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United Airlines Status Review – Here’s What You Get With Each Level

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United Airlines Status Review – Here’s What You Get With Each Level

Jason StaufferUnited Airlines Status Review – Here’s What You Get With Each LevelMillion Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: If you only fly occasionally a United Airlines credit card, like the United℠ Explorer Card or United℠ Explorer Business Card, is a great substitute to having United Airlines status because the perks from these cards mimic some of the benefits elite status members receive.

United Airlines status is divided up into 4 levels and to achieve each status level you’ll have to do a lot of flying. But if you’re going to be traveling that much anyway, then it can be worth it to stick to one airline so you can earn elite perks like upgrades, free checked bags, and reduced or waived award change and close-in booking fees.

One of the unique perks of even the lowest tier of United Airlines status is that you’ll get access to more available award seats. So having United Airlines elite status can make your United Airlines miles more useful.

Let’s breakdown how to earn United Airlines Elite Status and what it’ll get you. (Photo courtesy of United Airlines)

United Airlines Status

United Airlines status works the same way as with most other airlines. You’ll need to fly a certain amount and spend a specific amount in a calendar year (January 1 to December 31) to earn status and once you’ve earned an elite status level, it is valid from the time you earned it until the end of the following calendar year. So, for example, if you earn United Airlines elite status in June 2019 it would be valid through December 31, 2020.

In general, airline elite status is harder to earn than hotel elite status, which you can often get just by opening a hotel’s credit card.  But I think airline status can make a much bigger difference in the quality of your travel. The change in comfort level between Economy and Business Class is greater than the difference between a standard hotel room and a suite.

One potential limitation of United Airlines elite status (and airline elite status in general) is that you won’t qualify for complimentary upgrades on award flights. However, if you have an airline credit card like the United Explorer Card or United Explorer Business Card, you can qualify for a complimentary upgrade on award flights, but any companions traveling with you won’t.

With airline elite status you can work toward a status level even if you aren’t flying with that specific airline. The rules for earning elite credits with partner airlines can be nuanced, so I’ll explain them in more detail below.

How to Earn United Airlines Status

United Airlines has 4 different elite status levels:

  • United Premier Silver
  • United Premier Gold
  • United Premier Platinum
  • United Premier 1K

To reach each level you’ll have to earn a certain amount of the following:

  • Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs)

OR

  • Premier Qualifying Segments (PQSs)

AND

  • Spend a certain amount of Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs)

Here’s the number of PQMs or PQSs you’ll need to accumulate and the amount of PQDs you’ll need to spend in a calendar year to qualify for each level:

  • United Premier Silver
    • 30,000 PQMs or 30 PQSs
    • $3,000 PQDs
  • United Premier Gold
    • 50,000 PQMs or 60 PQSs
    • $6,000 PQDs
  • United Premier Platinum
    • 75,000 PQMs or 90 PQSs
    • $9,000 PQDs
  • United Premier 1K
    • 100,000 PQMs or 120 PQSs
    • $15,000 PQDs

You can also earn free United Silver status if you’re a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium elite or higher. Just link your accounts here.

United Airlines also has the added requirement that to qualify for any elite status level you must fly a minimum of 4 flight segments (paid with cash, not miles) on United Airlines flights in the calendar year. This requirement is waived if you have the United Club℠ Card or the United Club℠ Business Card.

And United Airlines will waive the PQD requirement for Silver, Gold, or Platinum status for any primary United Airlines co-branded cardholder that spends $25,000+ on their card in a calendar year.  So while spending on a United Airlines card doesn’t earn you PQDs or PQMs, it can help you earn elite status.  This PQD waiver doesn’t apply for Premier 1K status.

The information for the United Club Card and the United Club Business Card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

How to Earn PQMs, PQSs, and PQDs

The most straightforward way to earn United Airlines elite status is by flying with United Airlines. But the amount of Premier Qualifying Miles and Premier Qualifying Segments you’ll earn varies depending on what fare class you purchase.

For example, Basic Economy tickets will only earn 50% of the miles you fly as Premier Qualifying miles and they only earn .5 Premier Qualifying Segments per segment you fly. You can see United’s chart for what you’ll earn with each fare class below.

In general, the more you pay for your ticket the more elite status credit you’ll earn. But you can easily see which fare class you’re purchasing by clicking the “details” tab next to the flight information.

When it comes to earning PQMs and PQSs, as long as you are flying with United Airlines or one of their Star Alliance partners you’ll earn them. Just make sure your United Airlines frequent flyer number is attached to the reservation.

But it’s a bit different when it comes to earning PQDs. Anytime you fly with United Airlines you’ll also earn PQDs, but you’ll only earn PQDs with their Star Alliance partners if you purchase the ticket through United (i.e. the ticket number starts with 016). For example, if you booked a TAP Portugal flight (they’re a Star Alliance partner) through the United Airlines website you’ll earn PQDs. But if you booked the exact same flight through TAP Portugal’s website, then no dice.  You would still earn PQMs and PQSs, but no PQDs.

