Some more answers on United PQDs

There have been a number of unanswered questions about the process by which United will calculate the recently announced spend requirements for their customers to realize elite status in 2014, a/k/a Premier Qualifying Dollars or PQDs. Plenty of speculation has circulated about the possible answers, but until late yesterday it was – if at least slightly informed – still just speculation. Fortunately they’ve (finally) clarified a couple details about the PQD rules.

imageMost notable, at least to me, are the bits on how tickets purchased with coupons or vouchers will be handled. And, interestingly, there are two answers to that question, depending on what type of credit is used:

Will I earn PQD if I purchase a ticket using a credit, such as an electronic travel certificate, as a form of payment?

Yes. When a ticket is purchased and a dollar-value credit is applied as a form of payment for some or all of the ticket value, the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharge amount quoted before applying the credit will count toward PQD for eligible flights.

Will I earn PQD if I purchase a ticket using a promotional discount code (such a percent-off or dollar-off certificate or offer code)?

Yes. When a promotional discount (such as percent-off or dollar-off) is applied, it adjusts the base fare to reflect a new discounted price. This new base fare is displayed along with any carrier-imposed surcharges, and this discounted amount will count toward PQD on eligible flights.

The company has also made it clear that pretty much nothing other than tickets and Economy Plus purchases will count towards the PQD totals. Change fees, checked bag fees, United Club memberships and various other ancillary charges are all excluded. In many ways this is a strange disconnect. The airlines are raking in billions in ancillary fees and yet United does not count that towards a customer’s contribution to the bottom line. My guess is that it all comes down to systems integration challenges. The tickets and E+ seats all have ticket numbers associated with them such that tracking the spend is rather easily accomplished within United’s systems. The other bits are not assigned ticket numbers and are therefore much harder to keep track of. And so, at least for now, they do not count.

No real surprises with any of the answers here. Yes, there is a distinct difference between the two types of credit and you almost certainly want an electronic travel certificate, not a discount code when given a choice. But the way those were implemented is not surprising.

And now we actually know.

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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. Presumably the PQD will be earned just like miles (earned after you complete the travel), right?
    E.g., if I book a trip in December 2013 for travel in January 2014, I’ll earn the PQDs in January, right?

      1. What happens if the trip is split, i.e. one leg is flown in Dec 2013 and one leg is flown in 2014? Do they count half the PQDs for next year? All very confusing 🙂

        1. There is pricing associated with each fare leg of a trip (not necessarily segment, but with each fare point.) I would imagine the revenue will count in the year in which the leg departed. So if you book a round trip JFK-SFO-JFK outbound Dec 20 return Jan 6, then you would get credit for the fare paid outbound in the current year, and the return would count in the following year. Note that isn’t necessarily half the roundtrip fare, since the legs could be in different classes or fares with different advance purchase requirements.

          The only real corner case is if you have an overnight flight on New Year’s Eve with onward connection the next day on a through fare – I would imagine that will all get counted in the year you departed, unless it happened to be two fares.

  2. Hi Seth – If you were to buy either award accelerator or premium award accelerator, would these count to the PQD? I can see perhaps award accelerator not counting, but the premium award accelerator you are essentially buying PQM, so this logically should count to PQD.

    1. While I agree with you, Bob, that logically the cash spent on PQMs should count towards the PQD totals that has not been explicitly stated by United yet. As such, I’d bet against it unless we hear otherwise.

  3. For denied boardings and for service recovery, does UA give out ETCs or dollar off discount codes? And can you choose or influence?

    1. My recent experience suggests that VDB nets an ETC/TCV and service recovery or is a dollar-off discount code.

      I’ve never tried to negotiate from a dollar-off to a TCV but I suppose one could.

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