United Suspends Status Challenge, Changes Status Earning

United Suspends Status Challenge, Changes Status EarningUnited MileagePlus has discontinued its long-running status challenge. The move comes as United announces a complete overhaul to the way MileagePlus Premier status is earned, effective from 1 January 2020.

United status challenge discontinued… for now

United’s status challenge has been a popular shortcut to Star Alliance Gold status. Until 30 September 2019, United offered a 3-month trial of United status to frequent flyers that had existing status with a competing airline. Travellers could then extend their United status for up to 19 months by earning a minimum number of Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) on United Airlines flights during the challenge period.

United says that it will launch a new Premier Status match offer in 2020, with details to be released “as early as January” next year.

In the meantime, you can still take advantage of the Turkish Airlines status match challenge to earn Star Alliace Gold status. Turkish Airlines offers 4 months of complimentary Miles&Smiles elite status (Star Alliance Gold) to anyone with Oneworld Emerald (e.g. Qantas Platinum), Star Alliance Gold or SkyTeam Elite Plus status, as well as Gold and Platinum members with Emirates, Etihad and El Al. You can extend this status by flying with Turkish Airlines.

Changes to how United MileagePlus status is earned

The big news that has sent shockwaves throughout the frequent flyer community are the changes to how United status is earned from 2020. (This is no doubt behind the temporary suspension of United’s status match offer.)

Until now, United status was achieved by earning a minimum number of Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs), plus either Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) or Premier Qualifying Segments (PQSs), during a calendar year. The PQD (minimum spend) requirement has, until now, been waived for non-US residents.

This will all change from 1 January 2020. Next year, United is replacing PQDs with Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs), and all members will be required to earn these – including anyone not living in the USA. Meanwhile, PQSs will be replaced with Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs) and PQMs will no longer exist.

Earning PQPs and PQFs

You’ll earn 1 PQP for every US Dollar spent on United flights, excluding taxes and fees (just like how PQDs were earned previously). Money spent on paid upgrades and preferred seat purchases will also count.

For flights on partner airlines, you’ll earn PQPs as a percentage of the regular award miles earned. On “preferred partners”, including Air New Zealand, Air Canada, Air China, ANA and Lufthansa, this will be one fifth of the award miles earned. On other MileagePlus partners, it will be 1/6 of the award miles.

PQFs will be earned for every flight sector on United or any partner airline that normally earns miles, except for Basic Economy fares.

Here are the new requirements to earn United MileagePlus status from next year, applicable to 2021 status qualification:

United Premier status qualification requirements from 2020
United Premier status qualification requirements from 2020

In addition to the new PQP and PQF requirements, all MileagePlus members will still need to fly at least 4 segments on United-operated flights each year to be eligible for status.

Basically, this all means that the distance you fly on United and its Star Alliance partners will no longer be relevant in terms of earning status.

Confused? I don’t blame you.

Bad news for Australians

The United status changes are bad news for Australian members of the MileagePlus program because there is no longer a waiver of the minimum spend component. What’s more, a United flight from Sydney to Houston is now treated the same as a flight from Austin to Houston, in terms of status qualification.

With United also removing award charts for travel from next month, the United MileagePlus program is no longer as valuable as it once was. If you’re looking for a Star Alliance frequent flyer program, you’d be better directing your attention towards Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Asiana Club, Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles or Aegean Miles+Bonus.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Big changes to earning United status in 2020


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]