United’s response to the premium cabin earning rates changes: better than I expected

Well, the bad news is that United Airlines has confirmed the new earning rates for premium cabin fares on many partner airlines. In posts today on FlyerTalk and MilePoint the company offered up an explanation and a full listing of the affected fare classes (which pretty much matches the list I had produced) and also an explanation. Apparently the old rates were a mistake:

In March 2012, when we migrated to a single system, we unintentionally increased PQM and PQS earnings for some of our partners to our former OnePass levels, instead of taking them to their intended MileagePlus levels.

While these higher earning levels remained in effect for the remainder of 2012, we are now reinstating the PQM/PQS earning rates for the following carriers and fare classes to 100% as of Jan. 1, 2013:

  • Air New Zealand (NZ): A, B, C, D, E, J, O, U,Y, Z
  • Asiana (OZ): A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
  • Croatia Airlines (OU): A, B, C, D, F, Y, Z
  • Egyptair (MS): A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
  • LOT (LO): A, C, D, P, Z
  • Singapore (SQ): A, C, D, F, J, P, R, S, Y, Z
  • South African (SA): B, C, D, H, J, K, M, Q, S, Y, Z
  • TAM (JJ): A, B, C, D, F, J , Y, Z
  • TAP (TP): B, C, D, J, Y, Z
  • THAI (TG): A, B, C, D, F, J, P, U, Y, Z
  • Turkish (TK): C, D

I’m not entirely sure I buy that it was a mistake, particularly given how often they changed things around right when the initial announcement was made for the new program. Still, in a rather unprecedented move, the company has agreed to honor previously ticketed flights at the old earning rates:

We realize that some of you booked flights on these partners prior to Jan. 1 and were expecting the higher PQM/PQS earnings. In this particular case, given the circumstances, we will honor the higher rates regardless of your travel date. There are a few complexities involved with posting miles at the higher rates, so please bear with us. Specifically, if you booked your ticket through United, we will proactively adjust amounts after their initial posting (typically within a few days of when the original flight is credited). However, if you booked through someone other than United (like another airline or travel agency), you will have to contact the MileagePlus Service Center after your miles have initially posted in order to make the adjustment.

This will actually net me a few extra miles on my upcoming Bangkok-Haneda flight on Thai Airways so I’m pretty happy about that.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. This is the Deltafication of the industry, no notice and we will do what we please when we want to do it…this is going to get ugly, everyone buckle up

  2. @Tom I would agree. I really have no clue how the inner workings of an airline alliance work but I have to imagine it is similar to any other commission based system. Get someone to spend more and credit back to you, you get a bigger reward. Either UA isnt getting that bigger piece of the pie when it’s members are flying on a premium cabin on a partner airline or they are just keeping it all for themselves.

    1. The goal of the carriers is to maximize their own revenue, not that of alliance partners. United has chosen to offer extra PQMs for premium fares on partners where they have a revenue-sharing arrangement. For all the others it is basically the minimum acceptable.

      As for the claim United did the right thing, I’m not so sure I’d go that far. Yes, it was nice of them to honor the old rates for previously purchased tickets; that is unprecedented as far as I know. But they also are claiming the rates for the past year were a “mistake” despite changing many other things during the year. And they ultimately cut the earning rates on many fares. That’s hardly an incredible customer-friendly move.

  3. How is this the right thing? They adopted the worst of CO and UA. Award change fees have also gone up compared to OnePass – you used to be able to change routing for free. Not anymore.

  4. Is there some kind of an internal profile I can ask Mileage Plus to refer to?

    Currently on the phone with them and they have no idea about any retroactive validity – the agent keeps insisting that the PQM earning rate for SQ business class is 100% and that’s it.

    1. I was afraid that would happen, Yev. I have a couple flights I need to call in on similarly and I’m not looking forward to the conversation. Best suggestion I can offer is to contact UA Insider via Milepoint or Flyertalk and see if they can help you out.

      Good luck!

  5. Hey Seth did you even make that call to UA about getting proper credit for your TG flights? I need to do the same thing before I forget.

    1. I haven’t yet, Eugene. I have another trip in April which will have the same problem so I’m waiting until that one is flown and posted before calling in on both of them.

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