Earn Elite and Lifetime Credits With United Basic Economy Fares

Dec 10, 2018

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As the rare product that airlines actually don’t want you to purchase, United’s historically done just about everything it could to make basic economy as unappealing as possible. Finally, there’s a bit of good news on that front.

United’s basic economy fares exclude seat assignments, carry-on bags, Economy Plus or first class upgrades — and, inexplicably, they didn’t even count toward Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) requirements for elite status. Like, you’re still spending money with the airline, but United, in an attempt to further discourage elite-status hopefuls from buying these tickets, decided that it’s going to ignore any amount spent on those deep-discounted fares, even when they still end up costing you many hundreds of dollars for certain flights.

United elites still can't select free Economy Plus seats.
United elites still can’t select free Economy Plus seats.

Fortunately, much of that is about to change. For all travel beginning Dec. 11, United will allow basic economy fares to count toward elite status, finally matching basic economy on American and Delta. MileagePlus members will earn:

  • Full Premier Qualifying Dollars
  • 50% Premier Qualifying Miles
  • 0.5 Premier Qualifying Segments
  • Lifetime miles (based on mileage flown)
  • Segments toward the four-segment minimum for elite status

Even after this change, all customers (including elite members) will not be eligible for:

  • Complimentary seat selection (including Economy Plus)
  • Paid, mileage or certificate upgrades
  • Complimentary (elite) upgrades
  • Ticket changes or refunds
  • Online check-in (unless you’re paying for a checked bag)

United elites and Star Alliance Gold members do get priority boarding, a free full-sized carry-on bag and one free checked bag — as a result of these changes, if you’re okay forgoing free seat assignments, flight changes and upgrades, buying a basic economy fare won’t sting quite as much as it has in the past.

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