Mixed news: United gives PlusPoints a new life with another extension

Jun 29, 2022

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United Airlines is giving Premier members some more time to redeem an upgrade.

The Chicago-based airline announced Wednesday that elite members would receive an additional six-month extension on expiring PlusPoints (United’s upgrade currency), per an email to all affected MileagePlus members that was shared with TPG by a carrier spokesperson.

Until now, PlusPoints earned (or extended) during the pandemic have had two distinct expiration dates.

The earliest, July 31, 2022, was for those who received a complimentary elite status extension late last year.

United Platinum, 1K and Global Services members who requalified for 2022 Premier status (including those who qualified by leveraging the Fly to the Finish promotion) received an additional extension for their PlusPoints to Jan. 31, 2023.

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Now, United is giving both sets of travelers an additional six months, as you can see in the chart below.

PlusPoints expiration date New expiration date
July 31, 2022. Jan. 31, 2023.
Jan. 31, 2023. July 31, 2023.

The extension should already be reflected in your MileagePlus account.

I’ve lost count of the number of PlusPoints extensions that United has processed throughout the pandemic, but this one is perhaps the most surprising.

Travel is back, and with soaring demand for flights, I would’ve expected United to keep its original plan to expire the first batch of PlusPoints next month. Even though more and more Premier members are taking to the road, United seemingly felt that it didn’t give flyers enough opportunity to redeem their PlusPoints, even if they were originally earned in 2019.

On the surface, another six-month extension is good news. Giving travelers more time to cash in an upgrade is helpful, especially for those who are struggling to confirm a business-class seat during the busy summer travel season.

The flipside to the extension, however, is that the volume of upgrade requests will continue to be higher than ever.

Many of these extended PlusPoints were earned in 2019 and 2020. Combined with new PlusPoints earned in 2021 (and those awarded to early qualifiers in 2022), there will be a ton of demand for upgrades.

As we’ve seen so far throughout the summer, supply isn’t keeping pace with demand. United (and its competitors) are regularly selling many of their premium-cabin seats, leaving few available for last-minute upgrades. There are even fewer seats available for immediate confirmation when booking.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Of course, that could change come the fall when schools are once again in session, but for now, this move will further increase the demand for upgrades.

That puts pressure on United’s complimentary Premier upgrade program, which is available on most domestic and short-haul international flights.

Since PlusPoints can be used (at a reduced rate) for shorter flights, many Premiers have tried applying PlusPoints on these routes, since PlusPoints upgrades are prioritized over the complimentary ones.

But again, with domestic first-class cabins routinely selling out with paying passengers, the cycle of unused (and now unexpired) PlusPoints continues. It’ll be interesting to see if this is the last extension that United offers.

Meanwhile, all eyes now turn to American Airlines, which is due to expire all unused systemwide upgrades (from 2019 and 2020) on July 31.

We’ve reached out to American to see if it’s planning to match United’s latest extension, and we’ll update the story if we hear back.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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