I flew a lot (by my standards) on United last year, including a trip to Israel, and came about 5,000 miles short of qualifying for their lowest tier of premier status. I got a flyer from them in the mail saying I could make up the difference with cash — but it turns out the cash cost of making up the 5,000 mile gap is $800. This is not an attractive offer. I’ve had premier status on United before, and it was pleasant, but not $800 pleasant; I think I was upgraded maybe a couple of times over the course of the year, and I’m not sure what real benefit I got from getting to board first.
Still, those benefits would be enough to make me more likely to choose United, especially for longer trips when the chance of upgrade and access to the Economy Plus seats means more. So why are they asking for so much money, I wonder? Wouldn’t just giving me premier status be a good value for United?
The threshold has to be somewhere: somehow they’ve calculated that the people who fly 25,000 miles a year are the ones whose business they want to attract with premier. But of course I did fly that much last year; just not all with United. So my question is: doesn’t United know this? I am not the kind of guy who’s careful to log out of Facebook and Google before buying a plane ticket, so lots of data vendors know which plane tickets I’ve bought. I would guess United knows that I spend money with other airlines, which is foregone revenue for them. Or do they not actually know this?
It’s also possible that premier is a money-loser for United, and they don’t want so many people to have the status. (Maybe they make enough money selling those Economy Plus seats a la carte that it doesn’t make sense to let a lot of people claim them free?) Evidence for that: they’re making premier status harder to get.