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Elite Status Series: United Premier Platinum

by on December 26, 2013 · 19 comments

in Elite Status, United

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 and Gold status , and today he discusses the next tier, Platinum – how you can qualify for it and maximize the benefits once you earn it.

United MileagePlus Premier

In the last post, I examined the qualifications and benefits offered to members of the second tier in United’s four-tier elite status program: Premier Gold. Today, I’ll examine Premier Platinum status, the higher of the two mid-level tiers. To reach the next level of the MileagePlus Premier program always requires earning an additional 25,000 Premier-qualifying miles (EQM) or 30 Premier-qualifying segments (EQS).Qualification with miles or segments

To earn Premier Platinum you need to fly 75,000 PQM or complete 90 Premier-qualifying segments (PQS) during the 2014 calendar year. As you move up in the Premier elite ranks, it becomes more likely that you will have done so by PQM’s rather than segments, 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 PQS, although you would have to fly a non-stop, round trip flight nearly every week, or an round trip itinerary with connecting flights about 23 weeks of the year!

United Premier EarningsWhen 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

To satisfy the new Premier-qualifying dollars (PQD) requirement for earning status in 2014 (for the 2015 calendar year) travelers will need to spend $7,500 PQD to earn Premier Platinum 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.

Starting in 2014, United will institute Premier Qualifying Dollars.

Starting in 2014, United will institute Premier Qualifying Dollars.

For example, I would have to consistently find flights between Denver and Atlanta for less than $490 round trip (about 4,900 miles round trip) in order to be in danger of not reaching the PQD qualification. $490 is around what a highly discount fare for this route might cost, so it would be unlikely that a traveler would have a problem with the PQD requirement in this situation.

If the traveler went out of his or her way to earn more PQM by consistently including an unnecessary stop in San Francisco or Houston, for example, the PQD requirement might not be met. But again, this requirement is waived for Premier Platinum members who spend at least $25,000  in net purchases using a Chase MileagePlus credit card issued in the U.S. So if you fly heavily discounted tickets, and you are willing to dedicate that kind of spending to a United MileagePlus card from Chase, you can feel free to earn Premier Platinum status by taking such quasi-mileage runs. Just don’t go overboard as no amount of credit card spending will waive the PQD requirement for the next level of status, Premier 1K

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 purchases.

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

Benefits of Premier Platinum

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

Screen shot 2013-12-21 at 6.32.36 PM

Like Premier Gold elites, Premier Platinum members can access Economy Plus seats when they book their flight. On the other hand, Premier Silver elites can only switch their seats to the Economy Plust section at check in, while those without status 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. 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, but Premier Platinum elites can get the jump on all of them by receiving upgrades as early as 72 hours in advance. Upgrades are available on most domestic flights.

Exclusions include Premier Service (p.s.) flights from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO), and long-haul flights between Honolulu (HNL) ans Houston (IAH), Newark (EWR) or Washington (IAD).

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

One of the benefits that will be new to Premier Gold elites who become Premier Platinum are the Regional Premier Upgrades. Travelers receive two upgrades upon reaching Premier Platinum status and another two for each 25,000 PQM or 30 PQS earned after that. These upgrades are valid through the end of the following Premier program year. Furthermore, these upgrades can be used to “sponsor” another traveler, even one that is not traveling with you.

When used, these upgrades are confirmable as early as time of ticketing on eligible United, United Express, and Copa Airlines-operated flights in the following regions: Continental U.S., Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, Southern South America (Copa flights only), and Oceania.

Furthermore, those who hold both Premier status and hold a Chase MileagePlus credit card will even 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 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 Premier 1K status receive priority over Premier Platinum 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. Like all elite members, Premier Platinum 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 Platinum members also earn a 75% bonus on top of the base miles that they would otherwise fly. For example, the flight from Washington Dulles to Philadelphia is only 135 miles, but Platinum elites will be credited with the full 500 miles plus another 375 miles for a total of 825.

4. Premier priority travel services. Premier Platinum elites also receive all of the same priority services on the ground that other Premier members receive. These include priority telephone service, check-in lines, security screening lines, boarding, and baggage handling.

United also offers Premier members access most sold-out flights. This means that United will overbook a flight for a Premier member purchasing a full fare (unrestricted Y class) ticket more than 24 hours in advance. This can only mean that United is willing to oversell these flights when all cabins are sold out, potentially bumping other customers. This could be a valuable benefit when other customers are being told that “all flights are full.”

