Help Me Make A Decision Whether I Should Mileage Run For United Premier 1K Status

This hobby of collecting miles and points can make you a bit mad at times.  I don’t mean mad in the sense of being angry, though there are plenty of disappointments with service issues and delays.  I mean mad as in having an irrational view of what the goal is.

I’ve been a United Premier 1K member for the last few years.  While I’ve found the status to be very uneven, even disappointing at times, it beats having no status at all.

But, does it beat having Premier Platinum status?

I have enough PQMs that I’ll likely qualify for Platinum status this year.  A few weeks ago I booked a mileage run that would get me pretty much all the extra EQMs I’d need to qualify for 1K.  I can still get a full refund for the ticket, and I’m not sure if I’m having buyer’s remorse.  So, I turn to you to help me make the decision.

There are plenty of similarities between Platinum and 1K.  Both have access to regional premier upgrades, a space-available upgrade you can clear ahead of time on flights such as ones in the domestic US.  Both can secure Economy Plus extra legroom seats for up to 8 passengers at time of booking, 3 checked bags per passenger on the same record and Star Alliance Gold status for international travel.  But, there are differences:
  • 1K members get upgraded 96 hours prior to departure for flights that feature Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPUs) versus 72 hours for Platinums
  • 1K members get automatic upgrades to the next class of service on M-class fares.  Platinums don’t.
  • 1K members get 4 Regional Premier Upgrades (RPUs), while Platinum members get 2.
  • 1K members get 6 Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) at 100K miles each year.  These are good for a one-way, one-cabin upgrade on all United flights.
  • 1K members will earn 2 miles more per dollar spent in 2015 under United’s new revenue-based program.
  • 1K members have a dedicated phone line.
  • 1K members receive a $60 statement credit for the United MileagePlus credit card.
So, what are these benefits worth to me?
I don’t clear a ton of upgrades domestically via the CPU process.  Last year, I cleared roughly half of my upgrades on United.  I also change flights a reasonable amount at the last-minute, making it hard to clear domestic upgrades
I buy a handful of M-class fares a year, mostly due to last-minute changes.  So, that benefit has value.
The RPUs have real value for me, as I’ve used them each year to upgrade a family trip somewhere in the US.
The GPUs on United Airlines are a bit of a sticking point for me.  I haven’t redeemed any yet on an international flight.  United Airlines requires you to purchase a more expensive fare (W class or higher) to use a GPU.  When I’ve tried to use them over the past few years, there hasn’t been availability at time of booking and I wasn’t willing to pay the higher fare in the hopes the upgrade would clear later (what I affectionately refer to as the upgrade lottery).
I don’t tend to buy my airline tickets early enough to get the cheapest fares.  For roughly 60,000 miles this year I’ve spent a bit over $8,000.  To be conservative, let’s say I spend $7,500 on United tickets in 2015.  That would be 15,000 miles (2 miles per dollar spent), or a bit less than $300 worth of miles, since I value United MileagePlus miles at a bit less than 2 cents a piece.
It’s hard to put exact numbers on most of the differences here.  And, different folks will assign different values to each of these benefits.
It would cost me a few days of reduced lost/productivity, not to mention some time away from my family.
The question is whether that lost time is worth earning 1K.
What do you think?  
How much is 1K worth to you versus Platinum status?  
Would you mileage run?

 

31 Comments

    1. ffi, I do, and used half of mine last year for that purpose (gave away the rest). But, I generally don’t take two family vacations on a route that I can redeem an RPU on (say, domestic US). So, the routes I used the GPUs on were business travel last year in the domestic US. I don’t personally value that usage very high, but some might. And, there’s a chance I can use the GPUs for something of value in 2015, just not sure what percentage to put on it. Certainly, the number of elites should shrink in 2015, making upgrades easier to get. By how much? That’s the big question.

  1. I’m in a very similar situation. Close on miles, but further away on PQDs than I would like in order to justify getting to the finish line. Interested to see what you decide.

    1. nate, the PQD thing is tough. I’m “lucky” that I have enough travel that’s not my issue. I’m one of the few folks who will have in excess of $10K in spend but nowhere near the miles.

  2. Go for it. United will screw you one way or another, but will screw you a bit less as a 1K. You can always give away extra upgdare chits as giveaways. 🙂

    1. steve, good point on the upgrade chits! I bet those get a lot more press than giving away drink coupons!

  3. Well I can tell you I’m not doing it. Had Plat in 2013, 1K in 2014, and will go back to Plat in 2015. I could have “ran” for the last 25k, but that is just way too much time (and $) away from the family for too little reward. Only real difference are the GPUs, so depends how you value those mostly. Plat was totally fine and I’m not sad at all about going back to it…or at least not sad enough to travel more than I otherwise have to/want to.

    1. Well, good morning MommyPoints! I lean against running for the miles but it’s always tempting to go explore a new city. It’s comforting to hear it hasn’t affected you guys much

  4. I definitely would not do it. Your time is too precious and you would have to get very substantial benefits to to compensate for the substantial time of the milage run.

