To no one's surprise, United is implementing a revenue based elite-qualifying system for the 2014 qualification year. Rumors of this change have been brewing for years even before United's merger with Continental, but nothing materialized until now. Following the heels of Delta, United is officially weeding out their bottom feeders and thinning out their elite ranks.
Whereas meeting the PQD requirements may not be too difficult for savvy business travelers, this change effectively eliminates mileage running. Last January, American Airlines had a triple EQM promo between SFO and ORD, and I earned top-tier Executive Platinum status by spending less than $1,800. But as you can see in the above chart, I'd still be a hefty $8,200 short of top-tier status had AA used a revenue based system.
To add insult to injury, United is also upping their fees for award flight changes exclusively for non-elite members. Aside from free stopovers and open jaws, one of the gems of United award travel was the ability to change travel dates without incurring a fee. But effective today, any date changes 21 days out or 21 days in will cost you $75 or $100, respectively. Furthermore, you'll now be down $200 if you cancel an award ticket.
In essence, there will no longer be any fast tracks and "free meals" to earning elite status with United and Delta. As elite status benefits have also taken a royal shafting, this is just another path that these legacy carriers are taking in light of their razor-thin profit margins. All said and done, this is likely the future of frequent flyer programs,
and AA will likely follow suit after their merger with US Airways.