United copied Delta in adopting minimum spend requirements for elite status, and raising those requirements when Delta did.
They chose the exact same spending thresholds, even though they have a different business than Delta does. Delta earns profits, maintains operating margins, and attracts a revenue premium that United does not.
United Boeing 757
(Incidentally when I wrote a year ago that American would adopt minimum spend for elite status, I predicted wrongly that they’d pick thresholds that differed from Delta. They just aped Delta’s numbers, too, despite running a different business than Delta does.)
Although United declared two years ago that its problem was too many customers, it hasn’t managed its elite pool as well and has shedded too many elites.
United CEO Oscar Munoz Wants His Customers Back
Last month United handed out one-level status upgrades to many elites, and free economy plus to many members without status (but who held status in the past).
Now there are reports that United is sending out targeted offers to let members buy elite qualifying miles and segments.
The offer seems to be 15,000 miles and 15 segments for varying amounts — such as $1650, $1800, $2400 and even $2500.
It’s common to offer buy ups to the next level of status at the end of the year. That’s something American does each year. And United has long offered the ability to buy extra qualifying miles in conjunction with tickets (Premier Accelerator will be a better deal for many). But this is notable:
- Encouraging members to boost their status mid-year, suggesting United is behind in the number of elites they’d have projected.
- In the past an airline would offer double qualifying miles, but in this era of monetization they’re trying to sell the extra qualifying miles.
- They’re doing it midyear, rather than at the end of the year.
- The big money involved doesn’t even count towards United’s minimum spend requirement for status.