Like Premier Gold elites, Premier Platinum members are offered 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.

Finally, Premier Platinum Members do receive on significant benefit beyond Premier Gold elites. United will pay for travelers to join the Global Entry program offered by the US Customs and Border Patrol. This program allows travelers expedited processing when arriving in the United States. In addition, Global Entry members can access TSA Pre-Check lines when clearing security within the United States. The application fee is normally $100.

The credit is issued as a single-use code that you receive at this web site. If you already have Global Entry, you cannot use this code for another person (according to their terms and conditions), but you can use it to renew your membership, which is required every five years.

5. Travel benefits with Star Alliance members. Despite being Premier Platinum, you will only be granted Star Alliance Gold status, which is the highest status offered by Star Alliance airlines to elites of other carriers. Star Alliance Gold privileges include priority reservations waitlisting and priority airport standby on paid Star Alliance tickets. In addition, travelers with Star Alliance Gold status 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. Premier Platinum members receive the same whopping baggage allowance that Gold Elites do. They can check three bags weighing up to 70 pounds each, which is more than three times the baggage allowance as Premier Silvers who only get one 50 pound bag. 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 Platinums.

Like Premier Gold elites, United waives the same-same day flight change fee for Platinums, which is $75 for Premier Silver and non-Premier members. To best utilize this benefit, 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 their similar benefit for travel within the same fare class, so it is much harder for them to save money by using this trick. See TPG’s take on the most recent version of Delta’s policy.

Another little perk is the 10% discount on in-flight duty-free purchases, making that bottle of scotch just a little bit more tempting.

Finally, Premier Platinum elites receive a $75 discount off of the $500 annual United Club memberships instead of the $25 and $50 discounts granted to Premier Silver and Gold elites respectively.

7. Award travel benefits and fee waivers. While Premier Silver and Gold elites receiving discounts on close-in award booking fees, award redeposit fees, and  award change fees, Platinum members receive a complete waiver from all of them.

This benefit opens up a world of possibilities. For example, travelers are more free to speculatively book awards as soon as they become available, knowing that they can be changed or canceled at no additional cost. Furthermore, it is much easier to take advantage of the free stopover on round-trip flights when travelers can turn a one way award into a round trip at no additional cost.

In addition, United offers better award availability for all Premier members economy, 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. While all Premier members also have better access to “Saver” awards in economy class, Premier Platinum elites receive greater access to “Saver” awards in select premium cabins. Sadly, the Flyertalk community seems to have concluded that this benefit is illusory.

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 Platinum 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 Hawai’i 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 Platinum over Premier Gold; the ability to upgrade eight companions to Economy Plus, the opportunity to receive first class upgrades ahead of Silver and Gold elites, and the freedom to make any award booking, change, or cancelation without incurring  fees. Less significant benefits include the regional premier upgrades eligibility compensation for Global Entry application fee, and the 10% discount on in-flight duty free purchases.

Are there any MileagePlus Premier Platinum 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 1K, as well as a final post highlighting the unique elements of this program.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Juan Sequeda

    I just made Platinum a few days ago. Looking forward to the perks in 2014!

  • Bobby’s

    United personal are among the rudest people I have ever meet in the service industry. Once had a flight delayed for 4 hours due to mechanical failure at Chicago on a layover. When people stared asking about the flight united personal actually became agitated and told people “we don’t care, we got to stay here to so deal with it”. Status program isnice but attendants service with this company is horrible. I actually have never had anything beyond average customer experience with united. I wouldn’t expect that being a gold or platinum member would make any difference with how united airport and stewards personal treat its customers.

  • Emily Graf

    I just became platinum as well and would love if someone could explain how to use award travel and book a stop over and get a round trip while only using one way miles (#7 above).

  • Chris

    I agree. I would LOVE further explanation on this as well!

  • bltn95

    Could someone clarify this: “…and award travelers will be upgrade only after the lowest paid fare class within each Premier status level.”? It is part of benefit #2.

  • Daniel Head

    Totally agree – tell us more!

