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Your guide to United Airlines lifetime elite status

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Whether you’re a dedicated business traveler or a passionate jet-setter, reaching Million Miler status is a testament to your continued patronage of United Airlines.

Although it requires a lot of flying on paid tickets, Million Milers enjoy United Airlines elite status for life and can share their status with a companion. And unlike American Airlines lifetime elite status and Delta Air Lines’ Million Miler program, United offers Million Milers a path to its ultraexclusive unpublished Global Services tier.

In fairness, only a small percentage of United’s 100-plus million MileagePlus members will ever qualify for lifetime status. But United’s most frequent flyer, Tom Stuker, has earned over 23 million lifetime flight miles with United. And even if you don’t fly nearly as much as Tom, you may still aspire to earn Million Miler status and lock in United Premier elite status for life.

Here’s what you need to know about lifetime elite status with United Airlines.

United lifetime flight miles

Even if you pay for a full-fare Polaris seat, you’ll earn the same lifetime flight miles as an economy passenger on a discount fare. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Nowadays, the major U.S. airline loyalty programs award status to high spenders rather than frequent travelers. That’s why United flyers must earn Premier qualifying points — or a combination of PQPs and Premier qualifying flights — each year to earn United Premier status.

However, United awards Million Miler status based on the total distance you’ve flown on paid United- and United Express-operated flights credited to MileagePlus. Lifetime flight miles do not expire or reset.

As mentioned, you can only earn lifetime flight miles on paid United- and United Express-operated flights. Most cash fares, including United basic economy, earn lifetime flight miles. Regardless of your cabin class, you earn a lifetime flight mile for each physical mile you fly (based on the miles scheduled for your flights, not the actual flight distance).

But although you can now earn PQPs and PQFs on some award bookings, you won’t earn lifetime flight miles on award flights. Additionally, flights operated by partner airlines don’t earn lifetime flight miles.

When you log in to your MileagePlus account, you’ll see your lifetime flight miles under the “Premier progress” section.

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Related: Is it worth pursuing lifetime elite status?

Million Miler status with United

Flights operated by Star Alliance partners won’t get you closer to Million Miler status. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Here’s what it takes to earn Million Miler status with United:

Lifetime flight miles Status level
1 million. Premier Gold.
2 million. Premier Platinum.
3 million. Premier 1K.
4 million. Global Services.

Unlike American and Delta, which offer the lowest status tier to flyers who reach 1 million lifetime flight miles with the program, United offers members mid-tier Premier Gold for life when they reach 1 million lifetime flight miles.

Premier Gold includes many of the same perks as top-tier United status, like access to Economy Plus seating at the time of booking, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status and Star Alliance Gold status.

Then, for each additional million miles you fly, you’ll boost your status. You’ll be a Global Services member for life if you earn 4 million lifetime flight miles. Generally, this is an invitation-only status tier for United’s highest spenders.

Some TPG readers have reported that United is no longer crediting PlusPoints to Premier Platinum and 1K lifetime elite members who are no longer meeting the annual requirements for their status tiers. In a statement, a United spokesperson confirmed this was due to a technical error, but many Million Milers have gone without their PlusPoints despite their best efforts. So, as a Million Miler, don’t expect PlusPoints if you’re not meeting the PQP (or PQP and PQF) requirements for your respective status.

Arguably, however, the best part of United’s Million Miler program is sharing your current status with a companion. For example, if you’re a 2 Million Miler with lifetime Premier Platinum status but currently hold Premier 1K status, you can designate your spouse to also enjoy Premier 1K. However, note that you can only share your current status with a spouse, significant other or individual who resides at your home address.

If you’re a Million Miler, you can select your companion on United’s website.

Related: How I use my United PlusPoints to maximize the chance of an upgrade

How long does it take to earn Million Miler status?

Flying long-haul economy class is the cheapest way to earn United Million Miler status. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Since United only credits lifetime flight miles on paid United-operated flights, earning 1 million lifetime flight miles (let alone 4 million) is not easy. If you earn 100,000 lifetime flight miles per year, it’ll take you a decade to earn 1 million lifetime flight miles.

If you qualify for lifetime flight status entirely on one-way flights from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), here’s what it would take to secure status for life:

  • Lifetime Premier Gold: 390 flights (around 2,150 inflight hours).
  • Lifetime Premier Platinum: 780 flights (around 4,300 inflight hours).
  • Lifetime Premier 1K: 1,170 flights (around 6,450 inflight hours).
  • Lifetime Global Services: 1,560 flights (around 8,600 inflight hours).

Of course, if you travel frequently on long-haul United flights, you’ll earn Million Miler status with fewer flights.

Related: The best credit cards for United Airlines flyers

Bottom line

If you’re a dedicated United flyer, consider checking your Million Miler balance to see how close you are to reaching one of the lifetime tiers.

Although I’ve seen passengers take mileage runs on United flights to earn more lifetime flight miles, we don’t recommend flying solely to rack up lifetime flight miles. That said, Million Miler status is the only published route to locking in United elite status for life and not having to worry about requalifying year after year.

Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.

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