How Many Elite Members Do Frequent Flyer Programs Have?

Reader Jered asked how many elite members of United’s MileagePlus program there are.

And the easy answer is I do not know precisely, these are closely-guarded numbers. But I do have some “bigger than a breadbox” sorts of estimates.

In other words, I have a general idea of the size of the elite pool, within a few hundred thousand members. It should give an idea of roughly what percentage of total members are elites, and how the relative size of each elite tier looks compared to each other.

I do have some knowledge of old numbers, but these are from when programs were much smaller — before United and Continental merged, before Delta and Northwest merged, before American and US Airways merged.

Roughly speaking, the combined American-US Airways program is about 100 million members. United’s program should be in the 80-90 million member range, and Delta SkyMiles should be in the 75-80 million member range.

Not all of these are active members of course, this is the size of the total member file, in rough ballpark numbers. We do know that, even after de-duping the US Airways and American member file that the program should be about 100 million strong — definitely the largest frequent flyer program in the world.

So how many are elites?

Taking United’s MileagePlus, there shouldn’t be more than about 2 million total elite members. I’d guess it’s less rather than more, closer to 1.5 million, but that’s just a guess.

  • Premier Silver, 25,000 mile flyers, represent the largest percentage of elites… in fact, they should be more than half.
  • Premier Gold members should be a bit under half the number of Silvers.
  • And 1Ks and Global Services members likely represent no more than about 10%, probably closer to 8%

These percentages should roughly hold across major carriers, in the limit. For instance I’d guess that American has 50,000 – 60,000 Executive Platinum members and maybe 15,000 Concierge Key members [I’m not sure whether these would be additive or not, Concierge Key members now receive Executive Platinum status as well].

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. DL Diamonds make up 5% of the elite pool and 0.5% of the active pool. These numbers come from the welcome kit sent to new Diamonds.

    If DL has 80 million members, 10 million active, 1 million elite, 50,000 Diamond — the numbers work.

  2. Thanks for the estimates! Unfortunately most of those GS members seem to be on my BOS-SFO flights. :-/ It’s somewhat amusing when the upgrade list is half of the capacity of the plane.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing how the (rumored) BOS-SFO B6’s Mint service will shake up the route. I’m not too hopeful, given VX’s entry didn’t make much difference, but we’ll see…

  3. This post is just a bunch of guesses.

    “Taking United’s MileagePlus, there shouldn’t be more than about 2 million total elite members. I’d guess it’s less rather than more, closer to 1.5 million, but that’s just a guess.”

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