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

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Having elite status with an airline can make flying so much more pleasant. This is especially true with United Airlines. As a United MileagePlus Premier member, you enjoy perks like preferred seating, upgrades, points bonuses, and more.

But understanding how to earn elite status with United can appear 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 elite status with United Airlines. We’ll also review each status level’s benefits and discuss whether or not it’s even worth pursuing.

United Airlines Elite Status

First, United’s loyalty program is called United MileagePlus.

Before we can talk about how to earn United Airlines elite status, there are a few terms you need to understand.

Flying on United Airlines
You’ll earn PQPs and PQFs every time you fly on United. Image Credit: United

PQF and PQP

For United elite status, progress is measured by 2 types of qualifying activity earned during the calendar year:

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

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

Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs): This is determined by 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. All tickets, including Basic Economy, earn PQPs.

Your status is valid from the day you qualify through the end of the program year on January 31, 2025.

You have 2 methods to qualify for United Premier status. You can qualify for Premier status through a combination of PQFs and PQPs, or you can meet a higher PQP goal.

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

Preferred partners:

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Air CanadaBrussels Airlines
Air ChinaCopa Airlines
Air DolomitiDiscover Airlines
Air New ZealandEdelweiss
All Nippon AirwaysEurowings
Austrian AirlinesLufthansa
AviancaSwiss International
Azul Brazilian AirlinesVirgin Australia

MileagePlus partners:

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Aegean AirlinesOlympic Air
Air IndiaSAS
Asiana AirlinesShenzhen Airlines
Croatia AirlinesSingapore Airlines
EgyptAirSouth African Airways
Ethiopian AirlinesTAP Air Portugal
EVA AirThai Airways International
Juneyao AirTurkish Airlines
LOT Polish Airlines 

Every flight you take on an eligible partner airline earns you 1 PQF, as long as the fare class of your ticket is eligible for award mile accrual. There are restrictions, which you can read about here.

United caps the number of PQPs you can earn per flight on partner airlines. The maximum PQPs that you can earn per flight on tickets issued and operated by Star Alliance partners and select MileagePlus partner airlines are as follows:

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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 who flies, not the member who purchases the ticket. This includes MileagePlus Upgrade Awards and Economy Plus subscriptions gifted to other members.

In 2023, United also changed how you earn PQPs on award flights. Now, when you use MileagePlus miles for award flights operated by United or United Express, you’re eligible to earn Premier qualifying credits.

Eligible award flights help you achieve status, with 1 PQP earned per 100 miles redeemed, as well as 1 PQF earned per United or United Express flight. PQPs from award flights also count toward earning incremental PlusPoints for eligible members. More on that later.

Earn PQPs on Credit Cards

You can earn PQPs toward Premier status based on your annual spending on select United MileagePlus credit cards. United co-branded cards have PQP maximums, which vary depending on which United MileagePlus credit cards you have. Some cards are no longer open to new applicants (see below).

The following credit cards earn 25 PQPs per $500 you spend. There’s 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 25 PQPs per $500, with a maximum of 1,000 PQPs (unless otherwise noted):

  • United MileagePlus® Awards Card
  • United MileagePlus® Business Card
  • United MileagePlus® Card (with annual fee)
  • United MileagePlus® Select Card (3,000 PQPs maximum)
  • United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Business Card (10,000 PQPs maximum)
  • United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card (10,000 PQPs maximum)

The United Gateway℠ Card, United℠ TravelBank Card, and United MileagePlus card with no annual fee (no longer available to new applicants) do not earn PQPs.

United has made significant changes in 2024 in regards to earning PQPs on United MileagePlus credit cards. New changes include:

  • Cardmembers will earn 25 PQPs for every $500 in qualifying spending on eligible MileagePlus credit cards. At this new rate, cardmembers will earn PQPs faster through qualifying purchases on their cards
  • All card-earned PQPs will count toward each status level, including the PQP-only requirement for Premier 1K status
  • The total number of PQPs you can earn annually with the United Club Infinite card is increasing (noted above). Starting in 2024, you will earn up to 10,000 PQPs from qualifying purchases on your card (up from 8,000 PQPs in 2023)
  • United is removing the annual cap of 15,000 PQPs that you can earn from qualifying spend across multiple eligible Chase co-branded United MileagePlus credit cards

United 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 are a flexible upgrade benefit for Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members. They can be used to upgrade flights anywhere United flies.

Some partner airlines also let you request PlusPoints upgrades, including:

  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • Copa Airlines
  • Lufthansa

With PlusPoints, you can request upgrades to any seat, including those available in premium cabins, like United Polaris business class or United Premium Plus. PlusPoints can be used to upgrade multiple segments on the same itinerary and won’t be deducted from your account until your upgrade is confirmed.

Premier Platinum members receive 40 PlusPoints once they qualify. Premier 1K members receive 280 PlusPoints once they qualify and can earn an additional 20 PlusPoints for every 3,000 PQPs earned after 18,000 PQPs (not including PQPs earned from credit card spend).

