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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 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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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)
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.