, whatever…don’t. waste your time trying to come up with some stupid program. It’s our business, not yours. If we think it makes sense to upgrade you or offer you a free trip, we will. Maybe a nudge by you might help, but remember, we are a business trying to make a reasonable profit, sufficient to let us keep serving you. Eliminating these nonsensical program will go a long way to help us to that end!”

  17. Peter B says:

    Thinks it was way overdue move to have the ability to earn on non -016 tickets. This is something both AA and DL have had for ages.

  18. David says:

    I live in Europe and have flown on 131 flights so far this year. The airline I have flown most in terms of number of sectors (29) and miles is Ryanair – an airline that does not even have a loyalty scheme. The next 3 airlines I’ve flown most often are all LCCs

    The whole reward scheme to me seems to be a way to confuse travellers into making sub-optimal choices that are great to increase revenue for an airline but lousy for the passengers. If you’re paying for a ticket out of your own pocket and don’t have a company willing to reimburse you, then schedule and fare should generally be the 2 primary factors in choosing an airline

    • A_B says:

      For business network and fleet size is also a consideration, star alliance is great world wide, and building a status on 1 airline helps to ensure they go the extra mile to take care of you when crap goes bad.

  19. Seacardl says:

    What is the purpose of the loyalty program?

    Is it to reward or provide discounts to passengers who spend the most?

    Is it to drive incremental spending and loyalty or fill seats that would otherwise go unused?

    Is it drive engagement and support the credit card programs?

    UA seems to be unilaterally deciding that it is solely rewarding spend at the expense of the other objectives. It strikes me that there high spend customers who do not care about the reward or have no other choice – last minute tickets, only non-stop flight, corporate contract, etc. These customers do not represent incremental revenue and do not need to get high rewards or disproportionate recognition, yet that is what the new UA program does. And UA already as Global Services The new design seems to do little to incent incremental engagement on the credit card or reward shifting share – it is another step toward making every flight an independent transaction and follow down Christopher Elliot’s recommendation to just be a free agent.

  20. iahphx says:

    I am a bit alarmed that UA — and the folks commenting on this post — underestimate the foolishness of making these frequent flyer programs so freakin’ complex. PQF’s and PQD’s? Are you out of your minds? Do you know the intelligence and attention span of an average elite customer? 95%+ of travellers will have no idea what’s going on here. To be effective, a loyalty program has to be relatively simple and understandable. Fly x miles earn a certain status. When you need your accountant to figure out the rules, the program is worthless.

    • james says:

      I understood it just fine after watching the initial United video, and following up on a few sites and blogs. The only slightly confusing item was the partner earnings (multiplier and division) – but once you know the parts it’s easy to formulate how you’d earn (or not.)

  21. Michael says:

    Maybe it’s a US/Non-US attitude thing but to me another aspect which adds confusion to these ‘spend requirements’ is excluding taxes. Especially on international tickets these can be a fair chunk of the price and difficult to even guesstimate without inspecting an e-ticket recipt. Why not just set the number at a level where the airline is willing to eat the taxes and be able to say ‘every dollar counts’?
    I’m not a fan of the direction US frequent flyer programs are going but to claim this is meaningfully simpler than the prior iteration is fairly asinine especially when it still takes a whole article to cover all the weird exceptions UA has carved out here.

    • iahphx says:

      Yeah, I earned a grand total of 51 miles on UA for a Star Alliance flight I took in Scandinavia last year — and that was as a UA 1K! The rest was all “taxes.” Just another element of the mindless complexity of modern frequent flyer programs. Whoever figures out how to simply these things will be hailed as a genius. Why not just make it total spend (including taxes)? What’s wrong with that? It seems much better than using an alphabet soup of codes.

  22. chris says:

    correction: flying alot doesn’t mean jack if you fly basic economy.

    lets just say this change doesn’t reward loyalty, 30-60% spending increase for lowest tier? Sure, just don’t call it “reward”.

    • iahphx says:

      As a UA 1K, I’ve avoided UA for cheap transatlantic trips because the savings for flying basic economy are so great and UA won’t give me a seat assignment (or pretty much anything else) if I choose that fare class. Obviously, there’s something wrong with that methodology. If your most loyal customers are booking away from you because of the way you treat them, I would suggest there’s a problem with your “loyalty” program. :)

      • iahphx says:

        Oh, and I earn fewer mileage plus miles flying UA across the Atlantic in coach than I do on their partners (like Air Canada). AC will even let me select my seat on a basic economy fare (at the 24 hour mark). Obviously, this is marketing madness.

  23. Sean S. says:

    It’ll be interesting to see if the nature of loyalty programs change, away from the traditional “free bag, free upgrade” model, to more targeted offerings. For awhile Delta, as well as AA, were rewarding elites with plane side car rides to their connecting flights for example. To do that however means going beyond raw miles, and looking at how does a person fly, where are they going, are there things that could be done to make their flight more comfortable? How about greeting a person with their preferred pre-departure drink?

  24. CF says:

    Update: United tells me that Edelweiss and Air Dolomiti will be switched to preferred partners before 2020, so all Lufthansa Group airlines will earn at the same rate.

  25. SaveMiles says:

    I think this is a short sighted decision that will hurt business in the long run.

    Sure, catering to big spenders will help on the short run, but what happens when they can’t afford to stay big spenders anymore?

    Having a program where people like myself who fly leisurely 5-10 years (few international flights) can actually get something of value keeps me loyal to an airline. If all the big 3 goes this route, my travel will become strictly cost based with no loyalty.

  26. Jeff says:

    I wanted to wait until UA gave me the details until I would comment, and now they have….

    I’ve been pretty loyal to UA, 1M miler and many years of 1K, but I’m international mostly with rare US domestic trips. Let me explain what it does for me and why this is a disincentive for United for me:

    1. We now have the status related to USD spent on the fare. I don’t spend in USDs but Euros/GB Pounds. I use a corporate travel agent where I don’t even know what the fare is, let alone the amount that United decides to chose for status points (or whatever the latest acronym is). I can understand how this makes US travellers easier because they have had PQDs for a while, but for me this is just an opaque number I’ll only see when UA awards them. Opaque.

    2. Whilst UA will use the fare, the rest use miles divided by a random number. We still have miles and whether I get miles or USD is determined by whether it is a UA or other ticket issue… which is pretty random dependent on corporate fares on one of my normal UA/LH trips… Again more opaque.

    3. It is now $24k to make 1K, which looks to me like roughly 11 international round trips in Premium Economy at my normal, average fare. In 2019, this was 5-6 if I’m on a UA ticket. Huge Increase.

    4. If I compare to say OneWorld, currently, it is 5-6 for Gold. Uncompetitive.

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