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United 1K Members Speak up About 2019 Policy Changes

Oct. 02, 2018
9 min read
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United announced last week that the airline is raising its qualification requirements for its highest tier of elite status, United 1K. Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, United 1K travelers will now have to spend $15,000 Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs), up from the current $12,000 PQD requirement. Furthermore, business or first-class tickets booked in “P” class will only earn 150% Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs), a 25% decrease from the 200% PQMs that P-class ticket holders currently earn.

One other major change is that United will no longer issue more than four Regional Premier Upgrade (RPU) certificates in one calendar year. Instead, United 1K members will receive one additional Global Premier Upgrade certificate (GPU) for every 25,000 PQMs flown, rather than two per 50,000 PQMs.

Naturally, travelers of all status tiers had many thoughts on the impending changes. Here are some of the responses from TPG readers who are United 1K members (responses have been lightly edited for clarity):

$3,000 Additional Spend Required

"I don’t care if I pre-board or am in Group 1. But asking me to spend another $3k on work travel makes zero sense. I can’t control the price of tickets. I can control if I fly in [expletive] old planes over water (2-4-2 business class seating?) or use a partner airline. If United wants us to spend money with them and fly their metal over water they need to actually have Polaris in the planes. Otherwise, they are asking for Delta spend with Norwegian seats." – Lara S.

"$15k vs $12k makes no difference to me, and my extra RPUs always expire, since I never use them. Not that great, but nowhere near as bad as it could have been." – joelfreak

"I'll already spend $15k this year, it's the 120 segments that are the problem... I can get 100 segments and about 60k miles due to expensive short-haul flights, but that will only get me to Platinum ?. I think the airlines missed a real opportunity to reward frequent flyers who fly expensive short-haul flights when they implemented the spending requirements, but did not make the miles earned from spending count towards elite status. If the miles I earned from spending (rather than miles flown) counted for elite status, then I'd get 1K every year." – Shana G.

"Will have a hard time covering $15k. My 6-year run as a United 1K elite member might be over." – Mark R.

"I (who am retired, so a leisure-only flyer) had already decided to phase back from "1K" anyway, because I didn't enjoy flying United nearly as much: The usuals (personal experience with operational reliability that started going south for me on 1/1/17 after a dang near perfect '16, upgrades hard to clear and Wi-Fi a total joke). So I can't say that the new requirements drove me away because I had already decided. But I sure wouldn't pay $3K more in PQD to get a status that I didn't feel was worth it any longer anyway." – Keith M.

"I don’t find it a big deal. I’m 1K and routinely spend $20-$25k a year in flights even if I don’t go international. I think I hit $12k by August. Also they built value into the other status levels with the baggage change." – Matt H.

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"I think that for the last 5 years I have been over the spend and over 150k miles, so... less competition for upgrades?" – Robert D.

P-Class PQMs Dropping from 200% to 150%

"I’m about to be 1K in a month. Buying up to P class tickets for the 200% PQM was a big part of me getting there, so dropping that to 150% totally blows." – Jake P.

"I don’t mind most of these changes as I usually just hit 100k PQMs and have no problem with the spend. Less 1Ks and fewer RPUs out there means it’s easier to get upgraded when you actually use an RPU, and have a better chance at free upgrades. The baggage change for Gold members is also positive for them. The only one I don’t like is less PQMs on P-class tickets. This seems like an incentive to not fly business, as the cost is five or six times economy on international routes, but I’m only getting 1.5x PQMs." – Ed O.

"The P-class PQM devaluation hurts." – Kevin W.

"I don't hate most of these changes, as there will be less competition for upgrades with a bit fewer 1Ks and less RPUs out there from people that fly over 100k giving people a higher chance of clearing upgrades when using a RPU. Reducing PQMs for Polaris doesn't seem to make sense, though, as this is one less reason to pay and fly business class, and more incentive to make sure you use your GPUs. They are calling P-class "discounted" business tickets, but these are typically $3k each for flights to Asia, and certainly don't feel like discounted tickets." – Ed

"The downgrade of PQMs is a huge bummer. Massive dislike!" – Andrew T.

