United is changing the MileagePlus Premier status qualification formula to place emphasis on the amount customers spend rather than on the number of miles customers fly. 

The carrier is also upping the spending requirement to achieve loyalty status.  

Beginning in the coming calendar year, MileagePlus members will be scored for loyalty status accrual based only on the number of flights they take and on the number of dollars they spend. Customers who fly a minimum of 12 flights and spend at least $4,000 over the course of the year earn Premier Silver status. In addition, MileagePlus members who spend at least $5,000 earn Silver status regardless of how many flights they have taken. Basic economy tickets count toward the spending threshold but not toward the flight threshold. 

The formula will be similar for earning Gold, Platinum and 1K status, but with sequentially higher requirements. Earning 1K status, for example, will require a MileagePlus member to take 54 flights and spend $18,000, or to spend $24,000. 

The system is simpler than the one United currently employs. At present, MileagePlus members can earn status either through a combination of the amount they have spent plus the number of qualifying segments they have flown or the amount they have spent plus the number of qualifying miles they have flown. Further complicating the formula are segment and miles multipliers for premium tickets. Those will go away under the revised system.   

United says it is changing its status-accrual formula because it wants to provide more balance to all customers, regardless of how long their typical flights are. 

Under the existing system, however, the spending requirement is lower than it will be going forward. This year, UnitedPlus members can earn Silver status by spending $3,000, provided they also meet the qualifying mile or qualifying segment threshold. 1K status can be obtained with a minimum spend of $15,000 instead of the upcoming $18,000.

On its website, United said it nevertheless expects the number of people with Premier status to grow due to the changes -- in part because for the first time MileagePlus award co-pays and paid upgrades will count toward the spending threshold. In addition, flyers will now accrue qualifying dollars for flights ticketed and operated by other Star Alliance airlines as well as additional United partners, though on a 1/5 or 1/6 basis. 

The change to Premier status accrual is the third significant adjustment United has made recently to its Mileage Plus program. In August, the carrier did away with Mileage Plus reward point expirations. Then last month, United changed its complimentary upgrade program to provide greater flexibility for Platinum and 1K loyalty status members.

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