Downgraded Elite Status by United!

by Adam

Back in July, the Weekly Flyer had a post titled United Premier Platinum Status Match: If At First You Don’t Succeed, which recounted his experience with successfully receiving a corporate status match from United after previously being turned down. My company never communicated to us that we had a similar program, but after a little digging with our travel liaison, I found out that this too was part of our contract with UA (but not advertised). Most of our corporate travel is focused with Delta and American and that’s where I actually earn my status.

Now, my old company had a similar program and I had applied under those terms about five years earlier (or so I thought). I submitted my credentials and was matched to Premier 1K through 2015 (since it was after July) after only three days. All was well, I truly picked up my UA and Star Alliance partner travel after being matched and was enjoying my perks…but then there was this on Friday. An email from United came to my inbox reminding me that my “challenge was ending on October 19th”. What? I thought I had been matched not challenged! I tried calling the Premier 1K line who connected me to the MileagePlus 1K desk, who could see nothing but my current status. I responded to the letter and received the following response:

Hello Mr. Point Me to the Plane,

Thank you for taking the time to email.

On July 20, 2013 one of our Service Directors made an exception to grant you a status match but it should not have been a corporate status match as you had a previous match with another company about five years earlier. However, this program should only be available once every five years. Regrettably, we must therefore honor the terms of the Premier Status Match Challenge rather than the corporate match and cannot extend the qualification deadlines. 

We appreciate your interest in our Premier program.


MileagePlus® Service Center

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Wow, I totally understand the rules and honestly thought it had been five years (I’ve since found out it was 4 years and 10 months at the time of the match). I am surprised though that there was no communication when they noticed the error, informing me of the flight requirements I would then have to meet. Even more concerning, I’m assuming this has restarted the clock and I’ll now have to wait another five years for a match (still confirming this). It was nice while it lasted!

Interesting fun fact (and perhaps a good reason to deny my match), since being upgraded to 1K in July, I received no upgrades on any of 14 UA flight segments out of LGA or EWR! Granted, Newark is a major UA hub and the NY market has tons of United 1K elites.

The very quick fall from 1K to Member…

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Regardless of the mix-up, United’s MileagePlus program certainly has some of the most generous award availability in the industry and I’ll of course continue redeeming via my MileagePlus account balance and Chase Ultimate Rewards (UPDATE – for a limited time given the devaluations)…although the associated fees aren’t going to be fun for changes or last minute bookings! Luckily, I have my Aegean status for domestic and international lounge access and waived baggage fees!

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Brett October 22, 2013 - 12:13 pm

You got 0/14 upgrades as a 1K? Wow. United truly makes it pointless to strive for status…

Scotts October 22, 2013 - 12:23 pm

PFFF you’re not missing much, AA treats ExPlats 10x better than UA treats 1Ks, it’s a non-factor in my opinion.

I was 1/22 as a 1K and 26/28 on AA

Joey October 22, 2013 - 1:15 pm

Back in 2008-2010 when I was a Continental Plat (highest elite level for Continental except Presidential Plat which was invitational), I always got complimentary upgrades on Continental from EWR. Ever since it became United, I probably had 40%-50% success rate in getting a comp’d upgrade as a UA 1K. :/

poorstudentblog October 22, 2013 - 3:35 pm

It is United. What are you expecting?

Nick October 22, 2013 - 3:55 pm

It’s not only 1K’s getting your upgrades. Basically if you are flying at peak times your upgrade rates on UA will suck even as a 1K. (Govt Y fares, TOD’s) Outside of these times, things will be much better, but they will still try to sell that upgrade out from under you.

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