Finish of the highway for top-tier airline standing: Why I am not even going to attempt to requalify

It is the homestretch of 2023, my work journeys for the 12 months are nearly over, and for the primary time in ages, I am not doing something in November or December to try to requalify for airline elite standing.

No last-minute mileage runs (which have been at all times form of a nasty concept), no routing flights in a technique to earn further segments, no shifting all my spending to my airline cobranded bank card, no shopping for as much as firstclass to earn extra qualifying factors on present flights, no squeezing in additional journeys “for enjoyable,” nothing. I am simply letting it go.

Here is why.

Associated: Is airline elite standing price it?

Airline standing necessities are actually excessive now

Let’s begin with the primary purpose I am strolling away from top-tier airline standing with out a combat: The necessities to earn standing have simply gotten too excessive.

I have been a United Airways Premier 1K for the final a number of years, and final 12 months, United introduced elevated necessities to earn standing in 2023. I instantly knew proper then and there my time close to the highest of the boarding gate meals chain was in all probability over.

After I requalified for 1K standing in 2022, the necessities have been 36 flight segments plus 13,500 Premier qualifying factors. That is nonetheless a number of flying, but it surely was about what I do in a 12 months if I keep fairly busy and guarantee United will get nearly all of my enterprise.

However now, only a 12 months later, the necessities are considerably greater. For instance, you want 54 particular person flights (outlined as a takeoff and touchdown) and have to spend about $18,000 with United (excluding taxes, charges, and many others.) to earn 1K. That is a few 33% improve in a single 12 months in spending and a 50% improve within the variety of required flights.

As I write this in early November 2023, I am sitting at 41 segments with United and simply over 13,000 PQPs. Final 12 months, I would be nearly to 1K standing with that quantity of journey and would unquestionably guarantee I closed the hole to earn a couple of hundred extra PQPs with bank card spending or an additional journey. Nonetheless, that hurdle to get not solely 13 extra flights however about $5,000 extra in spending with the airline this 12 months for a similar standing tier I’ve had is only a bridge method, method too far.

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It isn’t simply United. Everyone knows how excessive Delta Air Traces raised its {qualifications}. Whereas the airline backtracked on the thresholds a bit on account of buyer outrage, they continue to be a lot greater.

High-tier airline standing is now just for (actually) heavy spenders

Not too way back, airline standing was awarded based mostly on how far you flew, not how a lot you spent. However that each one modified within the final decade.

In truth, in 2019, I wrote an article titled, “Is that this the top of the runway for frequent flyer applications as we all know them?” And whereas the pandemic slowed a few of what United was attempting to implement at the moment shortly after the article was written, the reply to that query is sure.

I’ll doubtless finish the 12 months over 80% of the best way there naturally on segments for 1K and will have realistically gotten that whole greater all year long. However I am method off on the spending aspect of the necessities. Even $13,000-plus spent with the airline this 12 months is not near unlocking 1K standing.

I journey quite a bit, however what I do not do is journey quite a bit in paid first or enterprise class or on a lot of pricier worldwide flights. Most of my flights are from Houston to New York, Orlando or related, with a couple of farther-flung journeys combined in over the course of a 12 months, and that is simply not sufficient.


High-tier airline standing is now nearly solely for the actually heavy spenders. With United, it’s worthwhile to spend $18,000-plus in a 12 months (together with assembly different necessities), and with Delta subsequent 12 months, you will want a staggering 28,000 Medallion Qualification {Dollars} (down some from the 35,000 they initially introduced).

Whereas I journey for work (and enjoyable) a great quantity, it is not on these expensive worldwide, business-class or last-minute fares that may make it sensible to hit top-tier standing.

You are typically higher off shopping for what you need while you need it

Lastly, I am not strolling away from airline standing utterly. I am going to nonetheless have United’s Premier Platinum standing, which comes with lots of the identical perks. The primary variations are a decrease precedence on the improve checklist and incomes considerably fewer PlusPoints that can be utilized to safe upgrades on paid flights.

I did have a extremely large win with PlusPoints this 12 months after I acquired them to clear to and from London. Nonetheless, on the entire, it was usually exhausting to clear into firstclass as a 1K, even when utilizing PlusPoints all through a number of this 12 months. United, like different airways, usually sells discounted first-class upgrades within the realm of $150 to $300 on the home routes I fly to get some further money quite than “giving freely” the improve.


To illustrate I take the facility again in my palms and pay to improve six instances subsequent 12 months at $250 a pop. That is nonetheless simply a further $1,500 spent to lock within the upgrades I need after I need them, and that is quite a bit lower than attempting to shut the hole to 1K standing this 12 months.

Backside line

I’ve stated many instances because the coming modifications to incomes elite standing have been introduced final 12 months that I’d in all probability not qualify for top-tier elite standing once more this 12 months, and I feel most of my mates within the journey world did not imagine me. They thought I would do one thing weird to hold on or find yourself with extra journey and spending than I believed.

However typically, it’s a must to admit while you’re priced out of the market and simply choose up and transfer on. There are actually larger issues occurring on this planet than worrying for too lengthy about dropping top-tier airline elite standing, so I am going to settle again into extra of the center of the pack and hope I am not pushed out of that neighborhood too quickly.

Should you’re now additionally dealing with the choice of including to your end-of-year journey schedule or simply shifting on and getting into a brand new part of your airline elite standing journey, you are not alone. Should you make the identical selection I did, I am going to see you a little bit additional within the boarding course of and some rows again on the aircraft.

However in fact, in the event you aren’t prepared for that change of seating deal with, listed here are last-minute methods for incomes airline elite standing … and a helpful information to leveraging the elite standing you’ve gotten proper now with airline standing matches.

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