The number of PlusPoints required for an upgrade depends on where you’re flying to, your original ticket, and what seat you want to upgrade to.

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

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Upgrade FromUpgrade ToPlusPoints Cost
EconomyFirst or Business20
EconomyPremium 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, the Caribbean, Mexico, Quito, and intra-Asia flights.

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

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Upgrade FromUpgrade ToPlusPoints Cost
Discounted EconomyUnited Polaris80
EconomyUnited Polaris40
EconomyPremium 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.

United does deduct PlusPoints from your account before your upgrade is confirmed, unless your upgrade request is with a partner airline. These requests are always 40 points and are deducted from your account immediately.

When you request multiple upgrades for your trip, United only charges you for the highest-priced upgrade you receive. For example, if you were to request a 20-point upgrade for your first flight and a 40-point upgrade for the second, you’d only be charged 40 PlusPoints.

United PlusPoints upgrade
United only charges for the highest-priced upgrade if you request multiple upgrades. Image Credit: United

Jumpstart Your PQP Earnings for 2024

United is offering Premier elite members a head start in 2024 with automatic PQP deposits. All members with full Premier status on February 1, 2024, will get extra PQPs added to their accounts. The number of PQPs is based on status level.

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Elite Level Earned in 2023Starting PQPs in Account
Premier Silver250 PQPs
Premier Gold500 PQPs
Premier Platinum750 PQPs
Premier 1K1,250 PQPs

The starting PQP deposit will be based on the Premier status level you have as of February 1, 2024. Members with trial status are not eligible to receive the PQP deposit. 

How To Earn United Airlines Elite Status

United Airlines elite status levels
There are 4 main levels of United Premier status. Image Credit: United

United Elite Status Qualifications

There are 2 ways to qualify for United elite status. You can qualify for Premier status through a combination of PQFs and PQPs, or you can meet a higher PQP goal.

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

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Elite LevelPQPs and PQFs RequiredPQPs Only
Premier Silver12 PQF and 4,000 PQPs5,000 PQPs
Premier Gold24 PQF and 8,000 PQPs10,000 PQPs
Premier Platinum36 PQF and 12,000 PQPs15,000 PQPs
Premier 1K54 PQF and 18,000 PQPs24,000 PQPs

How To Check Your Progress Toward Elite Status

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

You can log in to your United MileagePlus account and scroll down to Premier progress for a quick glance at what you’ve earned (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, click on View Premier status tracker.

United Premier elite status account information
You can see detailed information about your status level online. Image Credit: United

United Airlines Status Match

United offers a MileagePlus Premier Status Match Challenge promotion that offers top-tier flyers of many other airlines comparable status in the MileagePlus program.

If you have elite status with another airline, you can request a status match to United Premier status. The status match offer is valid for requests received through December 20, 2023.

After you request a status match challenge, United may offer Premier status, based on the status you hold in the frequent flyer program you’re matching from, for 120 days. You can request the status match by going to this link and filling out the challenge form.

Here’s a look at the status match levels for some of the most popular airlines:

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Airline ProgramMatch to Premier SilverMatch to Premier GoldMatch to Premier Platinum
Delta Air Lines SkyMilesSilver MedallionGold MedallionPlatinum Medallion
American Airlines AAdvantageGoldPlatinumPlatinum Pro
JetBlue Airways TrueBlueMosaicN/AN/A
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanMVPMVP GoldMVP Gold 75K
Southwest Airlines Rapid RewardsA-ListA-List PreferredN/A
British Airways Executive ClubBronzeSilverGold
Virgin Atlantic Flying ClubSilverGoldN/A

You can extend your matched status by completing a required number of PQFs and PQPs on United and United Express flights. Here are the requirements for maintaining matched status after the initial 120-day period:

  • Premier Silver: Fly 4 PQFs and earn 1,300 PQPs
  • Premier Gold: Fly 8 PQFs and earn 2,600 PQPs
  • Premier Platinum: Fly 12 PQFs and earn 4,000 PQPs

Bottom Line: If you have elite status with another airline, you can request a status match challenge from United Airlines. If your challenge is successful, they’ll offer you United Premier status for 120 days and the opportunity to extend it by completing a required number of PQFs and PQPs.

United Elite Status Benefits

Having United MileagePlus Premier status comes with lots of great benefits. Each level has its own unique perks, but there are basic benefits that you can enjoy at any level of United elite status:

  • Priority check-in and security screening
  • 3 free checked bags 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 with redeposit
  • Extra benefits when booking a VIP access property with United Hotels
  • TPC Network golf course benefits
  • United Cruises onboard amenities
United ORD Ticket Counter
You’ll get priority check-in as a United Premier member. Image Credit: United Airlines

United Premier Silver Status Benefits

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

  • Group 2 priority boarding
  • 1 free checked bag in economy
  • 3 complimentary checked bags in a premium cabin
  • Access to Y-class tickets on most sold-out flights at least 24 hours before departure
  • Discounted annual membership fee of $149 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 miles per dollar on United, United Express, and select partner airlines
  • $25 phone booking service fees
  • Complimentary Avis Preferred Plus status
  • Extra miles on Avis and Budget car rentals (up to 1,000 base miles per rental)

