United Elites Have a Leg Up: Status Benefits for the New York City Marathon

United invited elite MileagePlus members running in the New York City marathon on a first come, first serve basis to join a fuel up dinner tonight — the night before the race — at Del Posto restaurant in New York for a special carbo-loading on Mario Batali specialties. Olympian Meb Keflezighi will be a special guest at the dinner.

This is tonight’s menu:

While the meal was free — in both miles and money — there was an opportunity to bid on guaranteed marathon entry packages that included a dinner invitation and access to United amenities for tomorrow’s race day.

United has a VIP race start tent tomorrow morning with special bib pick-up station to avoid lines and private bathrooms. They’re also providing personalized medal engraving, post-race massages, and snacks.

Here’s a video from last year’s station.

About the only thing United isn’t providing for members on race day is a guaranteed wakeup service. (Those who bid successfully on the package even get transportation to the race.)

To underscore how ubiquitous airline loyalty programs have become, united says that over one third of last year’s 50,000 race finishers were MileagePlus members. (That also speaks to the data matching capabiltieis of the programs as well…)

I love these things. Just like the United Chase lounge at the Short Hills, New Jersey each holiday shopping season there’s a way for programs to be relevant to members’ lives at special moments outside of their usual travel relationships. And a way for elite status to extend beyond the sky, leveraging the relationships of a major corporation. You fly in the sky and on the ground even if there are only a handful of flights in the world which are shorter than 26.2 miles.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I was fortunate to have won a “golden ticket” to the United VIP tent on race day. This was my first New York City Marathon and I’d heard nightmares about the long hours of waiting in the cold prior to the race start. United had a video crew and interviewed a bunch of runners in the tent. Have you see their video of the ’16 tent experience pop up anywhere. For those running in ’17, the small number of miles I paid for this, it was worth it in ten fold!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *