Halfway to United Airlines 1K status & revisiting the Systemwide Upgrade timeline

a screenshot of a graphMy latest trip pushed me over the halfway point to requalifying for 1K status for 2012, and I’m thinking now that I need to retract a statement I made back in November. United Airlines announced a variety of changes to the Mileage Plus program at that time, including the deposit schedule for systemwide upgrades (SWUs). These upgrades allow me to upgrade from economy to business class (or first class on two-cabin aircraft) on any United Airlines flight worldwide. For international flights, there is a caveat requiring the purchase of a W-class fare or higher, so the cheapest coach tickets are ineligible using SWUs. The difference in the W fares to the lower “buckets†can either be negligible or ridiculous, but that’s a topic for another post.

Historically 1Ks have received their initial deposit of six upgrades into their accounts on January 1st of each year. One of United’s updates back in November I alluded to before was a change to when SWUs are deposited, and I’ve reproduced my previous blog entry below:

a blue text on a white background

Now that I’m a smidge more than halfway to 1K, I’m realizing that if I keep up the pace at which I’m racking up the miles this year, I’d roll over 100,000 elite qualifying miles (EQM) by the middle of June. As it stands, I still have all six of my 2011 SWUs that expire on January 31, 2012, and if I were to hit 1K in June, six more would deposit into my account at that time with an expiration of June 30, 2012. I’d hate to have the second half of 2012 without a single SWU in my account in the event I actually needed them, and since I don’t usually fly enough to earn additional SWUs in a calendar year, I usually only see the six annually.

So… I need to be strategic in when I roll over the magic 100,000 EQM this year. As it stands, I have about 34,000 more EQM booked already that will bring me to about 86,000 EQM. Given that data, I’m definitely going to slow down on United and perhaps look into earning elite status at another carrier. I already have a booking on American Airlines in June to Chicago (thank you Virgin America for the fare war!), so might set my eyes on at least achieving Gold status with American. In the meantime, I’m actually looking forward to several weekends at home, and will be working more diligently on taking my blog to the next level. Stay tuned!


  1. I wouldn’t pull back on UA just because you’ll get the SWUs early (though I certainly envy your predicament! ;)).

    How close are you to MM status on UA?

    • @Matthew: With my luck, I’d find NC space open on my preferred dates to Sydney in the latter half of 2012 and not have any SWUs. I see your point, though. I’m still a good 220K away from MM status.

  2. Well, if you have SWUs that you don’t need, I’m wondering if you might be interested in donating one or two of them. In late June of this year, I will be travelling to ULN on primarily on UA metal on a medical humanitarian trip for this medically impoverished region. If you would be willing, I would greatly appreciate a donation of a systemwide upgrade (or two, one for my family member). I realize the value of your SWUs, and am just asking that if you don’t have plans to use them, would you be willing to donate them to a good cause?

  3. Hi Nathan,
    Thanks for reaching out, but sadly I do have plans for all of my 2011 SWUs. Have a safe trip to Mongolia & your humanitarian aid will undoubtedly be well received.

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