United MileagePlus Has the Most Generous Lifetime Status Program
United currently has the most generous lifetime elite program of any major airline:
You can even earn revenue-based Global Services status based on lifetime flight miles. Continental Onepass Infinite Platinums were given lifetime 1K. I know at least one person who is lifetime 1K and lifetime GLobal Services as a result.
United also gives lifetime companion benefits so a lifetime elite member’s spouse or companion receives the same status that they maintain.
US Airways used to offer only lifetime Silver at 1 million miles. American offers lifetime first-tier status at 1 million miles and mid-tier at 2 million miles — although their program used to be the most generous because until December 2011 miles from any source counted towards lifetime status.
Delta has an extensive lifetime program, although doesn’t offer Diamond (or Delta360 revenue-based) status based on lifetime qualifying miles.
United May Be Making the Program Less Generous
Recently had a friend book 3 unnecessary transcons for December with overnight returns. When I asked him why, he said that he was ~10k short of 2 million miles and wanted to make it by the end of the year so that he could have Lifetime Plat before they changed the program. Evidently, a friend of his in Willis Tower keyed him into the following changes, and this is what he speculated was going to be happening sometime next year:
All Million Miler tiers will move down one “notch.” Example: 1 Million will now be Silver for life, 2 million=Gold, etc. There will no longer be a way to get GS for life. 4 million will be 1k for life, with no 5 million tier. However, certain “high-revenue” flyers will be eligible for lifetime GS by invitation. GPUs and RPUs will no longer be given to Lifetime 1Ks and Plats if they have not met the annual PQM quota for their respective lifetime status level in a given year. Example: Someone who is lifetime 1k will not receive any instruments if they only get 50k PQMs in the year, if they fly 75K PQMs they will receive 2 RPUs, and if they fly 100k+ PQMs only then will they receive 6 GPUs. People who made a certain lifetime status before the effective date of the change will be grandfathered. The companion status benefit will remain the same.
The rumor is that existing million miler status will be honored. So these changes would only be for people crossing million mile thresholds in the future. I would feel especially bad for someone very close (who has worked on their million mile status for years) only to have the rug pulled out from under them, or someone who was already a million miler who is awarded with the same lifetime status they’ve already earned upon crossing the next million miler threshold.
Yesterday early morning I asked United for a comment on this — and though I’ve found their media folks to be incredibly responsive overall, even nights and weekends — they did not respond.
Update: @ZachHonig says United has confirmed to him they are not changing qualification requirements for million mile status.
United Has Devalued Before — and Says They Can Do That to Existing Lifetime Members Too
Grandfathering in existing million milers though is much more generous than United told a court they need to be.
Despite explicitly promising in late 2011 not to take away benefits or confirmed upgrades from million mile flyers, United did exactly that in early 2012.
United said in October 2011 “[y]ou will continue to receive your benefits as you always have” and then take away the specific benefit of annual confirmed regional upgrades.
United was even specifically said that the confirmed domestic upgrades would continue:
A lawsuit was filed for breach of contract, with one suggesting being that the million miler program was separate and apart from MileagePlus itself and the latter’s claim that members have no rights and United could do whatever it wished wasn’t a get out of jail free card.
Back in January of last year United used an “our fingers were crossed” defense successfully.
Under any claim against United, a Court can’t read state contract rules into the dispute (such as a covenant of good faith and fair dealing) under Northwest vs. Ginsberg. United basically says that they can do whatever they wish, ending the lifetime status program whenever they wish. United’s position is that the consumer remedy is to complain to the DOT, which doesn’t regulate frequent flyer programs.
Lifetime means lifetime ‘unless we change our mind’:
Judge Hamilton: To understand the difference between lifetime and fingers crossed? That lifetime doesn’t mean lifetime?
United: That lifetime means lifetime unless…
Judge Wood: Unless we change our mind.
Judge Hamilton: Unless we change our mind.
United: Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s the case.
Judge Hamilton wrote an opinion summarizing United’s behavior towards million milers:
United’s defense here is that the airline’s very best customers—its Million Mile Flyers—should have known better than to believe United’s promise of “lifetime” benefits. This defense amounts to a confession of consumer fraud. United could not—honestly and legally—promise “lifetime” benefits while reserving the right to cancel its promise at any time and for any reason.
Get Your United Million Miler Status.. Quickly
The best deals, those orders of magnitude better than the competition, don’t last. United’s million miler program is generous, so it’s reasonable to expect it will change.
If you’re near a million mile threshold, it would be best to accelerate your progress if possible because — if these rumored changes are real — you’ll want to secure status and have it grandfathered before the goal posts move a million miles away from the status level you’d cross next.