How United Airlines has made earning/retaining status easier in 2021

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A recent email from United Airlines reminded me of a promotion that the airline is currently running (and that I’d forgotten about) which can make earning/retaining MileagePlus status a little easier, so I thought I’d post a quick reminder of all the ways in which United has made earning/elite status easier in 2021 in case any readers have been as forgetful as me.

Four ways in which United has made earning status easier

It was back in early November of last year when United first announced that it was introducing steps to make earning/retaining elite status easier in 2021 so, if like me you’ve forgotten what some of those steps are, don’t feel too bad 🙂

Lower elite qualification requirements

When a loyalty program wants to make it easier for members to earn status, one of the easiest things for it to do is to reduce the qualification criteria…and that’s exactly what United’s MileagePlus program has done.

For the 2021 qualification year, MileagePlus members need to earn fewer Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) and fly fewer Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) to earn status with United.

  • Members choosing to qualify for elite status via a combination of PQP and PQF need to earn 25% fewer PQP and 33% fewer PQM in 2021.
  • Members choosing to qualify for elite status through PQP earnings alone need to earn 30% fewer PQP in 2021.

Here’s a table showing what the elite status thresholds are for 2021:

a table with numbers and symbols

United is gifting PQP to MileagePlus elites

In November 2020, United announced that it would be giving MileagePlus elites a boost towards retaining status (or improving their status) in 2021 by gifting them Premier Qualifying Points. Specifically, the airline said that by February 2021, it would deposit 25% of the 2021 PQP requirements into Premier members’ accounts based on their 2021 Premier status level. These PQPs have now posted.

I hold MileagePlus Silver Elite status (which I’m given courtesy of my Marriott Bonvoy Titanium elite status) and despite not having set foot on a United flight in years, my MileagePlus account is now showing that I have 875 PQP for 2021.

a screenshot of a computer

875 is 25% of 3,500 so, interestingly, it would seem as if United has decided to be generous and to award MileagePlus members with 25% of the PQP needed for elite status if a member is earning status via PQP alone, and not 25% of the PQP needed for elite status if a member is earning status via a combination of PQP and PQF. That’s a nice touch.

Earn bonus PQP on flights in 1Q 2021

United is currently offering MileagePlus members bonus PQP on the first three trips that they take by 31 March 2021 (this is the promotion I’ve just been reminded of). This is what MileagePlus members can earn :

  • Base level MileagePlus members – 50% bonus
  • All MileagePlus elite status holders (i.e Silver members and upwards) – 100% bonus

Premier elites will receive a minimum of 300 bonus PQP per trip for their first three PQP-eligible trips, but no single trip will receive a PQP bonus of more than 1,500 PQP.

Non-elite MileagePlus members will receive a minimum of 150 bonus PQP per trip for their first three PQP-eligible trips, but no single trip will receive a PQP bonus of more than 1,000 PQP.

Co-branded credit card earnings now count towards 1K status

Various United MileagePlus co-branded credit cards offer cardholders the chance to earn bonus PQP through spending put on the cards (e.g. the United℠ Explorer Card will earn a cardholder 500 PQP for every $12,000 in card spending, up to 1,000 PQP in a calendar year) but, historically, any PQP earned from credit card spending has only counted towards MileagePlus Platinum status at best.

In 2021, however, PQP earned from all eligible MileagePlus credit cards will now count towards Premier 1K status as long as the PQF requirement is also met.

Bottom line

United has made earning, retaining, or improving elite status considerably easier in 2021 by not only reducing the elite qualification thresholds, but by also making it easier to earn valuable Premier Qualifying Points through flying (in 1Q), and by gifting elite members with a substantial proportion of the PQP they’ll need to earn status this year. Flyers seeking to earn or retain 1K status in 2021 have also had their path made easier by the fact that the PQP earned through credit card spending will, for the first time, count towards 1K status in 2021.

All in all, this is good news for United flyers…n ow let’s just hope we call all get flying again sooner rather than later!


  1. Can you look into how much United is now giving you for pqp values per flight ? It’s ridiculous .. last I’ve checked for a 500 ticker .. they give you 58 pqp per flight that’s only 116 pqp when you pay 500 !
    Personally not a big fan of this system . Even though they lowered their pqp to “reach” status faster .. they’ve lowered the amount of pqp they give you with these tickets! That includes first classes as well!

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