United’s top elite tier is Global Services. There’s no published criteria for achieving this status, the way United tells you how many flights to take and how much you have to spend for 1K status.
The status is invitation only, except that United 4 million milers are granted lifetime Global Services status. In general flying over 100,000 miles and spending at least 30 cents per mile on United tickets is required. There are people known to have received Global Services status with ‘just’ $30,000 in spend. And there are folks who aren’t regular travelers but who influence significant travel spend that are granted Global Services. I was once offered Global Services in conjunction with $50,000 in prepaid travel (“Pass Plus”).
You get better upgrade availability and can use upgrades on award tickets. United will open upgrade inventory within 72 hours of flight under certain conditions. Complimentary upgrades clear a full day ahead of 1K members (when available) and agents can open up award space. On tight connections members may be met on the jetway and taken across the tarmac by Mercedes.
All of a sudden United will take whatever money they can get, and they’re offering a Global Services Status Challenge to some targeted 1K members.
In happy times, @united's PR team loves to get cagey about the Global Services loyalty tier. It doesn't publish guidelines for the super-secret level, and you join by invitation only. But it's a pandemic now. For just $12K, @United will give me, a 1K member, this vaunted status. pic.twitter.com/g2PoyyphT8
— Brian Sumers (@BrianSumers) August 10, 2020
This is hardly an unprecedented move, even during normal times. Last year American Airlines offered a targeted challenge for its similar Concierge Key status. It was a fast track based on spend within a 90 day period, and there were four different levels a member might be assigned: $10,000; $12,000; $14,000; or $16,000 qualifying dollars. (Those are annual run rates between $40,000 and $64,000.)
At $12,000 in 90 days the amount of money projects out to be ‘just’ $48,000 in a year. United is being flexible, letting members start their 90 days even retroactively to July 1. There are certainly 1K members who would pay $12,000 just to be a Global Services member without getting any flying in return.
However it’s actually hard to meet this threshold. There is basically no business travel happening. In normal times it would be hit with multiple international business class tickets, but Americans cannot travel very many places internationally (and United’s international schedule is limited). There are certainly customers who would be motivated by this, but who don’t have the business to offer because of the pandemic, or who cannot legally take the trips needed to qualify.