United Airlines status review – with elite status extensions due to COVID-19

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United Airlines has made some significant changes to the way you qualify for its four elite status levels (Global Services level is invitation only). You’ll no longer earn Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs), Premier Qualifying Segments (PQSs) or Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs), instead you’ll qualify for elite status with Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs).

You’ll still get 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 and you also get this perk if you have a United Airlines credit card.

The United℠ Business Card has a welcome bonus of 100,000 miles after spending $10,000 in the first three months and the United℠ Explorer Card has a bonus of 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months.

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 earn a certain amount of PQFs and/or PQPs 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 2020 it would be valid through December 31, 2021.

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 Chase United 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 four 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 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs) or by earning a higher amount of PQPs.

Here’s what you’ll need to accumulate in a calendar year to qualify for each level:

  • United Premier Silver
    • 12 PQFs and 4,000 PQPs or 5,000 PQPs
  • United Premier Gold
    • 24 PQFs and 8,000 PQPs or 10,000 PQPs
  • United Premier Platinum
    • 36 PQFs and 12,000 PQPs or 15,000 PQPs
  • United Premier 1K
    • 54 PQFs and 18,000 PQPs or 24,000 PQPs

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

Earn PQFs and PQPs

You can earn PQPs for United airfare purchases (not including taxes), other select United purchases and flights with eligible partners. You’ll earn one PQP per dollar spent. Each qualifying flight segment you complete will earn one PQF. Every United Airlines fare class earns PQFs except for basic economy and award tickets. Paid partner flights also earn PQFs, unless you book a fare that doesn’t qualify for elite credit (i.e. discounted fares with certain carriers).

These purchases earn PQPs:

  • United, United Express and eligible partner flights
  • The fee you pay for Upgrade Awards
  • Economy Plus and Preferred seating
  • Paid upgrades

United is now allowing partner flights that aren’t book through United to earn PQPs. For preferred partners the number of PQPs you earn is equal to the number of United miles you earned for the flight divided by five. For all other partners you’ll divide the number United miles you earn by six.

You can also earn PQPs with a co-branded United Airlines rewards credit card, like the United Club℠ Infinite Card, United Club Business Card, United℠ Business Card and the United℠ Explorer Card. You’ll earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 you spend on the card. Each year you can earn an additional 1,000 PQPs with your card. The PQPs you earn from credit card spending only apply for status up to Platinum.

The information for 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.

United Premier status benefits

With any elite status, the most valuable benefit is often the upgrades and United has changed the way you earn upgrades. You now can upgrade on both domestic and international flight by using PlusPoints. PlusPoints replaces the old system, which used Global Premier Upgrades and Regional Premier Upgrades.

You’ll earn PlusPoints when you reach Premier Platinum (40 PlusPoints) and Premier 1k (280 PlusPoints). After reaching Premier 1k you’ll continue to earning PlusPoints at a rate of 20 PlusPoints for every 3,000 PQPs you earn.

The table below shows you how many PlusPoints you’ll need for an upgrade:

You can apply for an upgrade through United’s mobile app, website or by calling. You don’t need the PlusPoints in your account in order to be added to the waitlist and the PlusPoints won’t be deducted from your account until the upgrades clears. There is also a Skip Waitlist option available on select routes, which let’s you redeem additional PlusPoints to confirm your upgrade at booking.

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 for you and one traveling companion
  • Choose a Preferred seat for free when booking for you and up to eight traveling companions
  • Upgrades confirmed day of departure
  • 1 free checked bag on Economy tickets, three free checked bags for business or first-class tickets
  • Priority check-in, boarding (Group 2) and security screening (where available)
  • 7X United Airlines miles on base fares
  • Increased Economy award availability
  • Reduced award change & redeposit fees, you’ll only pay $75 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)
  • Hertz Gold Plus status (Five Star)

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 (one companion can get Economy Plus and up to eight are eligible for Preferred seating)
  • Upgrades confirmed 48 hours before departure
  • Free same-day flight changes ($75 fee is waived), except for Basic Economy or restricted economy fares
  • 2 free checked bags on Economy tickets, three free checked bags for business or first-class tickets
  • Priority check-in, boarding (Group 1) and security screening (where available)
  • 8x United Airlines miles on base fares
  • Increased Economy award availability
  • 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 $75
  • Star Alliance Gold status (access to Star Alliance lounges when flying on an eligible flight)
  • Hertz Gold Plus status (Five Star)

United Premier Platinum

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

You’ll also earn 40 PlusPoints which you can use for complimentary upgrades. 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 for you and up to eight companions
  • Upgrades confirmed 72 hours before departure
  • 40 PlusPoints
  • Free same-day flight changes ($75 fee is waived)
  • $50 discount on an annual United Club membership
  • 3 free checked bags for economy, business-class, and first-class tickets
  • Priority check-in, boarding (Group 1) and security screening (where available)
  • 9x United Airlines miles on base fares
  • Increased Economy & premium cabin Saver Award availability
  • 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)
  • Hertz Gold Plus status (President’s Circle)

