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Managing cost/value while staying on track to meet PQD

Managing cost/value while staying on track to meet PQD

Old Jan 7, 18, 4:44 pm
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Managing cost/value while staying on track to meet PQD

This will be my first year flying almost exclusively on one airline (United) after several years of being based in a city with no dominant carrier. Thus, this will be the first year that PQD will be something I'll have to track/manage throughout the year.

I'm currently UA Gold after easily completing the Gold challenge back in the fall. I expect to easily hit Platinum's PQM (and/or PQS) this year but the PQD aspect is less certain.

Is there a sweet spot the UA vets here use in terms of PQM cost when deciding to buy F or J (or to buy up to F or J when it looks like one's CPU won't clear)? Is it generally a simple matter of buying F or J if it costs 12 cents or less per PQM, as per the 75,000/$9,000 thresholds?

As an example, I just bought a three-segment international one-way for $215 that will yield 2,250 PQM. Each segment is about the same duration; I have almost no chance of a CPU on the first two but the third looks like a certainty. I can buy up to P for all three segments for $200 (or $0.09/PQM, total), but since my CPU is almost certain on the last segment, I'd really be paying $200 to upgrade two segments and to get double PQM on the whole trip.

I'm curious how the vets here balance cost/value vs. staying on track for PQD. Thanks very much.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 4:54 pm
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From a PQD perspective, none of us are vets - it's a concept that's still relatively new in the grand scheme of things I would buy up to F/J if it makes sense for you personally. As an example (that turned out not to be needed when my wife and I both got business travel added)...I bought up to F on MSY-EWR. In the end, I would have cleared an RPU (and probably almost CPU), but at the time, that was the difference in getting my wife over the PQM and PQD hurdle for 1K, as well as getting me above 125k PQM (for the extra RPUs). For <$150 on an early morning flight, on a Monday, after partying all night Sunday (wedding that night), it was an easy decision.

In this case, YMMV as always. Since most of my travel is leisure planned in advance, I have a good idea of what I need to do to hit the milestones. The most 'extreme' case is when I bought my wife full-fare F on an EWR-ORD flight on a 3-class 763 to hit 1K a couple years back. It was worth it
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Old Jan 7, 18, 4:59 pm
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Originally Posted by joe_miami View Post
I'm curious how the vets here balance cost/value vs. staying on track for PQD. Thanks very much.
Don't purposefully spend extra cash for that status. Especially if you're playing games to burn through company money, but even your own cash. If the goal is only Platinum go for the $25k spend on the Chase card to get the waiver. Most likely a much better use of limited resources to reach the target you desire.

If the goal is to sit up front then buy the fares when the price is right for you, assuming you're not breaking any company policies or behaving unethically along the way.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 5:04 pm
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Depends on the frequency of your travel and your goals, but one approach you can try is to keep a monthly pace to hit $12,000 by the end of November and use miles primarily in December.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 5:35 pm
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Thanks for the quick replies. I'm self-employed, so there's no "company money" vs. "personal money" distinction for me.

Do people expect the credit card PQD waivers to remain? I had read some speculation that they could disappear in 2018, but it was unclear if that meant disappear for the 2019 qualifying year or retroactively for 2018. There's an outside chance I could hit the 1k PQM, and there's already no waiver there, right?

EDIT: Quickly answered that question at United.com.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 5:35 pm
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Buy F/J when/where you care about it vs the money difference, not for status chasing. Keep in mind the more that you're willing to buy it, the less you care about status.

If your travel pattern doesn't make PQD naturally, and your target is plat, just do the CC waiver. Sure, the waiver could go away or move up at any time, but there's no real indication it's likely to change.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 5:42 pm
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With the CC waiver through the Plat level, that renders much of my concern moot. Thanks for the reminders.

Still curious if others want to chime in with how they go about valuing the F / J buy-ups as a general matter. Thanks again.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 5:50 pm
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Originally Posted by joe_miami View Post
Still curious if others want to chime in with how they go about valuing the F / J buy-ups as a general matter. Thanks again.
I rarely, if ever, pay for domestic F. I did so in December for a PQD run in order to requalify for 1K (and hit 150K PQM in the process). Other than that, I haven't paid for domestic F in a couple of years. This was true for me when I was Silver and Gold and rarely got upgraded; it's even more true as a 1K when I frequently get upgraded. The only time I would pay for F is if there's a lie-flat seat on the route or I'm taking a red-eye. Otherwise, there's just not enough of a value proposition there for me.

