United Airlines recently announced it would be introducing PlusPoints, a new upgrade benefit program for Premier Platinum and 1K members that provides them with more opportunities for flight upgrades.
On Dec. 4, United will replace Regional Premier Upgrades (RPU) and Global Premier Upgrades (GPU) with PlusPoints. Under the new program, members will have access to all upgrades through united.com or United's mobile app, making the carrier the only global U.S. airline that allows members to request all upgrades without making a phone call.
Each RPU will be worth 20 PlusPoints and each GPU will be worth 40 PlusPoints. Members using one RPU today to upgrade from Economy to United First on domestic U.S. and North American flights will use 20 PlusPoints from their banks. A member using one GPU today to upgrade from Economy to United Polaris business class on international long-haul flights will use 40 PlusPoints.
PlusPoints also gives members more flexibility in deciding how to use their upgrades. Starting in December, members can use their points to join upgrade waitlists on multiple trips, and points will not be deducted from their accounts until upgrades are confirmed.
In addition, the program brings more flexibility to upgrading to and from premium economy. Upgrading from Economy to United Premium Plus and from United Premium Plus to United Polaris business class will be possible for less than the value of one GPU.
Importantly, PlusPoints does not replace or change United's Complimentary Premier Upgrades benefit. In recognition of their loyalty, all Premier members will continue to be placed on upgrade waitlists for flights operated by United and United Express when available.
Getting with the new program
As United prepares to roll out the new PlusPoints program in December, the airline will also be making some significant changes to its MileagePlus membership system starting in January.
Currently, United’s MileagePlus program required members to advance through elite status tiers by earning “Premier qualifying dollars” (PQDs) as well as either “Premier qualifying segments” (PQSs) or “Premier qualifying miles” (PQMs).
Starting in 2020, however, Premier qualifying miles, Premier qualifying segments, and Premier qualifying dollars are going away, and travelers will now earn Premier qualifying credit based on just two factors: the value of the tickets they have purchased, and the number of flights they have taken. Miles flown will no longer be factored into the miles collection equation.
Qualifying points will be expressed according to the base fare of the passenger’s ticket, as well carrier-imposed surcharges and paid upgrades. Those qualifying flights or PQFs will be calculated by the flight segments taken. This means that distance flown will not be figured into rewards earned.
With the new system, passengers receive a PQF point regardless of which cabin they are seated in. Those passengers with a “basic economy” ticket, however, will not earn any PQFs at all.
Then there are the PQPs. Those are points earned per dollar spent. For these factors, only base fares count. That means taxes and fees do not apply toward this total. For this program, United is allowing surcharges on base fares to apply, as well as Economy Plus seating, preferred seat purchases, award co-pays, paid upgrades, and flights booked and operated through Star Alliance partnerships.
MileagePlus members can attain elite status only through how much they spend, how many take-offs and landings they sustained, or a combination of both. Measuring Premier qualification based on the dollars spent and number of flights taken rewards customers equally, ensuring the most loyal members get the best value from their benefits, according to United.