United Airlines is reducing the requirements for members of its frequent flyer program to qualify for perks as it looks to draw travelers back to its flights.
MileagePlus members will need fewer points in 2021 to qualify for the airline’s “Premier” status, which allows them to get freebies like upgrades, priority service, extra checked bags and pre-boarding. United is also offering several ways travelers can get bonuses toward qualifying.
The threshold for premier silver, the lowest tier, is down from 5,000 qualifying points or 4,000 points plus 12 qualifying flights, to 3,500 points or 3,000 points plus eight flights. The thresholds for the other tiers were also lowered.
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Current premier members will receive a bonus deposit of 25% of the required number of points to qualify for their same status level in 2022.
United will give passengers bonus points on their first three flights between Jan. 1 and March 31. MileagePlus members without premier status will get 50% extra points, while premier members will get 100% more points. The airline said this is the first time it has ever offered a bonus qualifying point promotion.
The airline is also adding a new perk for premier members in 2021. They will all be able to make same-day itinerary changes if another flight with the same fare class is open.
The changes are coming a year after United altered its premier program to calculate points based on the number of qualifying flights, rather than the distance traveled or number of flight segments, Fox Business reported. That meant travelers had to spend more to qualify for each premier tier.
But the airline had no way of knowing a global pandemic would chill travel worldwide this year. TSA data show that just a fraction of the number of passengers flying a year ago are traveling now. And United posted a $1.8 billion net loss last quarter.
Luc Bondar, United’s vice president of loyalty and marketing and president of MileagePlus, said the airline has “taken a leadership approach in enacting customer-friendly changes.”
“From announcing state-of-the-art cleaning and safety policies, to debuting innovative new technologies and now adjusting our loyalty program to reflect this new environment, United customers can feel confident that we are making progressive changes that reflect their needs both next year and, in the years to come,” Bondar said in a press release.