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Elite Status Series: United Premier Gold

by on December 24, 2013 · 26 comments

in Elite Status, United

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So far in our Elite Status Series, we’ve covered American, Delta and Southwest. TPG contributor Jason Steele took us through the basics of United Premier Silver status yesterday, and today he discusses the next tier, Gold – how you can qualify for it and maximize the benefits once you earn it.

United MileagePlus Premier

In the last post, I looked at the qualifications and benefits of the lowest tier of United’s elite status program: Premier Silver. Today, I’ll examine Premier Gold status, which can be a big jump up for some travelers. And it should be; it takes twice as many Premier-qualifying miles (or segments) and Premier-qualifying dollars to earn it. If you have already earned this status, give yourself a pat on the back, and if not, now is the time to determine if the investment of your time and money will be worth the payoff.

Qualification with miles or segments

Double the qualifications of Premier Silver means that to earn Premier Gold you need to fly 50,000 Premier-qualifying miles (PQM) or complete 60 Premier qualifying segments (PQS) during the 2014 calendar year. The most common way is to earn Premier-qualifying miles (PQM), which can be received by flying on United and other airline partners, or with MileagePlus credit cards from Chase. Alternatively, those who frequently fly short-haul routes can also earn status by flying enough Premier-qualifying segments (PQS).

United Premier Earnings

When it comes to flying partner airlines, the PQM and PQS earned will vary based on the airline flown and the purchased fare class. Mileage earning airline partners include all members of the Star Alliance, plus Aer Lingus, Aeromar, Cape Air, Germanwings, Copa, Great Lakes Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines (inter-island flights only), Island Air, Jet Airways, and Sliver Airways. Travelers will want to consult this page on United’s web site in order to learn how many base miles, PQM, and PQS they will earn with each partner airline and each fare class.

Premier-Qualifying Dollars

Additionally, starting in 2014, travelers will need to spend $5,000 Premier-qualifying dollars (PQD) to earn Premier Gold status or receive a waiver by spending at least $25,000 in net purchases using a Chase MileagePlus credit card issued in the US. This works out to 10 cents in ticket value per Premier-qualifying mile earned. For example, I would have to consistently find flights between Denver and Atlanta for less than $240 round trip (about 2,400 miles round trip) in order to be in danger of not reaching the PQD qualification. $240 is an excellent price for this route, so it would be unlikely that a traveler would have a problem with the PQD requirement in this situation.

Starting in 2014, United will institute Premier Qualifying Dollars.

Starting in 2014, United will institute Premier Qualifying Dollars.

If the traveler got creative an starting purchasing itineraries at the same price with an unnecessary stop in Chicago or Washington Dulles, the PQD requirement would become important. But again, this requirement is waived for Premier Gold members who spend at least $25,000  in net purchases using a Chase MileagePlus credit card issued in the US.

Charges eligible for Premier-qualifying dollars include:

  • Base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges.
  • Flights flown by United, United Express, or Copa Airlines.
  • Flights operated by a Star Alliance or a MileagePlus partner airline and issued on a United ticket (ticket number starting with 016).
  • Economy Plus upgrade purchases.

See: Determining What Spending Counts Toward United’s Premier Qualifying Dollars.

Benefits of Premier Gold

1. Economy Plus seating benefits. Like Premier Silver members, Premier Gold elites will enjoy complimentary upgrades to United’s Economy Plus seating, which offers additional legroom in coach. Premier Gold elites may add a single companion traveling on the same itinerary, so long as both were booked with the same passenger name record (PNR).

Screen shot 2013-12-21 at 6.32.36 PM

While Premier Silver members must wait until check in to grab any remaining Economy Plus seats, Premier Gold elites can access Economy Plus seats when they book their flight. This is the same level of access offered to MileagePlus members with higher elite status. On the other hand, those without elite status may be offered Economy Plus seating, but must pay an upgrade fee. For example, a one-way upgrade to economy plus seating on a flight from LAX to Chicago would be $66 at the time of booking.

2. Upgrades to first class. Although Premier Silver members must wait until the day of departure to received an upgrade, Premier Gold members can be confirmed in first class as early as 48 hours before departure. Upgrades are available on most domestic flights. Exclusions include Premium Service (p.s.) flights from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO), and long-haul flights between Honolulu (HNL) to Houston (IAH), Newark (EWR) or Washington (IAD).

In addition, Premier Gold members are eligible for upgrades on flights to Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean  Southern South America (Copa flights only), and Oceania.

Furthermore, those who hold both Premier status and hold a Chase MileagePlus credit card will be eligible for upgrades on award tickets on United-operated flights. This benefit does not extend to companions, and award travelers will be upgrade only after the lowest paid fare class within each Premier status level.