    If someone were offering to pay you to do this, what would you charge? Would you get anywhere close to that in benefits?

    1. Kate, good question on what I would charge. That’s the big x-factor in this equation, is a couple days of missed time from my family worth a better travel experience for them? Or, do I just mitigate that by focusing more on earning credit card miles and redeeming for the seats I want (no upgrade lottery)? Thanks for weighing in!

  5. If you travelled internationally regularly and would use the GPUs I would think about it. if not then not worth it. you could use the cash from the runs and just buy a biz class trip.

    1. Levy, I travel internationally enough to use the GPUs, but I can’t find fares that I’m willing to stomach to spin the wheel of fortune and hope for an upgrade.

  6. Well, as 1K, you might receive this priceless dialogue with the FA:

    “Oh, you’re 1K? I need to kiss your a$$!”

    But seriously, if money is not an issue, it’s worth it.

    1. ptahcha, good thing I’m not drinking coffee this morning or it would be all over my screen right now. 🙂

      Money’s not the issue, it’s really my time.

  7. I think precisely because it is the time, not the money, that is the biggest factor then the decision is easy. You can always buy the upgrades for your family on a special trip, but no one can sell you back your time. I’ve seen pretty reasonable upgrade prices on domestic trips (since the base fare/fare class is often so darn high anyway), so that may make more sense if you are just talking about one or two trips where you could use the RPUs/GPUs anyway.

    If you were using them internationally on a regular basis, that would make it a slightly harder call.

    1. Yeah, I just can’t wrap my arms around paying for the privilege of being considered for an upgrade. You’re certainly right about not being able to buy back the time, especially with the family.

  8. 1K was worth it for me in previous years, and I did mileage run to get/keep it when needed.

    When the merger happened (2012) I started having problems with SWUs/GPUs clearing. In previous years, the premium for W fares had also been more modest than I was seeing then. I decided not to push for 1K for 2013 – I had PP. It was fine. I had a far from perfect CPU record, but it was still pleasant. For other reasons, I didn’t even get PP for 2014 – I’m a mere GP. I’m getting even fewer upgrades, and it’s less pleasant, but I’ve decided to not push for PP or 1K in the future. I do miss the GPUs, but they are not RELIABLY useful enough to be worth the premium. Instead, I’m burning more award tickets and booking directly into the cabin I really want.

    Summary: I would probably do it if it were a single transcon RT. I would not do two RT transcons or an international mile run for it.

      1. In this specific case, yes. But, if I didn’t do that one I could likely find the 15-20K PQMs I need for less money mileage running. That one appealed to me because it would be in F so I could be lazy. But, if I was truly committed to 1K, I’d likely search for something cheaper that would take roughly the same time.

  9. I have one of those booked in 2014 and another in 2015. I think that if I were exactly that far away from 1K in both PQMs and PQDs, I might consider taking one, but only because they’re trips that appeal anyway and as you point out, F makes it more tolerable.

    1. Yeah, I just got done dealing with completely mediocre, almost bad service in BF across the pond on UA, so not feeling especially find right now. 🙂

  10. Me, too. 🙂 (Yay for the summer C fare sale!) Looking just at the money, I would be reluctant to spend $1700 (the ICN F price) for 1K, only to then get to pay even more to play the GPU lottery in 2015. I would consider it, but I’m not sure if I’d actually do it.

  11. I’m in a similar boat. I’ve been Platinum for 2013 and 2014, will secure Platinum for 2015 by the end of August. I’ll be sitting around $10k+ PQD and ~93k PQM come Mid-November with no plans for end of the year travel. Debating on a Premiere Accelerator buy-up or a mileage run for those 1K GPUs next year. Most of my travel is international (Y) for work.

    1. Mike, you may already know this, but Premier Accelerator is generally cheaper on long flights. If you decide to try for it, purchase a refundable fare to somewhere far away, buy the PQMs, then refund the ticket.

  12. If you buy a Premier Accelerator and refund the ticket, you get to keep the mileage gained from the accelerator?? Is that correct??

      1. Hi Pizzainmotion, I need about 10,000 flight miles to achieve United 1K. Thinking of purchasing a refundable long-haul ticket with Premier Accelerator to make up for the difference. Question: Is this the way to go and can I still keep the PQM’s even though I will not fly and refund the ticket? United Premier rules say the miles will be posted after round trip completed.

        1. Rod, I’ve heard of tons of scenarios where people purchase a refundable ticket and buy PQMs. The miles post immediately after you purchase them, regardless of the status of the flight you purchased. That may change at some point in the future, but it’s still apparently reality today.

          1. Got it and thanks friend. Will this work if I booked with award miles? Will I be given the option to purchase Premier Accelerator as well? Sorry for the questions; I new and need to book before the end of 2014 to get credit for 1K for 2015.

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