United Announces Reduced Elite Qualifying Criteria For 2022

United Airlines did a lot of elite status extensions, and didn’t tell anyone about it, but this was first reported by Live and Let’s Fly. The status extensions weren’t universal.

United waited until the very end of the year to do this, clearly hoping to generate some revenue from passengers whose status was ultimately extended. In contrast Delta extended everyone’s status back in July.

The airline has also announced reduced elite qualifying criteria for 2022, as noted by Summer Hull and Ed Pizzarello. They’ll use the same criteria for earning status in 2022 that they used for 2021:

Status Normal Qualifying Spend/Flights 2021 Qualifying Spend/Flights
Silver $4000 + 12 Segments or $5,000 $3,000 + 8 Flights or $3,500
Gold $8,000 + 24 Flights or $10,000 $6,000 + 16 Flights or $7,000
Platinum $12,000 + 36 Flights or $15,000 $9,000 + 24 Flights or $10,000
1K $18,000 + 54 Flights or $24,000 $13,500 + 36 Flights or $15,000

What we don’t know yet is what additional promotions there will be for earning status under this relaxed criteria. Almost certainly we’ll see some.

  1. United is still basing status strictly on airfare spend (though they allow use of their credit card to count towards up to 4000 qualifying dollars now). That’s a business travel-led model but Omicron is delaying even further some return to office plans.

  2. United’s route network is uniquely heavy on international travel, whose recovery lags domestic, and it’s also especially heavy on Asia which lags further still.

United relies on premium international out of San Francisco and New York (err, Newark) and the frequent flyer program set up status-earning in support of that model. But 2022 isn’t just about lopping around a quarter of premium international off. There’s no sign of a return to selling Apple 50 business class seats a day on the San Francisco – Shanghai route.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Not only is United hard hit by Asia but it’s also hard hit by the Pacific. They’re huge in Honolulu and Guam, for example. Hawaii and Guam desperately need the Japanese and Korean visitors to come back. For Hawaii, Australians too.

    By contrast, Delta all but abandoned Asia and the Pacific outside Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai. As sad as I am that Delta no longer flies to the islands or has an intra-Asia network from Tokyo, that wouldn’t have survived two years of the pandemic anyways.

    I still can’t get over Apple having 50 United business-class passengers per day between San Francisco and Shanghai.

  2. UA is still stuck with head in the sand. Just needing to reduce PQP is not enough.
    They need to keep credit card spenders and keep long term elites happy. e.g.,
    – extend Flex PQP for the long term card holders (or cancel expiry).
    – or roll over more than half the PQP as a head start for next year with same status till June
    – Make all card PQP count to full 1k status (but like AA – keep the upgrade certs based on segments)
    – DL knew this a long time ago – give a better product and engage on all fronts.

  3. I recall seeing that if you spend $3000 in airfare before November 30th (I don’t recall the start date but there was some window -July 1 thru November 30?) You would requalify for your Uniyed elite status but I can not find any reference to it. Can somebody point me to where this is documented.

  4. @Joel Schindler – Search for “Fly to the Finish”. The promo was for real and I did allow me requalify for 1K back in September by just doing a couple of mileage runs that earned me 3K PQP. The promo period is over, however.

    United waited until the very end of the year to do this, clearly hoping to generate some revenue from passengers whose status was ultimately extended. In contrast Delta extended everyone’s status back in July.

    The clear negativity toward UA (read: Scott Kirby) for first wanting to make some money (which airlines do!) before extending status is incomprehensible to me, especially since the airline had already made it ridiculously easy for members to retain status (earn just 3K PQP – cost ~$3K – to retain 1K status!) and had outright extended everyone’s status the prior year within just hours of DL.

    Also, while UA’s desire to first make some money this time around is contrasted with DL’s more generous outright extension of status, there is not a word about AA, which has yet to extend status because, guess what, it is still trying to earn money from members whose status it may not even ultimately extend as UA just did!!!

    I observe, you decide.

  5. If United would enhance their PQP earnings via credit card spend I would migrate some spend to my United Club business card. This year I’ll end up with approx $20k spend on UA despite CoVid and travel restrictions. Most of the spend is on Sapphire Reserve card.

  6. This is really back to the outrageous hike in 1K costs of 2019. I jumped to AA then. I can’t see Biz travel returning to pre covid levels for some time. We are now more used to online meetings and seeing the family for dinner. UA is is not giving to have to fight for Biz passengers. Better value to pay for Biz seats on the most convenient route if travel much less each year.

  7. What was the point of flying with United this year? I should have stayed home and done all my business meetings online. I wanted to help the airline. That’s what I get…

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