Premier Gold members also receive instant upgrades when purchasing Y- or B-class full-fare economy tickets if space is available. Just as with Economy Plus upgrades, MileagePlus members with higher elite status receive priority over Premier Gold members, and those without status may receive an offer to pay for the upgrade with cash and/or miles.

3. Premier mileage bonuses and minimum mileage granted. Premier Gold elites earn a minimum of 500 award miles which count as PQMs, no matter how short the flight is. This is important for those who fly short-haul routes. In addition, Premier Gold members also earn a 50% bonus on top of the base miles that they would otherwise fly. For example, the flight from Los Angeles to Fresno is only 209 miles, but Gold elites will be credited with the full 500 miles plus another 250 miles for a total of 750.

4. Premier priority travel services. Premier Gold elites also receive numerous priority services on the ground. These include priority telephone service, check-in lines, security screening lines, boarding, and baggage handling.

United has new groups for their boarding process.

Premier status means priority boarding.

United also offers Premier Gold members access most sold-out flights. This means that United will overbook a flight for a Premier Gold member purchasing a full fare (unrestricted Y class) ticket more than 24 hours in advance. Evidently, United is willing to oversell these flights when all cabins are sold out, potentially bumping other customers. This could be a valuable benefit when there is a major event such as the Superbowl or severe service disruption after a major storm.

The biggest upgrade from Premier Silver is that Premier Gold elites can access United Club lounges, and any other Star Alliance Gold lounges when traveling internationally. This benefit is offered regardless of class flown and travelers are allowed one guest.

5. Travel benefits with Star Alliance members. Premier Gold members are granted Star Alliance Gold status, which offers them several of the benefits of elite status when flying on other Star Alliance airlines. Like Premier Silver members, these privileges include priority reservations waitlisting and priority airport standby on paid Star Alliance tickets. In addition, Premier Gold elites should also receive priority check-in, boarding, and baggage handling as well as one additional free checked bag (or 44 pounds when the weight concept applies).

6. Fee waivers and discounts for revenue travel. Whereas Premier Silver members receive only one free checked bag that weighs 50 lbs (23kg) or less on domestic tickets, Premier Gold members can bring three bags weighing up to 70 pounds each, more than three times as much! The waiver applies to the Premier member and up to 8 companions traveling on the same reservation.

Checked baggage fees are waived for Premier Golds.

Checked baggage fees are waived for Premier Golds.

One of the major advantages of Premier Gold over Premier Silver is that United completely waives the same-same day flight change fee, which is $75 for Premier Silver and non-Premier members. In many cases, travelers can book a less convenient, but far less expensive flight, and simply change it in the morning on the day of travel. In contrast, Delta elites can only use this elite benefit for travel within the same fare class, so they can’t use this trick. See TPG’s take on the most recent version of Delta’s policy.

Finally, Premier Gold elites receive a $50 discount off of the $500 annual United Club memberships instead of the $25 discount granted to Premier Silver members.

7. Award travel benefits and fee waivers. Premier Gold elites also receive a $50 discount off of many fees, as opposed to the $25 discount given to Premier Silver members. That makes the Premier Gold close-in award booking fees $25, award redeposit fee $100, and the award change fee $25.

United offers better award availability for all Premier members, which includes the ability to book any unsold seat as an award at the “Standard” mileage rate, a benefit also offered to MileagePlus cardholders, but not normal members. Premier Gold members also have better access to “Saver” awards in economy class.

Another benefit is priority waitlisting for award travel and standby for international awards. So if you are flying on a business or first class award, but that cabin is not available for one or more legs, you can standby to be upgraded. According to United’s web site:

Premier members who have used miles for award travel in United Global FirstSM, United First® or United Business®, but can only confirm seats on some segments in United Economy®, may stand by for the higher cabin at the airport within two hours of departure. Premier members should simply notify the airport agent upon check-in. For unused United Global First or United Business awards, the mileage difference between United Economy and the higher cabin may be re-deposited free of charge. This benefit only applies to United Airlines and Copa Airlines flights.

Premier Gold members are also exempt from co-pays when booking upgrade awards using miles on some routes. For example, the standard co-pay is $75 each way for flights within the mainland U.S., Alaska, and Canada, while the co-pay for flights from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Hawaii is $125 each way.

Eligible routes include the following flights:

  • Within the U.S. (excluding Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico) and Canada
  • From the U.S. and Canada to Hawaii (except between EWR/IAD/IAH and HNL)
  • From the U.S. (excluding Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico) and Canada to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean or Northern South America (except between EWR/IAH and LIM)1
  • Within Asia (except between NRT and BKK/SIN) and Oceania (except between HNL and GUM)

United Upgrades

 Conclusions

There are three major benefits of Premier Gold over Premier Silver; earlier access to first class and Economy Plus upgrades, a much larger free checked baggage allowance, and no fees for same-day flight changes. Close behind is the access to Star Alliance lounges when traveling internationally. Nice, but less important differences include several slightly reduced fees and some perks when flying on Star Alliance partners. When you have flown twice as much as a Premier Silver member to earn Premier Gold, you will want to leverage these benefits for all their worth.

