How To Get United Airlines Elite Status (and Is It Worth It?)

United Airlines elite status levels

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Having elite status with United Airlines can make flying so much more pleasant. As a United Premier member, you’ll enjoy perks like preferred seating, upgrades, points bonuses, and more.

But, understanding how to earn elite status with United can appear a little complicated at first. Do you know what a PQP is or what counts as a flight segment? Don’t worry, we’ll spell it all out for you.

This post will show you everything you need to know to get United Airlines elite status, plus we’ll review each status level’s benefits, changes for 2021, and discuss whether or not status is even worth it.

United Airlines Elite Status

MileagePlus Premier is the name for elite status membership within the United MileagePlus loyalty program.

Before we can talk about how to earn United Airlines elite status there a few terms you’ll need to understand, so let’s have a quick vocabulary lesson.

PQF and PQP

Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF): This represents the number of flight segments flown. To earn status, at least 4 flight segments need to be flown on United or United Express in addition to other requirements.

A flight segment is simply a takeoff and a landing. Basic Economy tickets and award travel tickets do not earn PQFs.

Premier Qualifying Points (PQP): This is based on the base fare of the flight, including carrier-imposed surcharges but excluding taxes and other fees. Seating purchases and paid upgrades are included in this number.

You’ll earn PQFs and PQPs when you fly United or United Express plus these partner airlines:

  • Star Alliance partners and connecting partners
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Azul Brazilian Airlines
  • Edelweiss Airlines
  • Eurowings
  • Olympic Air

The PQPs you can earn per flight on partner airlines are limited.

Class of ServicePreferred Partner PQP MaximumMileagePlus Partner PQP Maximum
First and Business1,5001,000
Economy and Premium Economy750500

PQFs and PQPs are credited to the MileagePlus member that flies, not the member that purchases the ticket.

Earn PQPs on Credit Cards in 2021

United credit card PQP earning path
Image Credit: United

For the 2021 program year, you can earn PQPs toward Premier 1K status based on your annual spend on select United MileagePlus credit cards.

The following credit cards earn 500 PQPs per $12,000 spent. There is a maximum of 1,000 PQPs earned per card unless otherwise noted:

The following cards are no longer open to new applicants but existing cardholders can still earn 500 PQPs per $12,000 spent unless noted:

  • United Club℠ Card (3,000 PQP maximum)
  • United MileagePlus® Awards Card
  • United MileagePlus® Business Card
  • United MileagePlus® Card (with annual fee)
  • United MileagePlus® Platinum Class Visa Card (3,000 PQP maximum)
  • United MileagePlus® Select Card (3,000 PQP maximum)
  • United℠ Explorer Business Card
  • United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Business Card (10,000 PQP maximum)
  • United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card (10,000 PQP maximum)

Hot Tip: The maximum number of PQPs you can earn from credit card spend per calendar year is 5,000 per MileagePlus account (unless you have the United Presidential Plus card or United Presidential Plus Business card).

PlusPoints

United Boeing 787 Dreamliner Polaris Business Class Empty
Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members can use their PlusPoints to upgrade to Polaris on long-haul flights. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

PlusPoints is an elite status upgrade benefit for Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members. They can be used to upgrade flights on the following airlines:

  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • Copa Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • United and United Express

PlusPoints can be used to upgrade multiple segments on the same itinerary and they won’t be deducted from your account until your upgrade is confirmed.

Premier Platinum members will receive 40 PlusPoints on qualification. Premier 1K members will receive an additional 280 PlusPoints. In 2021, 1K members can also earn even more PlusPoints even faster. You’ll earn an additional 20 PlusPoints for every 2,000 PQPs earned beyond 15,000 PQPs. Prior to 2021, 1K members earned 20 PlusPoints for every 3,000 PQPs earned beyond 18,000 PQPs.

PlusPoints upgrades are based on flight distance (short-haul vs. long-haul), fare purchased, and the requested seat.

