The news out yesterday about United Airlines adding a dollar spend requirement to their elite status qualification process had me note that it was likely my last year with 1K elite status. That raised some questions from readers based on how much I fly about how much I spend to get the status I’m at. The numbers actually came in a bit higher than I expected but I was definitely correct that I don’t pay enough to rate 1K. Not even Platinum, actually, and that’s at 150K PQMs booked this year (and 100K already flown).
I don’t often review my travel history in detail like this so it was an interesting exercise for me. I had seven "trips" which involved earning points in some form or another. Some trips involved more than one ticket or fare but I look at them as blocks of travel like that. Three of the trips were specific events where I wanted or needed to be at a particular place at a particular time. The cost of those trips is, not surprisingly, higher than for the other flights which were quite a bit more discretionary. The truly discretionary trips average out to ~4.5cpPQM while the less discretionary (they all are really discretionary, quite frankly) trips cost me ~7.5cpPQM. Yes, there are some mistake fares and sales in there, fares which I took advantage of in volume. I’m not ashamed of that at all.
Looking at future booked travel the numbers actually get cheaper, mostly because the future bookings right now are all very discretionary and purchased mostly because they were cheap.
Based on the numbers above I would not even qualify as a Premier Platinum under the PQD scheme. Even more interesting, however, is that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even qualify as a Premier Gold. Several of the flights I took, while on partners, were not on 016 ticket stock. Based on that aspect I would not receive credit for them under the new program. Adding up already taken travel AND future travel my 016 spend looks to be $5,792. Back out the taxes on those tickets and I’m actually not sure I’d make the $5,000 cut.
There are a number of people talking about just increasing their travel budget, earning the miles and flying even more to hit 1K with the new spend threshold. I suppose I could do that, too. I can probably spend a few grand more on trips and I definitely love the travel experience. But I don’t only every fly on United and I don’t want to only ever fly on United. I don’t want to only ever buy my flights through United. And I don’t really know that the benefits are worth it to my personal budget to do so.
I get why the airlines are going down this path and I actually don’t disagree with the reasoning. It sucks for me personally but such is life when playing in the margins.
If you want to see the full set of numbers I put it in a shared doc here.
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