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United Airlines raises requirements for frequent flyer program's most elite status

United Airlines raises requirements for frequent flyer program's most elite status
The United Airlines terminal at Chicago O'Hare International Airport is seen April 12, 2017. The airline is making it harder to reach the top level of its frequent flyer program. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)

Starting next year, United Airlines will make it more difficult to reach the MileagePlus plans’ most elite status level — Premier 1K — but the carrier is offering a new perk for such top-tier flyers.

Starting Jan. 1, members of the loyalty reward program must spend a minimum of $15,000 and accumulate at least 100,000 miles or fly at least 120 segments to reach Premier 1K status, a 25 percent increase from the current spending minimum of $12,000. The mileage minimum won’t change, just the spending obligation.

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Another change involves how many miles travelers collect once they reach Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum or Premier 1K status. Instead of collecting the equivalent of twice the number of miles when they buy a discounted fare, Premier status members will get 1.5 times the number of miles, starting Jan. 1.

But flyers who reach Premier 1K status are already getting a benefit: Starting in September, such flyers got to board along with the very first passengers, during the “preboarding” period, instead of boarding with Group 1. Premier Gold members can now board with Group 1 instead of with Group 2.

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Also, Premier Silver members now get to check up to three bags that weigh as much as 70 pounds apiece — up from a maximum of weight of 50 pounds — free of charge when flying business or first class. When flying economy, up to two bags are allowed.

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