My Experience: One Million Miler Status on United Airlines

2024 > America

one million miles united airlines

What happens when you fly one million miles on United Airlines? This is my experience reaching lifetime Star Alliance Gold status.

Before 1 Million Miles: Nothing

I’ve been tracking the One Million Miler goal on United Airlines Mileage Plus program for a few years now. I was close back in 2019 when I reached 85 countries, then COVID hit and I changed jobs, and I didn’t fly a single United flight for 4 years.

Now I have a job with a RDU-EWR-JNB-LUN commute every month, so the One Million Miler goal came back into focus.

I knew I would cross 1 million miles on somewhere over the Atlantic on my birthday. I bought a normal economy ticket thanks to US government procurement rules, but I did buy an upgrade to Premium Plus, which was only offered to me via miles vs. cash. Big difference: cash upgrades clear immediately, miles upgrades clear nearer to the flight.

I felt confident that United would clear my upgrade as they had in the past, or best case, see that I was about to be 1 million miler and that Friday was also my birthday, and upgrade me to Polaris – the new business class seats on United flights. HAHAHAHAHA! As if.

One Million Miler Pre-Flight: Something

Thursday night, I start to board my flight and I’m still in Economy Plus, sans upgrade. At least I’m in Exit Row, which is survivable. During boarding, I came out of the bathroom to see someone in my seat and the flight attendant asking them, “Are you Wayan?” I quickly counter that I am Wayan, not this imposter, who is quickly directed back into the bowels of Economy.

The flight attendant then says, “You’re gonna make 1 million miles on this trip!”, and hands me janky plastic wings and a bottle of water. Yes, I was very, very disappointed. After one million butt-in-seat miles, all I got was a generic plastic pin, which probably retails for $1.99.

She then said, “Its not like Up in the Air, eh?” To which I commented that had Scott Kirby magically appeared at that moment – Pow! Right in the kisser! The flight attendant laughed and agreed.

One Million Miler Flight: Free Drinks

A bit later, she invited me to go into the cockpit, which was a fun treat. I was able to meet the pilots and I sat in the captain’s chair. While I was there, we talked weather and routes to Johannesburg (I know this one by heart). Then they gave me an actual Million Miller coin. Now that was cool!

I don’t know if they knew I was on the flight, or hand one handy, or if that was actually the pilot’s coin. Regardless, it is metal and hefty. Not sure what I’ll do with it – any ideas?

I then went back to my Economy Plus seat. I did check that all the Polaris and Premium Plus seats were taken, so I couldn’t complain too loudly about not being upgraded. Still, I was 1st on the upgrade wait list. Ugh.

Side note: I really hate the new pay-to-play United Airlines Mileage Plus tiers. I miss qualifying for 1K status on flight miles versus the new focus on airline ticket prices. Flying in international development, I will never reach high status again – 1K currently requires $19,000 in airline ticket purchases per year! United Airlines doesn’t have a “mileage” program anymore.

The flight itself was meh. I really wanted Premium Plus with its larger TVs, better food, and free drinks. However, before I could feel sorry for myself for flying Economy Plus on my birthday, the flight attendant hooked me up with free drinks for 14 hours.

United Airlines Fails 1 Million Milers

The flight attendant was the best part of United Airline’s craptastic treatment of million milers. If this milestone is coming up for you, set your expectations low. Like at zero recognition from United. Still, be sure to befriend the flight attendant. They will make all the difference in your flight. United Airlines itself doesn’t care.

At least I now get Star Alliance Gold status for life (or until United screws us again), which means I get access to good lounges overseas. Sadly, my ass is still flat from too many economy seat flights.

6 Comments on “My Experience: One Million Miler Status on United Airlines

  1. LOL…

    Yep just another number..

    When I hit Million Miler on Delta got the lifetime gold as well but that is sorta a joke as gold does not get you much at all…

    Funnest thing I got on Delta was the occasional Porsche ride to my next gate at ATL… maybe got a dozen rides until I stopped flying a bunch.. was nice when the connection was tight.

  2. Congrats Wayan!

    You join your former colleagues Mark, Kristin and Joel in the 1MM club! I’m shocked it took you this long with all your travel.

    I got Lifetime Platinum @2MM (same a 1MM on UA) back in 2010, because AA used to also allow credit card miles to count to 1MM and 2MM, Then AA changed to only Butt-in-seat like UA, but I still have 3.5MM.

  3. LOL. I’m at 850k… so close and you are right… the new system SUCKS!!! Fortunately for you, it’s moving into winter where you will likely get your upgrades more quickly on the Newark to Joburg flight.

    Anyway, thanks for keeping it real. I have had that million miles in my sights for a while now… will expect it to be just another day.

  4. Hey, at least you got the cockpit tour! I was in a middle seat in the back when my big moment came last year. They did give me a card signed by all the crew on board that day.

    And oh, that coin! I finally took it out of my bag last week to save on the weight. If you figure out something to do with yours, let me know!

  5. I hit 1m on United right before the pandemic on a domestic flight. Flight attendant came by says “oh, 1m. Want a drink or something?” And wandered off before I answered!

  6. Hit my million a few years ago, don’t recall anything happening on the flight, received the uninspiring gift in the mail I assume we all get. On a flight this week from HND-SFO I was lucky enough to be upfront so stopped by the flight deck. The crew were really nice, put me in the chair with the hat, had me press a button which set off a buzzer, felt like a kid again. Mentioned I was a million miller when I was leaving and was asked if I’d received my coin, first I’d heard of it. Anyhow the pilots were able to find one and present it to me, which was really cool.