  • Bill Rubin

    Other than the extra 24 hr window to get automatic UA upgrades and the complete waiver of mileage award change/redeposit fees, the difference between Gold and Platinum is largely negligible for most such frequent travelers–at least in our opinion. Most frequent flyers are not going to be bothered with the minor award change/redeposit fees charged to Gold flyers, and the fees there are still much less than the additional $2500 needed to qualify for Platinum from Gold.

    Platinum is merely an incremental step above Gold to give increased recognition for those who fly more than Golds but not enough to reach the more coveted 1K status level. This is why the $25k spend on a United co-branded credit card can only exempt your United PQD spend up to Platinum and does not exempt your PQD spend requirement for 1K. If you are close to reaching Platinum already, it may be worth it in some cases for you to pay to reach Platinum, but in most cases it isn’t worth the extra cost/flying.

  • Jamie

    Platinum members get to board with Group 1 which gives a better chance of overhead bin space. Golds board with Group 2.

  • TSH

    I believe you can just go into your existing reservation and “change” it online by adding segments and picking different flights.

    Other option might be you can cancel your one way and immediately rebook it as round trip on the original flight by calling and booking it. Or maybe you can add a leg to the exi

  • Jason Steele

    If you book a one way when the award becomes available (~330) days out, then you can book the return when it becomes available. Later, you can combine the award into a round trip, and work in a stopover. Doing this as a non platinum may incur so many change fees that the free one way might not be worth it.

    That said, you don’t actually get a round trip for the price of a one way. Sorry I wasn’t more clear.

  • Jason Steele

    Oh, In too have had experiences with United ground staff and flight crews that made my blood boil, but then I just had experiences on a flight in domestic F and one int. BusinessFirst that were surprisingly good.

    Let’s just say that If there were some way to know if a flight was being staffed by former Continental employees, I would only book those flights. United has still been unable to integrate their crews, so that is either hit or miss. On the ground, all bets are off.

  • UAPhil

    As a lifetime MM Gold, I totally agree that the $25 award close-in change fee and free same day changes are great benefits; I’ve used them many times. But the $100 award cancel/redeposit fee still hurts; I try to avoid it. (For domestic travel, UA and Southwest offer very different sets of benefits – Southwest allows award redeposits and revenue ticket changes with no fee, and offers the Companion Pass, but makes same day or close-in changes prohibitively expensive.)

  • NK Sarma

    “turn a one way award into a round trip at no additional cost” – Any idea what this means and how to do this?

  • LH

    Maybe you can comment. I have Platinum status with United. My partner has Silver. We paid economy fare on the same Reservation for tickets to the Caribbean. On the way there, no problem, lucky to get nice upgrades to Business. On the way home, when I checked us in online, the computer split us into 2 different reservation numbers. Literally created a brand new Res number for her. No record that we are flying together. In the case of a flight cancellation, we are separate people. A long conversation with United premium customer service said essentially “it’s something the computer did, we don’t know why. It could be that you have different status levels.” Is this United splitting families? Any insight from others here?

  • UA Flyer

    The same thing happend to me on a flight from IAD to HNL. We were together on the way there, but on the return flight our itineraries were split. I had to call United in order to use a RPU. It took a while, but they finally located my wife’s reservation.

  • Nina

    Once you reach Premier Platinum, what need to be done to keep this status for a certain period of time (let’s say, what need to be done to “renew” the status)? Thanks!

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    Each year I missed Silver and Gold by 200 or so points, and then I finally made Silver at 75,000 miles and Gold at 100,000. At this point, It’s going to be practically impossible to fly 75,000 miles or fly 90 individual segments in one calender year AND you have to spend so much amount of money AFTER you fly 4 minimum United flights. This is ridiculous and that’s the part that was never discussed. . .

  • j

    When you check in, and indicate your interest in an upgrade, UA splits off your reservation from others traveling with you because you and they have different priorities for upgrading. Each of the last few times this has happened, the computer had told me during the check-in process for the outgoing leg of the trip. On the return trip, though, it just happens without you telling them when you’ve selected auto check-in. Perhaps this is what happened to both of you?

  • J

    Sure. First upgrades go to global services, in order of their paid fare class (full fare, flex discount, non-refundable, miles); then 1K, in order of their paid fare class; then platinum, in order of their paid fare class; then gold, etc., etc. So the poor silver status folks with a non-refundable cheap ticket are very unlikely to get upgraded.

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