As the sun begins to set on 2022, your time is running out to qualify or requalify for airline elite status for 2023. This is the moment to check your mileage balances, calculate your travel for the rest of the year and see where you will end up in terms of elite status qualification for 2023.
If you think you will finish short of your United Airlines MileagePlus Premier status goal, here are some ideas for earning the Premier qualifying points and Premier qualifying flights you need to earn before the end of the year.
In 2019, United shifted away from Premier Qualifying Miles, Premier Qualifying Segments and Premier Qualifying Dollars. Now, there are two elite status metrics: Premier qualifying flights and Premier qualifying points.
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Premier qualifying flights
To qualify for any status with United, you must fly at least four paid segments on United or United Express in a calendar year. Those four paid flights will also count as PQFs but cannot be booked in basic economy.
Your remaining PQFs can be on United flights or on eligible partner fares, but we’ll discuss partner fares later. On a paid United flight with one stop, you’ll earn two PQFs.
Think of it this way: For every takeoff, you earn one PQF. But again, basic economy fares do not earn PQFs.
Premier qualifying points
If you’re traveling on a United-issued standard or basic economy ticket, all customers (including those with Premier status) earn 1 PQP per $1 spent on base airfare and carrier-imposed surcharges. You can also earn PQPs on Preferred and Economy Plus seating and paid cabin upgrades.
Qualifying for status before Jan. 1, 2023, is particularly important as we anticipate United will revert to pre-pandemic status requirements. As you’ll see, this year’s status thresholds are significantly lower than the pre-pandemic requirements:
|2021 and 2022 requirements||Pre-pandemic requirements|
|Premier Silver||3,000 PQPs + 8 PQFs or 3,500 PQPs.||4,000 PQPs + 12 PQFs or 5,000 PQPs.|
|Premier Gold||6,000 PQPs + 16 PQFs or 7,000 PQPs.||8,000 PQPs + 24 PQFs or 10,000 PQPs.|
|Premier Platinum||9,000 PQPs + 24 PQFs or 10,000 PQPs.||12,000 PQPs + 36 PQFs or 15,000 PQPs.|
|Premier 1K||13,500 PQPs + 36 PQFs or 15,000 PQPs.||18,000 PQPs + 54 PQFs or 24,000 PQPs.|
Ways to earn more PQPs
Let’s start with the obvious: You earn PQPs on paid United tickets.
Again, on United-issued tickets (indicated with a 016 ticket number), you earn 1 PQP per $1 spent on base airfare and carrier-imposed surcharges.
That means whenever possible, you want your flights on fares that are predominantly base airfare and carrier-imposed surcharges (as opposed to taxes). Unfortunately, international itineraries often have high government-imposed taxes and fees which don’t earn PQPs.
As you search for flights on united.com, you can see the PQP and PQF accruals by selecting the “Details” button for the flight you’d like to book.
Remember that you can also earn PQPs on Preferred and Economy Plus seating, as well as paid cabin upgrades. However, note that certain private bulk fares and travel industry fares don’t earn PQPs.
Partner itineraries are where the beauty of earning lots of PQPs for a fraction of the normal price kicks in.
As discussed in this guide, partner fares have allowed me to requalify for Premier 1K status for just $7,500 — a far cry from the $13,500-plus required for Premier 1K by flying exclusively on United flights.
With United’s Star Alliance partners, you earn PQPs based on three factors: the length of your flight, the fare class and the airline that operates your flight.
For a full breakdown of how this works, check out my full guide to earning PQPs with partners. But here are three European partner itineraries that earn significantly more than 1 PQP per $1 spent.
This round-trip SAS economy-class ticket costs $368 and is ticketed in the T fare class (50% accrual basis), so it would earn the following:
- San Francisco to Copenhagen: 2,727 base miles, 455 PQPs.
- Copenhagen to Dublin: 774 base miles, 65 PQPs.
- Dublin to Copenhagen: 774 base miles, 65 PQPs.
- Copenhagen to San Francisco: 2,727 base miles, 455 PQPs.
- Total: 7,002 base miles and 1,040 PQPs.
This round-trip SAS premium economy-class ticket costs $656 and is ticketed in the A fare class (100% accrual basis), so it would earn the following:
- Chicago to Copenhagen: 4,271 base miles, 500 PQPs (standard partner maximum).
- Copenhagen to Athens, Greece: 1,330 base miles, 222 PQPs.
- Athens to Copenhagen: 1,330 base miles, 222 PQPs.
- Copenhagen to Chicago: 4,271 base miles, 500 PQPs (standard partner maximum).
- Total: 11,202 base miles and 1,444 PQPs.
This round-trip TAP business-class ticket costs $1,951 and is ticketed in the J fare (125% accrual basis), so it would earn the following:
- Newark to Lisbon, Portugal: 4,230 base miles, 705 PQPs.
- Lisbon to Vienna, Austria: 1,794 base miles, 299 PQPs.
- Vienna to Lisbon: 1,794 base miles, 299 PQPs.
- Lisbon to Newark: 4,230 base miles, 705 PQPs.
- Total: 12,048 base miles and 2,008 PQPs.
MileagePlus credit card spending
You can earn PQPs by spending on most United credit cards for everyday purchases. This guide has the full scoop on how to earn PQPs by charging on your United credit card.
Unfortunately, United cobranded cards earn just 500 PQPs for every $12,000 charged. Additionally, United credit cards have limits to the number of PQPs that can come from credit card spending in a calendar year. Again, you can refer to this page for all the details.
Here are three of our favorite United cobranded cards that earn PQPs:
- The United Explorer Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months your account is open.
- United Quest Card: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in the first three months your account is open.
- United Club Infinite Card: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months your account is open.
If you have an upcoming reservation with United, you may be prompted to purchase additional miles for your trip. To view your offers, go to “My Trips” and open your reservation. Then, look for the “Award Accelerator” option.
Click “Learn more” and you’ll be taken to a page where you can purchase MileagePlus miles and PQPs.
On this one-way flight from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) to San Francisco International Airport (SFO), I could purchase 3,000 award miles and 100 PQPs for $188 or 6,000 award miles and 600 PQPs for $814.
Unless you’re trying to buy up to fill a small gap, it’s not hard to tell that’s a pretty terrible deal considering that you could earn more PQPs and award miles on a paid United ticket.
Speaking of buying status, it’s common for United to offer targeted buy-ups to the next status tier sometime in January or February, but historically, these have been exorbitantly expensive.
While 2022 is drawing to a close, there’s still plenty of time left to requalify for your current United Premier elite status or level up to the next tier for next year. The first step is sitting down and calculating where you stand and what you’ll earn from any scheduled end-of-year travel, so you can decide if a mileage run is right for you.
Remember that United is likely bringing back the pre-pandemic status requirements, so it might be worth going out of your way to lock in status before that change takes effect.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg and Eric Rosen.