Copycat Management: United Raises Elite Requirements To Match Delta

With airlines finally turning profits, we’re seeing a lot of negative changes to frequent flyer programs, including in many cases a move to revenue based programs. United MileagePlus is one of the programs which has made the most tweaks over the past couple of years.

Or more accurately, I should say that Delta SkyMiles has been making changes, and United MileagePlus has been matching them.

So what has happened so far?

And yesterday, United MileagePlus has announced a 20% increase in the number of Premier qualifying dollars required to earn 2016 elite status.

Basically, exactly what Delta rolled out in October. The only difference seems to be their capitalization preference.

Credit to Charles M. Kunz for this

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. 😉

United MileagePlus will be raising revenue requirements for 2016 status

While under the current system you have to spend an average of 10 cents per mile in order to qualify for status, United MileagePlus will be raising the revenue requirement in order to qualify for 2016 status (meaning for spend in 2015) by 20%:

  • PQDs required for Premier Silver increasing from $2,500 to $3,000
  • PQDs required for Premier Gold increasing from $5,000 to $6,000
  • PQDs required for Premier Platinum increasing from $7,500 to $9,000
  • PQDs required for Premier 1K increasing from $10,00 to $12,000

You can still waive the revenue requirement by spending $25,000 on a United Chase co-branded credit card, though only for Premier Silver, Premier Gold, and Premier Platinum — there’s no waiver for Premier 1K. That being said, those with addresses on their MileagePlus accounts outside of the US continue to be exempt from the revenue requirements.

Not surprising in the least, sadly…

We really shouldn’t be surprised, given United management seems content copying Delta’s homework. At the same time, United isn’t Delta. They have different route networks, different cost structures, different customers, etc. But clearly United thinks the key to success is to just copy everything Delta does, tit-for-tat.

United flyers, how will these changes impact your travel patterns and/or loyalty to MileagePlus?

(Tip of the hat to Wandering Aramean)


  1. This will have NO impact on whether or not I fly UA, and it won’t have much impact on how I feel about MileagePlus. What WILL have an impact on my loyalty to MileagePlus is 1) UA’s astronomical award levels for partners and 2) the lack of availability for the awards I want to redeem for (as an aside, I think it’s somewhat funny and ironic that I can find better availability for what I want through DL than UA). While I’ll still fly UA at least occasionally (I live in the DC area), when I do, I’ll credit to Aeroplan, or possibly Miles & More for a shot at LH F.

  2. How would this change anything for people who have been loyal to UA? I mean it’s not like going elsewhere is going to make things better for 2016 qualification. The only reason AA hasn’t imposed such onerous new qualification rules is that they have enough complications merging their two FF programs without adding a dramatic qualification change into the mix. Don’t think they won’t copy UA and DL the second the new combined AAdvantage program is up and running smoothly.

  3. Why do airlines copy each other like this? Not innovative at all. From their side of the table, it makes sense b/c it forces the consumer to spend more money on them to reap any rewards. However, isn’t there a chance they will lose loyal customers to other airlines that haven’t devalued their FF programs, American/US Airways (for now)? I guess because of all the mergers over the past 8 years, consumers don’t have much to choose from so we don’t have much of an impact on leaving a carrier because there aren’t a lot of choices to begin with. All this devaluing is making Alaska Air Mileage Plan sound more and more lucrative. Where else can I accrue miles on one plan by flying both Delta and AA? This begs another question, now that Delta is vying to be the dominant carrier at SEA, how soon will it be until Delta gets rid of the ability to earn miles on Alaska Air Mileage Plan? I apologize for my long winded comment, like you and your readers, I have a lot of interest in the airline industry. Curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.

  4. Poor United must be really stressed out about what people will earn on partner airlines next year, since Delta still hasn’t announced their plans.

  5. Jumped off the United ship a couple of years ago to AA, All in all, seems to have been a good choice. Hopefully the new AA doesn’t follow suit.

  6. I wrote Mileplus yesterday and told them that since they have decided to simply copy Delta’s program, I am looking forward to receiving Club membership, roll-over miles, status gifting and a 25k mile bonus upon re-qualification (all Diamond benefits that I don’t receive as 1K). I received an unrelated stock reply e-mail back.

