Update: United has clarified to me that the PQP limit is per flight segment and not per flight purchased, which means this devaluation is not as severe as it seemed.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but just 6 months ago United announced that they would majorly overhaul their elite status requirements. Essentially they moved from a frequent flyer program, where you earned status based on miles flown, to a frequent spender program. Essentially, a glorified grocery store program. Elite status would become entirely transactional instead of being loyalty based.
It went into effect on 1/1/20, just as the entire airline industry would soon face collapse. Talk about bad timing. United turned off their most frequent flyers at the worst possible time. Worse yet for United, other airlines didn’t match their onerous spending requirements for earning elite status. That means that other airlines can poach United’s frequent flyers as travel picks up again, which may hurt United’s recovery.
So what does United do when things are looking bleak and when you need to rely on loyal members more than ever?
They devalue! It’s a move right out of Scott Kirby’s playbook.
I noted when they launched the program that partner airline earnings were more generous than United earnings. I’m not going to rehash the confusing changes here, so click here to read about them again.
On a $2,700 round-trip business class ticket from Toronto to Tel Aviv I calculated that you would earn 4,631 PQPs when flying Air Canada instead of the 2,670 PQPs you would earn for flying United. See the full calculation here.
For tickets bought as of tomorrow, that Air Canada flight will only earn 3,000
1,500 PQPs, a massive devaluation for partner flights.
Update: United will impose the PQP limit on each flight segment, so in the case of Toronto-Tel Aviv-Toronto you will now earn 3,000 PQPs.
If you purchase tickets today or purchased tickets before today, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “OA PQP Review” to receive PQP earning under the prior rules. Receipts should not be submitted until after travel is completed for flights on or after July 1, 2020.
United is too cheap to make the IT work, so they’ll put the onus on travelers to get what they’re owed.
You can read about the changes here on United.com in the section “Earning PQP on flights ticketed and operated by a Star Alliance Partner.”
I can’t say I’m surprised by the devaluation, but I am surprised that they designed the program so poorly in the first place. The partner award earnings struck me as being too generous when I first read about the program. Clearly they need better consultants when designing these things.
And I am surprised at the timing of this announcement. There’s never been an easier time for a loyal member to jump ship and it seems like United is telling members to do just that.
Will you switch which airlines and hotels you’re loyal to when you start traveling again?