Looks like United previewed some upcoming changes to their program this morning on Milepoint. Following Delta’s move earlier this year, United is adding a spending requirement to achieve elite status. Quoting from their post:
Starting in January 2014, Premier qualification for members living in the United States will include a minimum annual spending level. We will track this new requirement with Premier qualifying dollars (PQD) – dollars spent on most United tickets, including partner flights, and Economy Plus purchases. The changes will not affect Premier qualifying miles (PQM) or Premier qualifying segments (PQS). The new criteria will look like this:
- Premier Silver: [25,000 PQM or 30 PQS] and $2,500 PQD
- Premier Gold: [50,000 PQM or 60 PQS] and $5,000 PQD
- Premier Platinum: [75,000 PQM or 90 PQS] and $7,500 PQD
- Premier 1K: [100,000 PQM or 120 PQS] and $10,000 PQD
This is roughly in line with Delta’s changes announced in January.
The airlines have been copy cats for decades, so the only thing that surprises me about United’s move is the timing. It’s not exactly new information that they’ve had a tough 12 months when it comes to technology. And, while things have gotten better I still think they have a number of areas to improve upon (except their mobile app, which is currently best of breed in the US). I guess they probably had to get this out there soon since it’s based on qualification year. So, either implement it January, 2014 or wait until 2015.
Just like Delta, United is offering a way around this requirement if you carry their plastic:
For 2014, the PQD requirement is waived for Premier Silver, Premier Gold, and Premier Platinum qualification for members whose address with MileagePlus is within the 50 United States or the District of Columbia and who spend at least $25,000 in Net Purchases in 2014 on a MileagePlus co-branded credit card issued by Chase Bank USA, N.A. There is no PQD waiver for Premier 1K qualification.
Two differences here from Delta. First, United is not waiving the spending threshold for 1K qualification. So, you can’t achieve their highest tier unless you fly 100,000 miles/120 flights and spend $10,000 on tickets. Second is that United states their credit card waiver is only for 2014. Delta seems to be projecting that more as an ongoing benefit.
Selfishly, this is actually a good change for me. I’m a 1K on United and I buy more expensive tickets so I’m pretty certain I’ll hit the $10,000 threshold. Some people will not, so it should thin out the elite ranks a little bit, though I doubt it will thin it noticeably for things like domestic upgrades.
From a macro level it’s a bad thing for frequent travelers. These hurdles will make it tough for quite a few people to earn status at the lower levels. The only bright side I see hear is that an intermediate move like this might slow down what seems like an inevitable march to revenue based programs which would surely thin the elite levels and make the game of miles and points a lot less fun.
Now, I really think we’re just waiting for American Airlines to make a similar announcement to solidify the direction of all 3 legacy programs.