United Premier Gold Status Benefits

In addition to the benefits offered at Premier Silver status, you get 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 miles per dollar on United, United Express, and select partner airlines
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status

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, once you meet the requirements
  • 9x miles per dollar on United, United Express, and select partner airlines
  • Better award availability in select premium cabins
  • Waived phone booking service fees
  • Complimentary Avis President’s Club status
  • Extra miles on Avis and Budget car rentals (up to 1,250 base miles per rental)

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:

  • Preboarding
  • $100 annual membership discount for United Club lounges
  • Access to Y-class or B-class tickets on most sold-out flights at least 90 minutes 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 miles per dollar on United, United Express, and select partner airlines
  • Complimentary annual subscription to Timeshifter, The Jet Lag App

United Global Services

United Global Services is an invitation-only status reserved for only the most loyal and high-spending United customers. United doesn’t publish what it requires for you to be invited, so it’s unknown exactly how you score this cream-of-the-crop status.

United Million Miler Program

You 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 receive is based on the number of miles you’ve flown.

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Number of Miles FlownLifetime Status Level
1 millionPremier Gold
2 millionPremier Platinum
3 millionPremier 1K
4 millionGlobal 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 called United Global Services. Plus, when you fly at least 1 million miles on United and United Express, you earn lifetime Premier status through the Million Miler Program.

Is United Elite Status Worth It?

We’ve gone over the value of United elite status at the airport and on the plane (seating and upgrades) in other posts in detail, 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. United baggage fees can add up quickly, so this perk has the potential to be quite valuable.

Let’s say you were to fly United 6 times a year in economy round-trip, checking a bag each time (normally $35) — you’d save $420 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 many United MileagePlus credit cards that come with free checked bags.

Complimentary Preferred Seating

Getting complimentary preferred seating can be a huge savings. With this perk, you don’t have to pay the $24-or-more cost per flight segment for a preferred seat. If you flew 6 direct round-trips a year and paid an average of $30 each way, this perk could save you $360. That number could dramatically increase if you factored in flights with connections, since you pay for preferred seating per flight segment.

Complimentary Economy Plus Seating

Economy Plus offers a few extra inches of legroom and is in the front of the economy cabin. The price for these seats varies by route but can be as much as $199! Assuming an average of $100 per flight, you’d save $1,200 if you flew 6 times a year and got an upgrade to Economy Plus seating each time.

United offers a subscription to Economy Plus that starts at $599 for 1 person flying domestically and goes up to $1,299 for up to 8 people flying globally, so you may want to use these numbers when you’re determining the value of United status.

Earn Bonus Miles

As a United Premier member, you earn anywhere from 2x to 6x miles more per dollar on United, United Express, and select partner airlines. A Premier Silver member who spends the minimum of $5,000 on flights per year earns an additional 10,000 United miles (versus a member without Premier status). A Premier 1K member who spends the minimum of $24,000 would earn an extra 144,000 miles — worth $1,728, based on our valuations.

Bottom Line: The value of United Airlines elite status adds up quickly. Even taking into account just a few elite status perks, you could near $1,000 in value pretty easily. This number only increases the more you fly and the more you take advantage of your other Premier status benefits.

Final Thoughts

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 checked bags, and free preferred seating, are offered to all Premier members regardless of elite level.

Premier perks can make the travel experience more enjoyable, and it’s worth considering how much how much it takes to achieve United elite status.

The information regarding the First Hawaiian Bank United® Card, United MileagePlus® Awards Card, United MileagePlus® Business Card, United MileagePlus® Card, United MileagePlus® Platinum Class Visa Card, United MileagePlus® Select 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.

The information regarding the United Club℠ Business 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 PQFs and PQPs. To earn the base level Silver Premier status, you need to earn 12 PQFs and 4,000 PQPs or 5,000 PQPs. In addition, you 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, United offers a MileagePlus Premier Status Match Challenge promotion. If you have elite status with another airline, you can request a status match to United Premier status.  

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 it.

What are United PQPs and PQFs?

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

“PQP” stands for “Premier Qualifying Point.” It’s determined by 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 Flight,” which is used for the number of flight segments flown.

What are United PlusPoints?

PlusPoints are a flexible upgrade benefit for Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members. They can be used to upgrade flights anywhere United flies and on some partner airlines, such as All Nippon Airways (ANA), Copa Airlines, and Lufthansa PlusPoints allow you to request upgrades to any seat, including available premium cabins. The number of PlusPoints required for an upgrade depends on where you’re flying to, your original ticket, and what seat you want to upgrade to.
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About Katie Seemann

Katie has been in the points and miles game since 2015 and started her own blog in 2016. She’s been freelance writing since then and her work has been featured in publications like Travel + Leisure, Forbes Advisor, and Fortune Recommends.

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