United Premier 1K

United Premier 1K members will earn an additional 280 PlusPoints (320 total), which can be used for 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 for you and up to eight companions
  • Upgrades confirmed up to 96 hours before departure
  • 280 additional PlusPoints
  • 20 PlusPoints for every 3,000 PQPs you earn above the status requirement
  • 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 on base fares
  • Increased economy & premium cabin 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)
  • Hertz Gold Plus status (President’s Circle)

United’s elite status response to COVID-19

Your elite status crashed into a brick wall when the novel coronavirus began its meteoric rise. To combat the thick layer of dust atop the airline benefits you’ve worked to hard to achieve, United will extend your current elite status to Jan. 31, 2022. That’s great news!

In addition, United is making the Premier Qualifying Points and Premier Qualifying Flights you need to earn for status this year much more attainable, cutting most in half!

You can earn Premier Qualifying Points by purchasing flights on United — but also from everyday spending on United Airlines credit cards. And between May 1 and December 31, 2020, United is increasing the amount of Premier Qualifying Points you’ll earn through spending:

As stated previously, United Premier Platinum is the highest status you can achieve via credit card spending.

For all you United 1K and Platinum status holders, United’s PointsPlus program (a new method for receiving upgrades), will receive a six-month extension on all points set to expire on or before Jan. 31, 2021.

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. Also, United has improved its upgrade process with PlusPoints.

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 airport 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.

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Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

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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Paul
1 month ago

I am a million mile gold with United . I only completed 2 segments in 2020 before the coronavirus hit. I am retired and because of age not traveling. If I do not get 2 more segments in 2020 will I Lose my status in 2021. If I do keep my status in 2021 but did not get 4 segments 2020 will I keep the gold status in 2022 if I complete 4 segments in 2021.

Jon Wheeler
3 months ago

There used to be a level in the ff program above 1K. I was invited to join by phone, and had unbelievable perks. I stayed a member for a couple of years before dropping down to 1K level. What was that level called? This was maybe 15 – 20 years ago.

Joseph
9 months ago

Update this. This is the most recent United premier status qualifying article I can find from you.. I’m just trying to figure out if it’s United or Chase that has you in their pocket..
How do you not have a piece I can find on the new requirements?

Dereck
9 months ago

Someone told me that once you get Platinum, you’ll never drop below Gold. Is this true? I had a flight cancelled that brings me just short so I was thinking of buying the miles.

Andrew Wan
Reply to  Dereck
9 months ago

Are you thinking of lifetime status? United has something mentioning lifetime status for premier gold, premier platinum, etc. once you reach a certain number of miles.

Dereck
Reply to  Andrew Wan
9 months ago

Maybe that’s what they were talking about. I’m nowhere near that though.

Nancy Goeglein
10 months ago

Please help. I spent 25,000 on my United business card this year . United is not going to give me status of any kind. Would you please help me with information to confront them for my platinum status that you mentioned in this article

Tiffany
Reply to  Nancy Goeglein
9 months ago

When using the credit card on purchasing planes tickets, to fly somewhere them you’re will get status with United airlines. When you’re using credit cards for things, you only get air miles or points (you can redeem your points / miles for flying tickets or upgrade on your purchased flight tickets)

Jeremy Sparling
11 months ago

I have regular economy tickets booked for a flight in 2020. I just booked a trip to India that will jump me from Silver to Platinum next month. That means I get free economy plus seats “at booking”. So the question is: once my status upgrades to Platinum, will I be able to go into my existing reservations and change to economy plus seats for no charge? Anyone experience this?

mango
1 year ago

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

Mike
Reply to  mango
11 months ago

No comp upgrades on international, except in very rare situations where they need the seat in economy.

Tone
1 year ago

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?

Lovell
Reply to  Tone
7 months ago

Depends on a number of factors such as total number of miles accrued, actual price paid for the ticket, time of booking, etc. Thus, there is no easy answer.

Mike
Reply to  Tone
11 months ago

It goes:

RPU/GPU requested
Status
PQM
Alphabetical

Kev
1 year ago

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

Rick
1 year ago

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.

M Martin
1 year ago

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

Rick
Reply to  M Martin
1 year ago

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.

John
1 year ago

Guess you don’t have any stock footage of a plane that United actually flies..

Kazu
1 year ago

The URL to line Bonvoy and United accounts seems to be down. Anyone else having issues?

Aaron
1 year ago

I think the change fees for flight changes within 24 hours of departure have changed for United now. If there’s space you can get a change for free (at least with Gold).