Upgrade Status Uncertain

"Dropping the RPU was rough. That was how I generally got through transcontinental red-eye flights (my company won’t fly me in F-class domestically). I won’t have an issue meeting the spend, so that doesn’t bother me as work pays for J-class when traveling internationally. I guess if there are fewer 1Ks, it will make it easier to use GPUs, but I don’t have a huge issue as I use them for my family for long-haul flights and we can be flexible." – Rick M.

"Frustrated about the PQM devaluation. Would be nice to actually be able to use the upgrades when I have them, so hopefully this will thin things out a bit." Corey B.

"As a flyer who has been 1K for the past three years, I think this is a very bad change and shows how little United values its elite customers. Trust me, this is not about making it easier for 1Kers to upgrade. There are usually empty first class seats when I'm getting ready for any flight, but the airline chooses to hold them until the last minute to see if anyone books a first-class ticket or buys their bargain pitch upgrade. I've tried using Global Upgrades on international flights that were wide open, and it still wouldn't give me a confirmed upgrade. I'm talking about EVERY first class seat open, and it still won't confirm me. $12K is not an easy threshold (remember, it used to be $10K). Getting $15K basically means you will have to book the majority of your flights in first class, so the free upgrade won't even matter. I'm Gold Elite for life, so now I will just fly whatever is easiest and no longer worry about reaching unreachable milestones. Shame, shame on United! Loyalty is obviously not a two-way street with them." – Eric S.

"When I was a United 1K, complimentary Premier upgrades were few and far between, being 20 on the upgrade list was common, and RPUs were next to impossible to use. Boarding Group 1 would sometimes be the largest boarding group. It doesn’t impact us anymore, but if it makes the status worth something to those who have it, great! I simply got more upgrades as a Delta Gold than a United Premier 1K, so it wasn’t worth it." – former United 1K member Jacqui H.

Quality Control Lacking

"I have been a 1K for ten years. I still recall the good ole' days when they gave 4 RPUs for every 10k miles flown. I am at about 150k PQM for the year. Literally every single flight I have taken this year has had SOME kind of issue. I am at my wits end. I am thinking of status matching to either Delta or Alaska, particularly after this latest slap in the face." – Ronak D.

"$15K, plus wildly inconsistent Wi-Fi, plus a percentage of disgruntled employees, plus sub-standard service from regional carriers. What's not to like?" – Flip Brown

"I’ve been 1K for a couple of years and will be next year, too... and I'm closing in on million-miler status on UA. I’ve already let them know how unhappy I am about this newest increase... it gets harder and harder to stay loyal. That, and they’ve apparently taken Oreo cookies out of the snack rotation, so my MCO-IAD-MCO shuttle route isn’t as tasty. No bueno, Oscar, no bueno!" – Kimberly C.

Overall Thoughts?

"The redemption of miles for premium cabin flights to Europe/Asia/Australia on a wide array of carriers makes United more than worth it for me." – Barney B.

"United could have accomplished a lot by moving the threshold for 1K status qualification to 125k or 150k, and also boosting the accelerated earning for miles from 11x to say 15x. Keep loyalty and cut the number of 1K members. I would say dropping P class earnings down to 150% PQMs is a let down. No RPU after earning 1K status is disheartening, as I have used those for my family, and I'm not sure what the lack of these mean. Baggage allowance — I do not care as I have zero use for it." – Mohan P.

"So harder to earn 1K status, but no increase in benefits? Come on United, you're better than this." – Paul

"I’m super excited about this change. As a former Delta Diamond, I could actually get frequent upgrades and use my GPU-equivalent upgrades. Because there are so many 1Ks and because UA is too generous with giving out RPUs and GPUs, I almost never get complimentary upgrades, and have a bunch of of certs I can’t ever use. Ridiculous. Maybe UA is starting to see the light." – Denver Mike

"This will drop the number of 1K members, which gives a better chance for upgrades. Sort of a benefit." – Salty Dog

"The way I travel, I have no issues with it. If it accomplishes what they are trying to do it will be better for this 1K as compared to what is happening now." – Dave A.

"United breaks guitars
United beats passengers
United devalues its best members
United loses business." – Richard A.

"Wow, worst of the majors seems to work hard to maintain the worst status." – Wanderlust

"I think I will be switching to Delta starting 2019." – Paola A.

"I switched to Alaska Air a while ago. Problem solved." – Jimmy W.