Tim Foolery

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My Favorite Elite Benefits – United

When flying or staying  a certain number of miles or nights, loyalty programs will give you some extra perks just for being…well…loyal.  Some of these are great, others are great on paper and even others are just useless to me.  I’ve put together a list of my absolutely favorite elite benefits for my two favorite programs: United Mileage Plus and Starwood Preferred Guest.  Today I’ll talk about United and next time Starwood.

By flying 50,000 paid miles a year with United, I earn Premier Gold Status in their Mileage Plus Program.  This mid-level elite status offers some great benefits that I use every single time I fly.

  • Ability to book an Economy Plus Seat when I book my airfare – without a charge.  I’m not crazy tall – but my 6′ (ish) frame really struggles with airline seats that have a whopping 32″ pitch.  Economy Plus seating makes a ride in coach that much more tolerable — actually for me it is a necessity.
  • Ability to select an Exit Row seat when I book my airfare – without a charge.  Just like above, but here I get even more leg room.  I always try to book the second row of the over wing exit rows in United.  This seat gives you the ability to recline your seat, if you want (the first row of exit row cannot recline as it could impede exit in an emergency).  So this seat selection gives me extra leg room, the ability to recline a bit and removes the opportunity that the person in front of me will fully recline.  Win-Win-Win.
  • 500 award mile minimums. This might seem silly, but if you are on a flight that is only 440 miles, with Elite status you’ll get credited 500 miles.  A few years ago I ended the year with a whopping 50,024 miles. Without this 500 mile minimum I wouldn’t have kept my Elite status for the following year.
  • Bonus Miles on all United (and some partner) flights.  As a Premier Gold flyer I earn 50% more redeemable (not elite qualifying) miles on all flights.  For example a flight from ORD-PHX is 1,440 miles. Without this bonus, I would earn just 1,440 miles.  With this bonus, I earn 2,160 miles.  This even works with the 500 miles minimum above – so if I fly 440 miles, I actually earn 750 redeemable miles.
  • Priority Boarding.  Being a Premier Gold flyer, I get to board with Group 2 — and so does most of the plane.  We get to board after First Class flyers and Premier 1K and Premier Platinum flyers.  The only reason I want to get on the plane earlier is to guarantee I will have a space in the overheard bins for my hand luggage.  I hate checking a bag and I hate gate checking even more.

These are the Elite Benefits with United that I love and use the most.  You get a bunch more perks – I’ll write about some of the other ones that are great on paper but they don’t really matter because they never in a practicality come into play.

Next time I’ll write about my favorite Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum Benefits.

What are you favorite United elite benefits?  What about other airlines?


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