United adds spending threshold for frequent fliers

New signage is shown on a United Airlines boarding gate at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Wednesday, July 13, 2011. Bay-area customers of United Airlines and Continental Airlines, subsidiaries of United Continental Holdings, Inc., are seeing a new look at SFO Wednesday as the company continues to provide a more consistent travel experience for customers.
Eric Risberg

CHICAGO United Airlines is making it a little harder to get a higher frequent-flier status.

The company's MileagePlus program used to require flying 25,000 miles per year to gain elite status. Now United is adding a requirement for at least $2,500 in spending, too, to qualify for the plan.

Most frequent fliers would spend that much anyway if they are earning 25,000 miles. But those who buy discounted tickets might be affected.

Travelers like to get so-called elite status because of seat upgrades and other perks.

The change takes effect next year for travelers trying to earn status in 2015. Taxes and bag fees won't count toward the spending total.

United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL) announced the change Tuesday. It matches a change made by Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) in January.