United Doubles Down And Devalues Their Confusing Elite Status Program Just 4 Months After It Launched

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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 mileageplus@united.com 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?

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29 Comments On "United Doubles Down And Devalues Their Confusing Elite Status Program Just 4 Months After It Launched"

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ML

American: let’s raise baggage fees at the worst possible time
United: Hold my beer

RN

2 thumbs up

Israel

I already status matched my 1K to Delta and I’m VERY satisfied with them. So much better than United in many aspects.

Glushtygiz

Why didnt someone in charge make sure these airlines dont get away with robbery when they got their bailout

Zach Griff

The cap applies per segment, as I originally reported. So you’d earn 3,000 PQP — not 1,500 — for the Air Canada roundtrip you mention above.

Mendel

Does that mean if I fly a lot on LOT airlines I wont be getting same credit as before on UA??

iahphx

It has become a toss-up as to which is more confusing and complex: airline frequent flyer programs or the US tax code. I previously thought that the complexity would be bad for the airlines. I’m no longer sure of that. Honestly, people aren’t so good with math, and just fly anyway when they want to. A belief that the “earnings actually matter: is obviously (logically) prevalent in people who blog about this for a living, but is not a well-founded belief.

YYZOGG

I gained alot from this calculation but dont think it made any sense for United. I’m already in between platinum and 1k for this year… due to the lowering to 9k.

What happens if you book AC metal on 016. Do we still have the 1500 cap?

Jim

Loyalty to a single airline set sail a year ago. Not worth trying. Even when I travel for business, I simply look for the best fare these days. End of story.

JL

Just before all this started, I status matched my United Gold to Alaska MVP Gold.

I took a couple flights on Alaska but had to cancel the final couple that would have completed my status match.

Alaska went ahead and gave me my Gold status for the year anyway which was the right thing to do, but still unusual for Airlines these days.

Farewell United.

Ray S

Scott Kirby truly is a cancer on United Airlines. Sure, he makes shareholders and investors happy but everything that he does is a negative for flyers. He is ruining United. I have no idea why anyone would want to fly on this sinking airline when the product is worse, the prices are more expensive, and the one good thing about the airline (MileagePlus miles) has been devalued worse beyond Delta’s useless miles all thanks to Scott Kirby. Even as a MM gold I have been thinking of avoiding this disaster of an airline ruined by greed to fly without status on AA and DL.

Elizabeth Warren

I hate to state the obvious, but it seems like these miles become less and less valuable every day. How much longer until these miles are essentially worthless?

mark

Dan has always touted UA miles as the best. In fact they are being devalued at breathtaking speed and the service on United is the worst by far of all the US based major carriers. As a 1k on United 7 years running Diamond on Delta since its inception and exec plat last 4 years on AA all concurrently (yes I fly well over 350k miles a year) there is no doubt that UA is the worst run program overall. They are the worst customer service, worst in air service and worst at working with their customers in grey area situation of vouchers, rebooking etc. Few people have concurrent experiences to actually compare them. I am ditching UA now and in the event star alliances are what I need will credit to avianca and use in south american exclusively.

mark

making conditions on bailout money regarding fees etc is NOT in the government interest of making these airlines profitable. While southwest has made money every quarter (until today) for 11 years running their business model due to lack of long haul flights make it MUCH easier to run at peak efficiency. Any international trans atlantic or transpacific flight opens itself up to the kind of delays and volume lost (think 400 passengers on a once a day route that suddenly need hotels, vouchers etc) that southwest simply never encounters. I get it that as a customer we want free luggage etc but the airline business is a real struggle to make money in. That is a reality. This loss of revenue will not be a reason for ending fees. Lastly, while WE may want more perks the shareholders certainly do NOT want us to have those perks… As a major shareholder in all of them I too am conflicted….

Memere613

Thnx for the disclaimer at the bottom 😉

moshe

hi dan would it make something if my as 1k member as will figure out more member to write emails to the specified email address for 1K member how worse is this movement for us

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