For short-haul flights, here’s how many PlusPoints you’ll need to upgrade:

Upgrade FromUpgrade ToPlusPoints Cost
EconomyFirst or Business20
Premium Plus20
Premium PlusBusiness10

Short-haul flights are those without United Polaris business class and include flights within the U.S. and flights between the U.S. and Canada, Bogota, Central America, Caribbean, Mexico, Quito, and intra-Asia flights.

For long-haul flights, here’s how many PlusPoints you’ll need to upgrade.

Upgrade FromUpgrade ToPlusPoints Cost
Discounted EconomyUnited Polaris80
EconomyUnited Polaris40
Premium Plus20
Premium PlusUnited Polaris30

Long-haul flights are those that include United Polaris business class between the U.S. and Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand, South America, and Tahiti.

How To Earn United Airlines Elite Status

Flying on United Airlines
With United elite status, you’ll enjoy benefits like preferred seating. Image Credit: United

United Elite Status Qualifications in 2021

Thankfully, it will be easier to earn Untied elite status in 2021 than usual. Here are the adjusted qualifications you’ll need to meet to achieve United elite status in 2021. Elite status earned in 2021 is good through January 31, 2023.

To qualify for United elite status you’ll need to earn a minimum number of PQPs and PQFs or a higher number of PQPs. For either option, a minimum of 4 segments must be flown on United Airlines or United Express.

Elite LevelPQPs and PQFsPQP OnlyFlight Segments on United or United Express
Premier Silver8 PQF and 3,000 PQP3,500 PQP4
Premier Gold16 PQF and 6,000 PQP7,000 PQP4
Premier Platinum24 PQF and 9,000 PQP10,000 PQP4
Premier 1K36 PQF and 13,500 PQP15,000 PQP4

If you earned Premier status in 2020, you’re in luck! Based on your United elite status in 2020, you’ll get bonus PQPs that count toward your 2021 status.

Elite Status in 2020Bonus PQPs for 2021
Premier Silver875 PQP
Premier Gold1,750 PQP
Premier Platinum2,500 PQP
Premier 1K3,750 PQP

Hot Tip: Make sure you’re up to date on all of the changes United Airlines has made in response to COVID-19.

How To Check Your Progress Toward Elite Status

United elite status tracker
You can track your progress toward United elite status online. Image Credit: United

It’s easy to track your progress toward United elite status.

You can log in to your United MileagePlus account and scroll down to Your Premier progress for a quick glance at your progress. Or you can use this link to see a detailed look at your progress including your PQPs, PQFs, and a comparison of benefits offered at each status level.

United Elite Status Benefits

United ORD Ticket Counter
You’ll get priority check-in as a United Premier member. Image Credit: United Airlines

Having United MileagePlus Premier status comes with lots of great benefits. Each level has its own unique perks but there are some basic benefits that you’ll be able to enjoy at any level of United elite status:

  • Priority check-in and security screening
  • 3 free checked backs in any premium cabin
  • Free confirmed flight changes within 24 hours of departure for the same fare class
  • Preferred seating for up to 8 travel companions
  • No blackout dates for award travel on United and United Express
  • Better award availability in economy
  • Priority award waitlisting
  • Standby for international award flights
  • Premier Priority Desk phone line
  • No fees for changing or canceling any award ticket 31 or more days before departure
  • No fees for changing an award ticket less than 30 days before departure for flights originating in the U.S.
  • Extra benefits when booking a VIP access property with United Hotels
  • TPC Network golf course benefits
  • Mercedez-Benz incentives

United Premier Silver Status Benefits

United Premier Silver is the base level of elite status but it still offers some great benefits:

  • Group 2 priority boarding
  • 1 free checked bag in economy
  • Access to Y-class tickets on most sold-out flights at least 24 hours before departure
  • Discounted annual membership fee of $109 for CLEAR expedited airport security
  • Complimentary Premier upgrades on the day of departure
  • Complimentary access to preferred seating at booking and Economy Plus at check-in
  • Complimentary Economy Plus for 1 travel companion
  • Instant upgrades to the premium cabin on Y or B class economy fares
  • 7x extra miles per dollar on United, United Express, and select partner airlines
  • $25 phone booking service fees
  • $100 fee for canceling an award ticket within 30 days of departure that originates within the U.S
  • $100 fee for canceling or changing an award ticket within 30 days of departure that doesn’t originate within the U.S
  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star Status