Are there any MileagePlus Premier Gold readers out there who would like to share their personal experiences on their treatment, upgrades or general thoughts on this status level? Please feel free to comment below, and stay tuned for future posts in this series on Premier Platinum, Premier 1K, as well as a final post highlighting the unique elements of this program.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Jasmine

    You get 2 free checked bags and a free year membership to united club with a chase united club card and premier boarding access. Besides economy plus access, chase united card has the same privileges well maybe the late change fee for a flight if you use that alot. Another thing would you give up your economy aisle or window seat for a economy plus middle seat. Half the time I refuse the upgrade because its a middle seat. Also economy plus on united is a regular economy seat with a little more legroom, not that much of a perk if your short. Everything else is same as economy.

  • Katrina

    When the day comes that I will lose my UA Gold status, what I will miss most is the Premier dial in line. Rather than getting bounced to a call center in India on their regular reservations line, the Premier line almost always goes to a US based call center. Worth more than its weight in gold to have a United rep working a last minute change to me itinerary!

  • chrisfb1

    been with UA for several years now. the biggest flaw of the Gold & Silver premier status is that UA boards everyone with credit card holders in group 2. regardless how much you have flown, you are stuck in boarding group 2 along with 100 of other UA explorer card holders who might only fly half of their time with UA. All my status means nothing during the boarding process. if I don’t line up in Group 2, 20 minutes before boarding, i will not have any overhead space for my carry on by the time I get in. Not sure why UA does this, but it ruins the experience of premier status.

  • Ruben

    I feel the exact same way. I don’t think it’s fair that all you have to do is get a credit card and you’re in the same group as those of us who fly with united repeatedly. It’s as if they don’t care at all about us members.

  • Art Bai

    “The biggest upgrade from Premier Silver is that Premier Gold elites can access United Club lounges, and any other Star Alliance Gold lounges when traveling internationally. This benefit is offered regardless of class flown and travelers are allowed one guest.”

    My understanding is that, in order to take advantage of this benefit, you have to be travelling on a Star Alliance flight. In addition, your guest also has to be traveling on a Star Alliance flight, although not necessarily the same one as you. Is that correct? Thanks.

  • Bill Rubin

    Having been Lifetime Gold on United since the Continental merger, we find it to be very useful. We used to be IK several years ago, when we flew more often and always chose UA/Star partners to reach that level–and the IK benefits THEN were definitely better than Gold now, but not so dramatically that it makes us yearn to fly UA more to reach that IK (or Platinum) status now that we are Lifetime Gold. We still get upgraded every 3 or 4 flights, most often on shorter flights (SNA-SFO, SNA-DEN most often) but sometimes even on longer flights (last month EWR-SNA). We did like the Global upgrades with IK, but now accumulate so many Chase points that we can usually get mileage tickets in First/Business now whenever we need, anyway. Being Lifetime Gold also now allows us to fly other carriers with better routings when necessary–the best of all worlds for us, since we aren’t likely to get to Lifetime Platinum. We also love the Marriott Gold status we automatically get through that new partnership–it has gotten us upgrades at most Marriotts and even a few Ritz properties (most recently Moscow in October 2013). TOTALLY worth it to achieve United Gold in our opinion….and the best US airline with which to have reached this plateau as far as we can tell.

  • TSH

    I agree. When a whole flight gets cancelled for weather/mechanical, and everyone lines up at a desk, you can get your flight changed over in a few minutes while everyone else sits in line or on hold.

  • TSH

    Yeah it does suck, but I’ve never had a problem finding overhead space as a flyer in Group 2. Yeah the front of the plane’s space starts filling up, but it’s way better than the other options.

    It would have been much better for united to make the CC holders go in Group 3 instead.

  • Matt P

    Now that I’m a Gold, I especially like the Economy Plus choice at booking. I was getting really tired of waiting until check in to find an Economy Plus seat if there were any left. For those of us that are 6 foot plus, the extra legroom is a very nice benefit, almost essential.

    I echo the complaints about the boarding process though. I don’t even know why they bother having a boarding group 3, 4, or 5, as most of the plane boards in group 2. They might as well make it Global Premier boarding and then “everyone else”. I have no idea how you become Global Premier, but I read that you basically have to blow a ton of money with the airline. That seems to be the only premier status that has value anymore.

  • Phil

    So to obtain Gold by CC spend I only need to put $25K on the card? That sounds too easy.

