I Am a Newly Challenged UA 1K

I have flown United Airlines once in my life, in 1999, Tokyo-Shanghai while in school.

Yet now I am 1K for 90 days. Amazing the things you learn in the miles and points world.

United airlines

Photo by Kevin Dooley

I have been a lifelong Northwest now Delta flyer, and it has generally worked for me. Except for a half-year stint in Miami, I have always lived in markets in the US and China where they and their partners have a strong presence.

Recent changes at Delta hit my travel patterns particularly hard:

  • Changes to the domestic Same-Day Confirmed program that added complexity, uncertainty and fees, even for me as a Diamond Medallion.
  • Twice devaluing mileage earning on partner airlines outside the Americas and Western Europe, those “other” regions are the bulk of my business and leisure travel.

The sole positive news this year for me is the creative Crossover Rewards with SPG. It is nice to have these points show up but not enough for me to shift travel plans.

I work in international business and whenever I can, I travel internationally for pleasure. All those years studying Mandarin and living in China have paid off at least in some serious mile earning. I currently have 254,542 MQMs so I am set for the next two years. Even if I don’t fly them again, I can get around the Medallion Qualification Dollars with the credit card or ‘moving overseas.’

So I need to heed the advice of everyone more sensible and diversify.

The miles and points cognoscenti favor United, but not actually flying them, rather their partners. I realize that as reluctant as I am to be based in NY and will leave the day I convince my wife to move, while here I should be taking advantage of the huge variety of international carriers and price competition. For one, Turkish consistently has great economy fares to places high on my travel wishlist.

With some surprise July business plans in place, and concern that Status Challenge requirements might follow last year’s pattern and go up July 1, this morning I submitted my request by email and was a 1K within 2 hours. Same offer as others have reported, “To remain a Premier 1K member through 2013, you will need to fly 35,000 Premier qualifying miles (PQM) or 40 Premier qualifying segments (PQS) on flights operated by United®, United Express® or Copa within that 90-day timeframe.”

Coincidentally WSJ’s The Middle Seat today wrote about airline Status Challenges, quoting a Delta flyer in a similar frame of mind:

Status matches also provide a path for travelers to vent anger and leave poor-performing carriers. Keith Lochwood, a longtime Northwest Airlines and then Delta Air Lines DAL +1.52% customer who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., got fed up with Delta when the airline made it harder to confirm same-day flight changes and when his success at getting upgrades declined. He has Diamond status at Delta—the airline’s highest level, which gets him personal transfers between flights in Atlanta in Porsches driven across the tarmac.

Delta took it in stride, pointing out that bolting is two-way:

Delta said it is aware of customer experiences similar to Mr. Lochwood’s. “We would have just as many stories to tell of people who have had it with American or United or whoever and came to us,” spokesman Paul Skrbec said. “It balances out.”

To protect existing customers, Delta takes in customers through status matches at one level lower than a traveler’s status at a rival. A 1K at United or Executive Platinum at American is offered Platinum at Delta, not the higher Diamond level. “To remain exclusive and special, we make sure Diamond status isn’t given away,” Mr. Skrbec said.

Now it is time for me to regret all the times I have skipped over articles on United. My first flight will be JFK-SFO on something called p.s. and it turns out I need a RPU to even try for an upgrade. Wandering Aramean took pity on my ignorance and even offered one of his. What I know about United comes from his FTU presentation.

It is so tempting to fly to Japan on ANA later this month but, nope, I’ve got to find a way to fly United for the challenge, I hope the only time I make that trade-off.

I am realizing taking up a new airline is a mix of nerves and fun. I was in a rut with Delta. I am salivating at all the new nonstop destinations open to me on United and its partners, I spent the afternoon gazing at the Wikipedia pages for EWR and JFK.

First destination on my list is a dark horse. St. John’s, Newfoundland. I want to go to France, that is Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and the ferry service is only daily Jul 1-Sep 15.

Here’s to a new dance partner in the skies!

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  • Congrats, and thanks for referencing my post. I became Premier Plat today. Roughly half the number of miles required (18K in 90 days).

  • @Amol – an excellent post, forced me off my bottom before 7/1. My business trips in July should get me to around 24k, the final 11k I am not sure where it will come from, nothing else on the calendar and clients don’t usually bail me out in August. Maybe a September weekend jaunt.

  • good luck with the status challenge! I think you’d be better off earning valuable United miles rather than skypesos!

  • Steven DS

    Priority Club credit card gone!

  • Jimmy

    Glad to hear you status matched to UA! About time 😉

  • A

    So frustrating, they should allow status challenges outright. I was downgraded from 1k to gold last year, due to a new assignment and now will be back at 1k or GS very shortly, but I’m doing almost all of it as gold, no fun. 70k miles in 3 months, I feel that is deserving of an outright status challenge.

  • Levy Flight

    My understanding from what I hear, not flying DL, is thst if you want a better flying and travellimg experience within the US go with DL, if you want to gain ff points go with UA. Being 1K i get great phone service but, boy, have alot of planes had problems causimg be to be stuck in the wrong place. I colect the points and fly internationally and so UA are besrable for me. Note- you’ll need to spend 10k plus taxes on them next yesr to maintain 1k.

  • @Levy Flight – I’m sure 10k is no problem for him on United as he flew 254,542 miles on Delta alone this year…

  • Welcome to the Friendly Skies!

  • Jason

    I came over to Delta the same as you, and I still miss Northwest. Wasn’t the fanciest aircraft at the time, but good service and friendly people.

    I didn’t like the way Delta treated us when we first merged, but I’ve been happier eith them as the years went on, though I still miss Northwest. Did I already mention that 😉

  • NB

    I hope you registered with an overseas address otherwise to requalify next year you need not only to have four segments on UA metal but also to spend $10,000 on 016 ticket stock.

  • @NB – thanks for the reminder, I am not sure my plans for next year but I do feel a move is in the cards.

  • @Steven DS – ah, I have been trying to convince my wife to apply and she has been resisting, with two certs a year we can have an annual nice weekend outing. It looks like the 80k link on FlyerTalk still works but the fine print referenced IHG Rewards Club instead of Priority Club. Will be curious if anyone is able to add IHG Rewards Club in addition to Priority Club.

  • @A – it does seem a guilty shortcut, a similar dilemma as with credit cards the big effort is in getting new customers rather than keeping old ones.

  • @Jamison, @Levy Flight – I have lucked out in the business travel area this year due to some Asia projects, I never assume that will continue year-to-year so I am mindful of making that, and I really would prefer every international chance I get to fly partners instead of UA.

  • Good post. I tried to flirt with UA a few times during my DC days, but always slicked back to AA….and ultimately US…. (gasp)

    Should work out better for you and your travel patterns. Will look forward to reading about your experiences with UA.

  • Luis Seoane

    Man, you’re brave! I am 1K and 2 Million Miler with United, but last year I moved to Emirates. After flying with United for so many years and be 1K fr so long, they have not missed me and I for sure don’t miss them.
    I hope you’ll have a better experience than the one that I had.

  • I did the same thing a few weeks back, except to American. The service in domestic first is better, by far. Also, the agents are much more proactive when it comes to managing delays than the Delta people are. I will complete my challenge, flying 25,000 EQP’s at the end of August. Let’s compare notes after then.

  • @Aaron Hurd – happy travels, I am sure there will always be greener grass!

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  • I just love that you are going to Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and I’ve had my eye on it too for over a year now! 🙂

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