Don’t confuse PQMs with United Airlines miles.  PQMs are what can qualify you for United’s elite status and United Airlines miles are what you can use to book award flights. The other difference between the two is that PQMs are earned based on the distance flown and United Airlines miles are earned based on the price of the ticket.

United Premier Status Benefits

With any elite status, the most valuable benefit is often the upgrades. There are a few different ways you can get upgrades with United Airlines.

Here’s United’s chart breaking down the differences:

MileagePlus Upgrade Awards are upgrades you can book with United Airlines miles. They are available regardless of whether or not you have elite status and work very similarly to regular award tickets in that there needs to be an available upgrade award. These usually aren’t good deals because you’ll typically need to pay for a more expensive fare class to qualify for the upgrade and then pay a co-pay on top of that. But it’s worth pointing out that on certain routes (marked with a “**”) where the co-pay is waived for elite members.

Regional Premier Upgrades are certificates given to Platinum and Premier 1K elites and Global Premier Upgrades can only be earned by Premier 1K members.

Complimentary Premier Upgrades are given to elite members when there is a seat available. The order they are given out is based on your elite status and the fare class associated with your ticket.  More expensive fare classes are given a higher priority than other fare classes. Basic Economy tickets aren’t eligible for upgrades.

There are also a few elite status perks you can earn with United Airlines’s credit cards. For example, with the United Explorer Card or United Explorer Business Card, you’ll get your first checked bag free for you and a companion on the same reservation on United Airlines flights when you pay with the card. You’ll also get access to more available award seats, priority boarding, and 2 free United Club lounge passes every cardmember year.

United Premier Silver

United’s Silver status has a few nice perks, like access more available award seats, a free checked bag, and reduced award fees.

As a United Silver Elite member you’ll receive these perks:

  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus seats at check-in
  • Choose a Preferred seat for free when booking your flight
  • Upgrades confirmed day of departure
  • 1 free checked bag on Economy tickets, 3 free checked bags for Business or First Class tickets
  • Priority check-in, baggage handling, boarding, security screening (where available)
  • 7X United Airlines miles per $1 spent on base fares
  • Increased Economy Saver Award availability
  • Reduced award fees for close-in bookings (within 21 days) you’ll only pay $50
  • Reduced award change & redeposit fees, you’ll only pay $50 for adjustments made 61+ days from departure
  • Reduced award change & redeposit fees when making adjustments 60 days or fewer from departure, you’ll only pay $100
  • Star Alliance Silver status (priority waitlist & priority standby)

United Premier Gold

Gold status gets you a slightly enhanced version of most of the Silver elite perks. So you’ll be upgraded sooner, pay smaller fees, and get an extra free checked bag on Economy tickets.

One of the best Gold status benefit is the Star Alliance Gold status it gets you. With it you’ll have access to Star Alliance lounges anytime you’re flying with a Star Alliance partner. The one exception is on domestic United Airlines flights where you won’t have access to United Club lounges, but you will be able to access other Star Alliance lounges. Although if you’re flying domestically, it’s not likely there will be a Star Alliance lounge in a domestic terminal other than United’s Club lounges, anyway.

You can also match United Gold status to Marriott Bonvoy Gold.

United Gold Elite members get:

  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus & Preferred seats at booking
  • Upgrades confirmed 48 hours before departure
  • Free same-day flight changes ($75 fee is waived), except for Basic Economy tickets
  • 2 free checked bags on Economy tickets, 3 free checked bags for Business or First Class tickets
  • Priority check-in, baggage handling, boarding, security screening (where available)
  • 8X United Airlines miles per $1 spent on base fares
  • Increased Economy Saver Award availability
  • Reduced award fees for close-in bookings (within 21 days) you’ll only pay $25
  • Reduced award change & redeposit fees, you’ll only pay $25 for adjustments made 61+ days from departure
  • Reduced award change & redeposit fees when making adjustments 60 days or fewer from departure, you’ll only pay $75
  • Star Alliance Gold status (access to Star Alliance lounges when flying on an eligible flight)

United Premier Platinum

Once you get to the Premier Platinum level things really start to get good. First off, you’ll pay no close-in, change, or redeposit fees on award tickets and you’ll get access to more available Economy & premium cabin award seats. With the other statuses (and United credit cards) you only get access to more available Economy award seats.

You’ll also get 2 Regional Premier Upgrades which you can use on certain routes that aren’t eligible for complimentary upgrades, like some transcontinental routes and long-haul flights to Hawaii. They can also be applied to the same flights that are eligible for complimentary upgrades and you’ll get a higher priority.