  • UAPhil

    For same day changes, United also requires that the originally ticketed booking class (for example X or XN for economy award flights; K, L, T, etc. for deeply discounted economy) be available. However, within 24 hours of flight time, if there are any Y seats remaining for sale on the flight, UA usually opens up most or all booking classes, so in practice making same day changes is usually feasible.

  • John c

    So you can’t access any lounges domestically with a ua/star alliance ticket? You still only get lounge access if you’re flying internationally? I just reached star gold on united and was hoping I Could at least take advantage of the lounges. Doesn’t look like I can.

  • johnathome

    Only for the PQD requirement, you still need 60 segments or 50K in mileages flown

  • Art Bai

    If you’re Star Alliance Gold traveling domestically on United, you CAN access lounges operated in the U.S. by foreign Star Alliance carriers, like Lufthansa. I’ve been to their lounge at IAD, where food and drinks are far superior to any United Club. Here’s Luthansa’s worldwide lounge listing: http://www.lufthansa.com/us/en/Lounges.

  • Joew

    The credit card holders board in group 3 with premier silver members.

  • matthewsf

    Can you clarify/verify this? All I have found listed for this benefit is that as a SA Gold member, you get lounge access (to any SA carrier) as part of your itinerary. So you can walk in here in the U.S. en-route to leaving the country. But how are we able to use an SA member lounge when just travelling WITHIN the U.S.? thanks

  • Art Bai

    It’s not any SA member lounge – just those operated by non-U.S. carriers. As I said before, my personal experience is with Lufthansa’s Senator lounge at IAD (Terminal B). When I visit them, I just show my SA Gold card and same-day domestic ticket on United.

  • matthewsf

    Yes, the any SA lounge option I was referring to covers both U.S. and non-U.S. carriers when traveling on an international ticket. I was specifically inquiring as to how we are able to access the non-U.S. carriers when ONLY travelling on a domestic ticket. I reviewed Lufthansa’s lounge policy and it indeed says that folks can access their lounge if travelling on any SA carrier. Good to know. But I’m not sure if this is just a Lufthansa policy/benefit or do others allow it? Does anyone know what other airports in the U.S. have non-U.S. carrier lounges? It looks like in addition to IAD, JFK and IAH has a Lufthansa and SAS, respectfully, while SFO does have a Singapore Air facility, albeit a very small one. Would love any others that folks have been to or know of.

  • mlt

    I’ve heard a bit of conflicting information from people and wanted to see if you guys could help. I earned Silver in 2013, which I understand will hold until the end of 2014. I was under the impression that in order to earn Gold, I just need to fly 25,000 additional miles in 2014 (and now earn appropriate PQD). Am I mistaken and instead need to fly 50,000 in one year to reach Gold? Thanks!

  • mavit

    Premier qualification always considers miles flown (and, where necessary money spent) in a single calendar year (1 Jan – 31 Dec). So, yes, you must fly (or otherwise accumulate) 50,000 premier qualification miles *in a single calendar year* to achieve gold status.

  • aryoung

    Do you get automatic upgrades 48 hours beforehand or do you have to do something to make that happen.

  • Kappaken

    I just got downgraded to silver elite and I’m really disappointed after hearing about the benefits of Gold . I only fly regional hops from sw ohio to Boston twice a week … Seems like it will take forever to get back to gold unless I go the cc route … Any suggestions other fly farther lol ?
    K

  • telemark skier

    They don’t count the taxes paid on a ticket toward the PQD, so it is not as easy to get the PQD met as implied in this article. For example, a recent $1500 flight to Munich had $900 in taxes and only $600 in ‘ticket’. — I only got $600 toward my PQD. I am currently over 50k flown this year, but still need a few hundred $ to get the PQD met. I find PQD ridiculous — if you sit that many hours on united flights they should grant you the status.

  • matthewsf

    tried entering the Singapore lounge in SFO..it’s a very small one. They denied access saying it was only for premium passengers flying internationally, including SA Gold/United Passengers. They cite because of the small space, they have to limit those that come in/have special rules. The folks working the desk are contract (airport) employees, not working for the airline itself. Not sure if they know the rules-in the past they wouldn’t let international United SA Gold members in. I literally had to pull up the text on the website to show we were allowed in. For the discussion here, I’m not sure if they can and have enacted some special rules for this location (is that allowed?) or rather they don’t know the SA rules.

  • Gordon

    Will the PQD waiver with spending on a Chase MileagePlus credit card continue after 2014?

    Also, say I am Premier Gold for 2014 and have met the $25,000 spending threshold on a Chase MileagePlus credit card. If I were to reach 75,000 in PQM during 2014, will I attain Premier Platinum?

    Thanks in advance, TPG!

  • H Tucker

    Silver boards in group two

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