United Premier Gold Status Benefits

In addition to the benefits offers at Premier Silver status, you’ll enjoy these additional benefits when you achieve United Premier Gold status:

  • Group 1 priority boarding
  • 2 free checked bags in economy
  • Complimentary Premier upgrades as early as 48 hours before departure
  • Complimentary access to preferred and Economy Plus seating at booking
  • 8x extra miles per dollar on United, United Express, and select partner airlines
  • $75 fee for canceling an award ticket within 30 days of departure that originates within the U.S
  • $75 fee for canceling or changing an award ticket within 30 days of departure that doesn’t originate within the U.S
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status

Hot Tip: If you have status with another airline, you may be able to request a status match from United.

United Premier Platinum Status Benefits

United Premier Platinum members receive the same benefits as Premier Gold status, plus these additional benefits:

  • 3 free checked bags in Economy
  • Access to Y-class tickets on most sold-out flights at least 2 hours before departure
  • $50 annual membership discount for United Club lounges
  • Complimentary Premier upgrades as early as 72 hours before departure
  • Complimentary Economy Plus for up to 8 travel companions
  • 40 PlusPoints
  • 9x extra miles per dollar on United, United Express, and select partner airlines
  • Better award availability in select premium cabins
  • Waived phone booking service fees
  • $50 fee for canceling an award ticket within 30 days of departure that originates within the U.S
  • $50 fee for canceling or changing an award ticket within 30 days of departure that doesn’t originate within the U.S
  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle status

United Premier 1K Status Benefits

United Premier 1K Status is the highest level of elite status you can get. It comes with all of the benefits of the lower levels plus these premium perks:

  • Pre-boarding
  • $100 annual membership discount for United Club lounges
  • Access to Y-class or B-class tickets on most sold-out flights at least 1.5 hours before departure
  • Waived CLEAR membership fee
  • Complimentary Premier upgrades as early as 96 hours before departure
  • Instant upgrades to the premium cabin on Y, B, or M class economy fares
  • 280 PlusPoints
  • 1 free drink and snack in economy
  • 11x extra miles per dollar on United, United Express, and select partner airlines
  • No fee for canceling an award ticket within 30 days of departure that originates within the U.S
  • No fee for canceling or changing an award ticket within 30 days of departure that doesn’t originate within the U.S

United Global Services

United Global Services is the fifth level of United Airlines elite status. This invitation-only status is reserved for only the most loyal and high-spending United customers. The qualifications are not published so it’s unknown exactly how to score an invitation to this cream-of-the-crop elite status.

United Million Miler Program

You’ll earn lifetime Premier status when you qualify for the Million Miler Program. This is based on the actual distance flown on United and United Express flights. The level of lifetime status you’ll receive is based on the number of miles flown.

Number of Miles FlownLifetime Status Level
1 millionPremier Gold
2 millionPremier Platinum
3 millionPremier 1K
4 millionUnited Global Services

Bottom Line: There are 4 main levels of elite status within the United MileagePlus program — Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, and Premier 1K. In addition, there’s an invitation-only level of elite status that’s reserved for only the best United customers called United Global Services. Plus, when you fly at least 1 million miles on United and United Express, you’ll earn lifetime Premier status through the Million Miler Program.

Is United Elite Status Worth It?

We’ve gone over in detail the value of United elite status both at the airport and prior to departure and on the plane (seating and upgrades), so we’ll just take a quick high-level look here.

Free Checked Baggage

United Premier members get 3 free checked bags in premium cabins plus 1 to 3 free checked bags in economy class. United baggage fees can add up quickly, so you can save a lot of money with this perk. Let’s say you fly United 6 times a year in economy and check 1 bag each time — you’ll save $180 at a minimum and your savings could be much higher depending on how often you fly. If you want to save on checked bags but don’t have United elite status quite yet, check out one of the United credit cards that come with free checked bags.

