United Airlines Adds Spending Requirement for Elite Status

United Airlines is making it a little harder for travelers to earn that coveted Elite Frequent Flier status.

The company announced Tuesday that beginning in 2014, members of the airline’s MileagePlus program must not only fly 25,000 miles per year to be part of their base level Premier Silver status, but in order to qualify they must also spend $2,500 within that same time period. This dollar amount is referred to as the Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) requirement. Travelers in United’s Elite program can take advantage of seat upgrades, access to the private lounge and other perks. Up until now, that status was only determined by the number of miles flown within a given year.

There will also be changes set for the company’s other frequent flier tiers.

  • Premier Silver: 25,000 miles or 30 segments flown annually, and $2,500 PQDs
  • Premier Gold: 50,000 miles or 60 segments flown annually, and $5,000 PQDs
  • Premier Platinum: 75,000 miles or 90 segments flown annually, and $7,500 PQDs
  • Premier 1K: 100,000 miles or 120 segments flown annually, and $10,000 PQDs

PQDs are dollars spent on most United tickets, including partner airline flights, and Economy Plus purchases.

Business Week explains the decision this way: “The new systems focus on passengers’ financial value to an airline instead of merely calculating who flew the most. The distance-only tallies had become easy to game due to the wide variety of fares on each flight and mileage junkies’ longstanding habit of racking up elite status with flights cobbled together at cheap fares. That practice has been facilitated by online chat boards where fliers trade the best mileage-boosting deals they find.”

While this may sound like a major move, Delta announced a similar requisite for its SkyMiles members earlier this year. Changes for both airlines take effect January 1, 2014 to qualify for status in 2015.