  7. While I don’t really like it, it honestly won’t change my habits any. I still have what someone called “the magical” PresPlus card, and even if that waiver went away, I also meet the $25K spend waiver. I’m only ever a Gold, so the sequestering of 1K doesn’t affect me.

  8. @David,

    It’s another shrewd move by Jeff to cut costs – he let’s Delta do all the work and then he just copies it, exactly like he did in college.

    That let’s him claim “we’ve cut some of our marketing R&D to save more of that 2 billion we promised to cut”. Also he has a secret deal with Dick Anderson to get United operations totally in line with Delta for that 2016 Delta/United Merger. Remember – you heard it here first…

  9. Chasgoose, I don’t follow your logic. Right now, AA has a more rewarding FFP than UA. But you won’t switch to AA because you’re convinced they will eventually be as bad as UA. I don’t see what you have to lose – at a minimum 2015 will be better for you, and if they do follow suit, you will be no worse off than you would be with UA anyways.

  10. Fortunately most of my airline travel is overseas. There is much competition for overseas flights and I find I am now getting better food and service than United ever provided. United has shown it does not give a hoot about me so it can look for revenue from someone else. I can not think of a single positive thing about the frequent flyer program from United since its merger with Continental

  11. Most 1ks spend way more than $12k on flights anyway (my spend this year is over $16k, at 106k miles flown. All this eliminates are mileage runs.
    I’m happy the spending requirement is not waved for 1ks as there are presently way too many 1ks. I’ve sometimes been no. 15 on the waiting list for an international upgrade to businessfirst, as a 1k on a W fare! That tells you that there are too many people with top status.

    I’m pretty sure United would have made some change like the one yesterday anyway, but I think they choose to imitate Delta exactly as people will be less outraged (“Delta did it first, those scoundrels”)
    Let’s not forget that UA 1k is currently a more rewarding status level than DL Diamond (6 international upgrade certificates vs just 2). AA gives 8, but they have fewer flights to use them on (the UA certificates can be used both on UA and LH flights). What I am most afraid of, is the reduction of those 6 systemwide certificates on UA. Now, that would be a HUGE devaluation of the program. The award chart was also a big blow. The change yesterday is good news for me.

  12. @ David — You’re exactly right. They’re gambling on the lack of choice in the market. As far as Delta and Alaska, that’s anyone’s guess!

  13. As Dave mentioned, the old CO PresPlus card becomes even more valuable for those who kept it. PQD waiver, and also no $25K annual card spend needed, like on the current UA card. That’s huge for me. With oil prices crashing I expect to see some lower airfares soon so I can mileage run for status– like in the good ole days!

  14. well my last flight on united was in april 2007, I have been avoiding them since that ridiculous transatlantic flight and I sure don’t miss them nor their network. I guess I’ll requalify with aa just like I did for the last couple of years and hope that american don’t enter that game … ( not much hope in the long run to be honest )

  15. I’m a 1K on United with about $11,500 in spend. I flew 85k miles for business and had to do a $1,000 MR to lock in my last 15k miles.

    I say all that to point out I’m on the tipping point. With minimal effort I know I can hit the $$$ threshold and can have the miles, but like others have mentioned I’m wondering if it is worth it. I’ve been #9 or #10 for international upgrades on a W fare with no luck. I have more Global Premium upgrade instruments than I have regional and am treating them both as the same since international upgrades are so unreliable.

    I live in DC so have pretty good availability to all carriers through one of our three airports, so wondering if my spend would get me farther with another airline? I really don’t get the feeling that United even cares anymore. Heck, last night I had a 3 hour mechanical delay and couldn’t even get a free beer…yet they “value me as a United customer”.

    Just tired of being used….

  16. @Paul – What makes you think another airline would care any more than United? They might say they do, but they don’t. They care about your money.

  17. We all knew the mergers wouldn’t be good for the flying public, just the airlines. Loyal to United since 1988, 1K too, but all we get are smaller and smaller planes, terrible food, and unhappy employees. Thanks Jeff, for destroying what was once a great airline.

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