My Failed Mileage Run Plan and United’s Expensive Offer
Frequent readers of this site will know that I spent the last couple of months of 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for work. I was expecting to stay for several more months, but ended up coming back home early, just before the holidays. This sudden change of plans got me thinking about a mileage run to attempt to qualify for United Premier 1K Status. Unfortunately my plan failed, and I ended the year only about 5,000 miles short of 1K. Last week United offered me a chance to purchase 1K status via e-mail. Keep reading to see why I failed at my mileage run attempt and why I am also going to pass on United’s offer.
My Mileage Run Plan
Once I realized that I would be flying a Star Alliance partner, Ethiopian Airlines, direct from Addis to Washington, D.C. in December I calculated the Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) that I would earn via the flight–7,192. With these 7,192 unexpected PQMs I would be just over 5,000 miles short of United 1K status (100,000 PQMs in a calendar year). United’s Premier 1K status offers some very valuable benefits, including Global and Regional Upgrades, more miles earned per flight (11x the flight cost versus 9x flight cost for platinum, and many others detailed below:
The benefits that I valued the most were the Additional Regional Premier Upgrades (RPUs) and the Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs). Additionally, as a 1K member you have a better chance of getting complimentary space-available upgrades when you aren’t using RPUs or GPUs. I valued these benefits at about $2,000 more than United Platinum Status.
Therefore, it made sense for me to attempt a mileage run to earn the additional 5000 miles. I knew that I would have until December 31 to get it done, but I didn’t want to wait until Christmas or the week after, as flight prices would be inflated. I looked at the week of December 14, since I was supposed to be home from Ethiopia on the 13th. I needed a flight that would get me over 5,000 miles, so I started pricing transcontinental flights from DC and Philly. Price was a huge factor, I wanted to pay less than $500 and schedule was also important–I could only spare about 2 days.
After searching, I found an round-trip itinerary from Philadelphia to Seattle with a connection in Houston each way departing on Decmeber 15th and returning late on the 16th. This itinerary priced out at $440 and would earn me more than enough PQMs to qualify for 1K. Additionally, I would earn 9x redeemable miles on the cost of the itinerary (3,960 miles), which I value at approximately $75. To sweeten the idea, I had some friends in Seattle that I was looking forward to seeing, and I decided to spend one night and have dinner/drinks with them. So I booked the non-refundable ticket.
Unfortunately, this plan all unravelled when my departure from Ethiopia was slipped a week due to a change in military plans. This meant that now I wouldn’t arrive back until 1 week later, December 20. I obviously would not be able to make my mileage run as scheduled, and I was not able to conveniently change it due to the holidays and the change fee on the non-refundable ticket. My dream for 1K was dead. I would end the year with 94,981 PQMs, with all other requirements for 1K met. This was agonizingly close to 1K, but simply did not qualify.
United’s Status Upgrade E-mail
And then, there was hope! I received this e-mail from United last week:
I could purchase an upgrade to 1K status! This was great news. I figured since I was so close to 1K status that United might let me purchase the relatively small amount of PQMs for a reasonable fee. So I clicked on the link…
Oh snap! $2,199 to secure 1K status! Since I only needed 5,019 PQMs to make 1K, at this price it would be like buying each of those miles for almost 44 cents per mile. I typically value United miles at around 1.8 cents per mile, so this was an extremely high premium for PQMs. Also, via the same link I could purchase Premier 1K Status for 2016 and 5000 PQMs toward 2017 status for $2,899 or Premier 1K Status for 2016 and 10,000 PQMs toward 2017 status for $3,599. Needless to say, I do not see the value in these prices. I can’t imagine too many people jumping on this offer, unless they value the 1K status very highly!
I think I will be just fine as a United Platinum for 2016. Maybe I will have a chance to make 1K next for next year.
United charges its customers an extremely high amount to upgrade from one status to another after the end of the year. The best way around this is to qualify for the status that you want via flying during the year. A good-value mileage run is a great way get the last of the miles you may need prior to December 31. In my case, the mileage run plan failed. Luckily, I sent United my military orders and explained the situation and they refunded my non-refundable fare. I wasn’t out any money for my cancelled flights, I still earned Platinum Status, but I will not be paying to upgrade to 1K. Others reported getting similar offers…did you receive one?