A couple of weeks ago, we learned of United’s plan to change their frequent flyer program – actually, they are eliminating the frequent flyer part of it and making it all about the money. But, that doesn’t mean that you cannot still get their top tier status (Premier 1K) for less than United wants you to think you need to pay! Here is an example that shows how you can still earn top tier United status for less than half what United wants you to spend with them!
Spending Half the United Cost for United Premier 1K in 2020
There are two ways to achieve elite status with United in 2020 and beyond. One is by flying a certain amount of segments and spending a certain amount of money. The other way is just flying the minimum of 4 United flights and spending a lot more money on flights.
But, thanks to how United has to handle partner flights, there is a way to spend even less than United wants you to think you need to spend – in fact, less than half the United cost! If you really want United Premier 1K status (their top tier status), here is a suggested way to achieve it for half of what United wants you to spend with them.
Is It Worth Trying?
Before we get into it, there are probably many that say, “why even try to get Premier 1K status if United is making it so difficult?” My answer would be that United tried to justify some of these changes by saying they want to reward customers like 1K in a stronger way. So, it could be valuable to anyone that really likes the benefits of top tier status – but it is still a lot of money and time!
Example of Earning Top Tier United Status for Half the Cost
The secret to spending less than United wants you to spend is to fly partners. They have their “Preferred” partners and their “MileagePlus” partners. If you fly a Preferred partner, you will divide the total award miles earned by 5. If you fly a MileagePlus partner, you will divide the total award miles earned by 6.
But, just remember that if you are going to earn it all with partners, there are 2 things to look at:
- You still need to fly a minimum of 4 United flights
- You will need to go by the “PQP Only” side of the chart above (so, 24,000 PQP for Premier 1K)
- This is because you are opting to not spend 54 flights aboard United airplanes
The good news is that the total award miles you are dividing includes bonus miles earned by class of service/fare class. So, if you fly in some premium class cabins, you can earn even more miles.
The route I used for this example is the somewhat new Singapore Airlines flight between Newark and Singapore. That is a brutally long flight, so long, in fact, that Singapore does not sell economy on this route – just business and premium economy. Premium economy is fare class “R” – which earns 100% of the miles flown. So, let’s see how many miles you would earn on a roundtrip ticket!
According to GCMap, you would earn 19,068 miles. Since “R” (or, Premium Economy on this flight) earns 100% of the miles flown, you would wind up with 19,068 miles. To find out how this translates to the new PQP for earning elite status, we would divide that number by “6” since Singapore is a MileagePlus partner.
Our total from that is 3,178 PQPs. So, let’s see how many of these roundtrip flights with Singapore we would need to make to hit the various elite levels as well as how much it would cost with the above example.
Note: If you need less than 500 PQPs, I am just indicating the lower number of flights since you still need to fly United flights and that would be a fair number. If a one-way on this route would do it, I will mark it as .5 since you could always use miles to return, etc.
|Elite Status Level||Number of Trips to Make||Total Cost|
Yeah, that is a lot of money and travel to hit United Premier 1K with the above itinerary/example! But, I just wanted to lay out how it is possible to achieve elite status with the United program for much less than what United wants you to spend with them. In fact, in the above example, you could earn Premier 1K for less than half what United wants you to spend with them and you could do it with only flying on 4 United flights and 18 Singapore flights – less than half the number of flights United wants for 1K the other way!
So, am I suggesting that someone do this? Absolutely not! That is a ton of time on planes and money when you could just buy miles in a partner program and likely get the kind of travel you want from that instead. But, I did want to highlight it as an example that is possible to still qualify under the United 2020 elite rules without spending as much as United wants you to spend.
Can you think of other airlines/routes that may present some sweet spots for hitting elite status?