Should I be loyal to United under the COVID Era rules?


    Farewell to fee changes. Free standby. An easy path to elite status. Airline rules changed a lot in 2020, which may improve the reasons for preferring one airline over another.

    When you fly United Airlines, it’s time to ask, “Should I keep choosing United in 2021 and beyond?” To help you decide, take a closer look at the airline’s new rules.

    No more change fees

    Like most other US airlines United has stopped charging you a fee for changing your flight if you want to reschedule. This applies to main cabin and premium cabin prices for flights within the US and for international destinations for flights originating in the US. This does not apply to Basic economywhich waives change fees only for tickets issued before March 31, 2021.

    However, if you cancel your flight immediately without rescheduling a new appointment, you may still incur cancellation fees. If the cancellation is related to COVID-related issues, you may be able to request a refund for any trips you have purchased (with the exception of the Economy Base Fares, which are only refunded within 24 hours of booking).

    Stand by for free

    Another welcome change: you can now stand by for another flight on the same day for free. If available, get a seat on another flight to and from the same cities you originally booked without paying for the privilege.

    You can request standby at the airport or through the United app or website to easily adjust plans and catch an earlier flight if your flight schedule changes or you spend a little more time at your destination.

    Easier elite status requirements

    United made it easier for frequent fliers to achieve this Elite status in 2021 (for 2022). The Premier Qualifying Point (PQP) and Premier Qualifying Flight (PQF) thresholds have now been lowered. In addition, current Premier members will have 25% of their required PQPs for 2021 (based on Premier level 2021) automatically deposited into their accounts.

    For Premier Silver status, take 8 PQFs and earn 3,000 PQPs or 3,500 PQPs. The requirements for Premier Gold status double. Premier Platinum aspirants must fly 24 PQFs and earn 9,000 PQPs or 10,000 PQPs. For the top tier, Premier 1K, status holders must fly 36 PQFs and earn 13,500 PQPs – or 15,000 PQPs to bypass flight requirements.

    All MileagePlus members will receive bonus PQPs (50% for non-MileagePlus members, 100% for Premier members) for the first three trips between January 1 and March 31, 2021, which enables members to achieve ( or the Premier Members) even closer to get back on track to re-qualify).

    Other US airlines have also made it easier to get or maintain elite status on their frequent flyer programs, with some offering better rates than United’s. American, for example, is reducing the qualification requirements for elites while extending elite status for an additional year for frequent flyers, whose status should expire in January 2021.

    delta also extends Qualified Member status for an additional year and allows Medallion Qualifying Miles to be extended from 2020 to 2021. southwest has given Rapid Rewards members a boost to bring them closer to qualifying for elite status and extending status through the end of 2021 for those who have qualified by the end of 2020.

    Other changes in the COVID era

    There have been other changes to United’s operating procedures that we hope will last forever.

    With the contactless check-in, passengers can check in for their flights without personal contact. From 2020 you can use the airline’s check-in machines at over 200 airports (and more and more) to scan your boarding pass or mobile app and print out your own luggage tags. All you have to do is drop off your baggage at the specified location, with no contact required.

    Back-to-front boarding optimizes the boarding process and makes it faster and easier for all passengers. With United’s new policy, remaining passengers after pre-boarding will be called on board from back to front and in smaller groups to make it easier to maintain a safe social distance. United has also stepped up its cleaning and disinfection processes using advanced antimicrobial technology and offers passengers hand sanitizing wipes.

    The final result

    Overall, United Airlines’ new rules are a change for the better. Elite status is easier to achieve (at least for now), cleaning standards are higher, same day standby is now available, and change fees for most tariffs are gone for good. These new rules and guidelines are on par with other airlines, and they are all good reasons to stay with United when it comes to the airline of your choice.

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