Thursday 23 Jul 2015

United Airlines Wants to Upgrade Me to A Premier Silver Elite…Sort Of

I received yet another email from United Airlines yesterday afternoon about more updates to their MileagePlus 2012 program which will finalize in March with their merger with Continental Airlines.

In the email it gave me the option of clicking a link to login to my United MileagePlus account online for a “personal update”. I thought that was interesting and that maybe I would learn something new that I didn’t already know about the merging of the 2 frequent flyer programs.

One of the options was to “Click to Learn More” about United wanting to offer me a chance to upgrade from being a non-elite member to a Premier Silver Elite member of the MileagePlus program. That is the lowest of their elite program, but being a Premier Silver member would give me benefits like potential upgrades to first class on paid domestic flights, instant upgrades on Y or B class full-fare (expensive) coach domestic flights, a 25% bonus on all miles earned by flying, better availability of award flights, lower fees for cancellations and changes, 1 free 50lb bag on every flight, and all priority boarding/check-in privileges.

Here’s the kicker though, check it out for yourself:

only $348 to upgrade.... ouch

As you can see in 2011 I earned 23,758 EQM (Elite Qualifying Miles), which means my butt was in a seat of a plane for that many miles on United or Star Alliance flights that were PAID for. You do not earn any EQM’s or miles on award flights booked with miles.


“How did you get SO close to being Elite with United in 2011 and not just finish the deal”

- Last year the band (my full-time job) had a lot of overseas tours – you could maybe call it a “World Tour”, so we raked in a lot of frequent flyer miles for free!! In the Spring we flew from the US to Japan for a headlining tour, then to Australia for a headlining tour (not on Star Alliance), back to the States for a headlining tour, straight to Europe for a support tour… wait, not finished yet! – then we flew to Mexico for a headlining tour, and then FINALLY after 3 months of playing shows all around the world, we flew back to the States to go home. Here’s the kicker – all of those flights (minus Japan to Australia) were on United or Star Alliance carriers, so everyone in the band earned that same 23,758 EQM, but when it came to flying back to the States to go home… We all live in different cities, and even different states now, and I was on a Delta flight as I was going to LA & Vegas first, and did not earn more United miles, while the other guys all flew on US Airways and completed over 25,000 United miles for Premier Silver Elite Status. It hurt me to see my EQM so close to 25,000 throughout the rest of the year, but our full-time touring schedule, my non-stop travel schedule, and me living 90 miles from the nearest airport that flies Star Alliance detoured me from finishing the qualifications to become Elite on United.

Now United is basically offering me the chance to top off my EQM balance for $348 to break 25,000 butt in seat miles which will give me Premier Silver elite status on United starting March 3rd when the new program rolls out, until January, 2013.

Is this a good offer for me and will I take it?
– I love United Airlines, but absolutely not.
$348 is steep for the benefits it provides given my travel habits and schedule. The band will more than likely be flying on paid Star Alliance flights to/from Europe, Australia, & maybe Latin America again this year so the 25% mileage bonus would earn me potentially an extra 5,000 miles, worth approximately $100 to me which is probably the ONLY benefit that I would really use.  Here’s why:

I plan to get the new United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card this year for 50,000 miles after my first purchase that they targeted me for, so I’ll already have all of the priority check-in and priority boarding benefits. Probably the only Star Alliance flights I’ll be on this year will be overseas flights paid for by the band that don’t qualify for free upgrades, or award flights overseas where a free bag is already included, so those benefits won’t help me. Even if I did redeem United miles for a domestic flight this year, it would probably be a short trip and I’ll have no problem sticking to a carry-on bag. As you can see I would end up paying for more than I would receive, and this is why I will be passing on the status upgrade. Maybe next time if it was $100 or less! Or heck, maybe the band will fly 25,000 or more miles this year on United and I’ll hit it for free!

One other interesting thing about my personal update was that when the Continental OnePass program merges into the United MileagePlus program in March, the United site said I will be keeping my CONTINENTAL ONEPASS number for the new program and NOT my United MileagePlus # that I currently have. Weird eh?

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