I would say, pay for F/J if you think there's value in it at that price point, and don't worry too much about PQDs, especially in January. You may end up with an unexpected change in your travel pattern. There will be plenty of time to worry about PQDs in Q4 after you have a better idea of where you stand, what elite status makes sense for you, and how much extra you'd need to travel to get it.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 5:55 pm
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Originally Posted by joe_miami View Post

Still curious if others want to chime in with how they go about valuing the F / J buy-ups as a general matter. Thanks again.
I only consider it if there are lie-flat seats on the route that are worth the time (i.e. if they fly an sCO 752 EWR-IAD, I don't care, but I would on EWR-ORD), or the flight is longer than 2 hours. If neither of those conditions fit, I don't care where I am sitting.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 6:00 pm
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Thanks for the replies. When I started the thread, I was concerned with balancing PQM vs. PQD. With the CC waiver through Plat, now I need to determine just how much Plat is worth to me. On paper, there doesn't seem to be much difference between Gold and Plat, but comments at FT suggest Plats get quite a few more upgrades over the course of a year.

The upcoming flight I mentioned is three segments of 2:20, 2:50, and 2:10, so they're right at that duration where F / J becomes a little more tempting.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 6:18 pm
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Originally Posted by joe_miami View Post
Thanks for the replies. When I started the thread, I was concerned with balancing PQM vs. PQD. With the CC waiver through Plat, now I need to determine just how much Plat is worth to me. On paper, there doesn't seem to be much difference between Gold and Plat, but comments at FT suggest Plats get quite a few more upgrades over the course of a year.

The upcoming flight I mentioned is three segments of 2:20, 2:50, and 2:10, so they're right at that duration where F / J becomes a little more tempting.
I would monitor the $/hour cost. If it's <$50/hr, it becomes enticing to me. As for being Platinum vs. Gold, the main difference that counts to me is boarding in BG1. That makes a huge difference if you are in the back of the bus.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 6:28 pm
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Note that such a flight sounds like a perfect opportunity to use an RPU.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 8:20 pm
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Originally Posted by joe_miami View Post
Thanks for the replies. When I started the thread, I was concerned with balancing PQM vs. PQD. With the CC waiver through Plat, now I need to determine just how much Plat is worth to me. On paper, there doesn't seem to be much difference between Gold and Plat, but comments at FT suggest Plats get quite a few more upgrades over the course of a year.
There's a thread on whether or not stretching for Plat is worth it. Upgrades are very route- and time-dependent. You'll have people who regularly get upgraded as Platinum; there are also people who virtually never get upgraded as 1K.

On flights where you don't buy up to F, watch the upgrade list. If you normally end up # 1 or # 2 on the upgrade list, without clearing, Platinum may be worth it. If you normally end up # 23, well, Platinum might get you # 15 instead.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 8:46 pm
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Thanks. I've had great luck so far as a (new) Gold; probably batting .400 to .450 after about 15 segments, with a couple near-misses (#1 or #2 ). But that average is sure to come down as I fly in and out of UA's bigger airports more.
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Old Jan 7, 18, 9:23 pm
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Originally Posted by joe_miami View Post
With the CC waiver through the Plat level, that renders much of my concern moot. Thanks for the reminders.

Still curious if others want to chime in with how they go about valuing the F / J buy-ups as a general matter. Thanks again.
Yes, if going for Plat and not 1K, then the CC waiver is the easy answer.

For my part, I buy the premium cabin if I don't think I can get upgraded. I'm fortunate to be in a position where my time is the primary factor which limits my travel, so I can afford it. On trips under ~800mi I will usually just buy Y as it's short enough to not really matter. Last year I still didn't do very well on the PQD game though, despite flying UA Y a grand total of twice. The math depends a lot on your travel mix, but the general advice I would give is buy what makes you happy - you can always do a dollar run at the end of the year to make up the difference.

Originally Posted by joe_miami View Post
Thanks for the replies. When I started the thread, I was concerned with balancing PQM vs. PQD. With the CC waiver through Plat, now I need to determine just how much Plat is worth to me. On paper, there doesn't seem to be much difference between Gold and Plat, but comments at FT suggest Plats get quite a few more upgrades over the course of a year.
As jsloan notes, it's all about your travel patterns. Watch the upgrade lists when you do go for an upgrade. There are travel patterns where a 1K wouldn't get through four RPUs all year, and travel patterns where Golds get upgraded routinely. It just depends.
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