United Platinum status also gets you Marriott Bonvoy Gold status. Again, just link your accounts here.

United Platinum elite status comes with these benefits:

  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus & Preferred seats at booking
  • Upgrades confirmed 72 hours before departure
  • 2 Regional Premier Upgrades
  • Free same-day flight changes ($75 fee is waived)
  • 3 free checked bags for Economy, Business Class, and First Class tickets
  • Priority check-in, baggage handling, boarding, security screening (where available)
  • 9X United Airlines miles per $1 spent on base fares
  • Increased Economy & premium cabin Saver Award availability
  • No award close-in booking fee
  • No award change or redeposit fee if adjustments are made 61+ days from departure
  • No additional phone booking fee
  • Reduced award change & redeposit fees when making adjustments 60 days or fewer from departure, you’ll only pay $50
  • Star Alliance Gold status (access to Star Alliance lounges when flying on an eligible flight)

United Premier 1K

United Premier 1K members will earn Global Premier Upgrades, which can be used on any flight that you book in an eligible fare class. You’ll also have the highest priority when it comes to complimentary upgrades.

And just like with United’s Platinum & Gold status, United 1K members can match their status to Marriott Bonvoy Gold.

United Premier 1K members get:

  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus & Preferred seats at booking
  • Upgrades confirmed up to 4 days before departure
  • 2 additional Regional Premier Upgrades (4 total)
  • 6 Global Premier Upgrades and an additional one for each extra 25,000 PQMs or 30 PQSs you earn in a calendar year.
  • Free same-day flight changes ($75 fee is waived)
  • 3 free checked bags for Economy, Business Class, and First Class tickets
  • Priority check-in, baggage handling, boarding, security screening (where available)
  • 11X United Airlines miles per $1 spent on base fares
  • Increased Economy & premium cabin Saver Award availability
  • No award close-in booking fee
  • No award change or redeposit fee
  • No additional phone booking fee
  • Star Alliance Gold status (access to Star Alliance lounges when flying on an eligible flight)

Is United Airlines Status Worth It?

Whether or not any elite status is worth it depends a lot on how much you’re going to use it. Of course, if you have elite status or are on track to earn it, you obviously travel a lot.

I think some other airlines, like Alaska Airlines, have a better elite status program, but Alaska Airlines serves mostly the West Coast and their status isn’t very helpful if you’re traveling internationally.

I’ve had United Airlines Premier Silver status in the past because I matched my Marriott Titanium status, but to be honest, for most people, opening a co-branded United Airlines credit card will get you most of the best perks of Premier Silver status. Although I did find that being an elite status member made it much easier to get compensated for an overnight flight delay. But maybe I just got lucky.

Premier Gold status is helpful because it gets you Gold status with Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance in the world and with Star Alliance Gold status you get access to Star Alliance lounges whenever you’re flying on a Star Alliance partner flight (except United Airlines domestic flights). This is more generous than comparable status with other airline alliances.

In 2019, United Airlines made Premier 1K elite status a bit harder to earn and slightly less rewarding. They bumped up the PQD requirement for Premier 1K from $12,000 to $15,000. This requirement was already tougher to earn since, as I mentioned earlier, the United Airlines co-branded credit card PQD waiver doesn’t apply to Premier 1K status.

To learn more about United Airlines, check out these other guides:

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United℠ Explorer Business Card

United℠ Explorer Business Card

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 100,000 after qualifying purchases.
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Plus, 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases. And 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Free checked bag - save up to $120 per roundtrip (terms apply)
  • Two one-time United Club℠ passes each year — Over $100 in value per year
  • Employee cards at no additional cost - miles earned from their purchases accrue in your account. Plus, you can set individual spending limits for each card.

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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if you travel on international award flights from USA to asia, what are the minimum applicable benefits for elite status? complimentary upgrade still possible?

If I’m Premiere 1K and my buddy is Premiere 1k, who is more likely to get upgraded first? Does it depend at that level who has more PQD/PQM? Or is it who checks in first?

How hard is it to find a picture of an Aircraft United still flys. IE NOT a 747!

The comment near the beginning of the article that you can’t get upgraded on free trips is not true. Paid people have higher priority but I’ve received upgrades as a Premier Silver flyer on free tickets. It’s in their public list of benefits for silver.

Author
Jason Stauffer

Yes, you can get a complimentary upgrade on an award ticket if you have an eligible United card:

https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/mileageplus/premier/upgrades.html

You’re right, I didn’t remember that this extra benefit was due to my United Club card, not being Silver.

Marriott changed so much when they became Bonvoy that gold status with them gets you nothing now.

It took Marriott Platinum under the old program to get United Premiere silver (75 nights). That is unchanged. Marriott just changed the names of the levels. 75 nights is Titanium now and is what gets you United Silver. The Bonvoy program really didn’t change that.

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