Complimentary Preferred Seating

Getting complimentary preferred seating can be a huge savings. With this perk, you won’t have to pay the $20 to $40 average cost per flight segment for a preferred seat. If you fly 6 direct round-trips a year, this perk could save you $360 or more! That number can dramatically increase when you factor in flights that aren’t direct since you pay for preferred seating per flight segment.

Complimentary Economy Plus Seating

If you fly 6 times a year and get an upgrade to Economy Plus seating each time, you’ll save $270!

Earn Bonus Miles

As a United Premier member, you’ll earn 7x to 11x more miles per dollar on United, United Express, and select partner airlines. Let’s say you spend a conservative $3,000 on flights per year. You would have an additional 21,000 to 33,000 United miles. United miles are worth ~1.6 cents each, giving you an extra $336 to $528 worth of points!

Bottom Line: The value of having United Airlines elite status really starts to add up quickly. Even just taking into account a few elite status perks, you’re nearing $1,000 in value pretty easily. This number will only increase the more you fly and the more you take advantage of your other Premier status benefits.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, having United Airlines elite status comes with lots of benefits and perks. The 4 levels of United Premier status all offer different benefits but some things like priority check-in, free bags in premium seats, and free preferred seating are offered to all Premier members regardless of elite level.

Plus, in 2021, the requirement you need to meet to gain elite status benefits have been lowered, so now is a great time to try to reach United Airlines Premier status.


The information regarding the First Hawaiian Bank United® Card, United Club℠ Business Card, United Club℠ Card, United MileagePlus® Awards Card, United MileagePlus® Business Card, United MileagePlus® Card, United MileagePlus® Platinum Class Visa Card, United MileagePlus® Select Card, United℠ Explorer Business Card, United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Business Card , and United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 


Frequently asked questions

How do I become a MileagePlus Premier member?

To become a United MileagePlus Premier member, you need to achieve a certain number of PQF and PQP. To earn the base level Silver Premier status, you’ll need to earn 8 PQFs and 3,000 PQP or 3,500 PQP. In addition, you’ll need to fly at least 4 flight segments on United or United Express.

Can you buy United Airlines elite status?

No, you can’t buy United Airlines elite status.

Will United Airlines match elite status?

Yes, if you have elite status with another airline you can request a status match from United. While they match status from many airlines, United only publishes the requirements for Delta and American Airlines.

What is the highest status on United Airlines?

The highest elite status for most United flyers is Premier 1K. However, there is also an invitation-only status called United Global Services that’s reserved for only the most dedicated and high spending flyers. The requirements for this level of elite status are unpublished so it’s unclear exactly what you have to do to earn this status, but it’s safe to say it’s out of reach for most of us.

How do I get United Gold Premier status?

To earn United Premier Gold status you’ll need to earn 16 PQF and 6,000 PQP or 7,000 PQP. In addition, you’ll need to fly at least 4 flight segments on United or United Express.

What are United PQP and PQFs?

PQP and PQF are terms United uses for qualification levels for elite status.

PQP stands for Premier Qualifying Points. It’s based on the base fare of the flight including carrier-imposed surcharges but excluding taxes and other fees. Seating purchases and paid upgrades are included in this number.

PQF stands for Premier Qualifying Flights, which is the number of flight segments flown.

What are United PlusPoints?

Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members can use United PlusPoints to upgrade their flights on United, United Express, Copa Airlines, Lufthansa, and All Nippon Airways (ANA).

Premier Platinum members get 40 PlusPoints. Premier 1K members get an additional 280 PlusPoints. Plus, 1K members can earn 20 PlusPoints for every 2,000 PQP earned beyond 15,000 PQP.

Katie Seemann

About Katie Seemann

Katie is an Ohio native who caught the travel bug after spending a semester in college in Nottingham, England. In addition to exploring England, she visited Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands during that time and loved every minute of it (everything except the hostel in Scotland – that’s an experience she doesn’t intend on repeating!) In 2015, Katie discovered the world of points and miles, and since then she’s earned countless points and has an embarrassingly large number of credit cards in her wallet (which she needs a spreadsheet to keep track of!)

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