I’ve received several emails from readers expressing anger at the most recent United changes, so after analyzing the changes a bit further, I figured I’d make another post.
First of all, my responses to a few questions/comments I’ve received via email:
Will there be a co-pay when using systemwide upgrades (SWU’s), confirmed regional upgrades (CR1’s), or 500 mile upgrades?
What happens if I book an award now to lock in the price and make a change after January 1?
I’m not positive, but the last time United increased mileage requirements for awards, they allowed changes within the period of the ticket validity without charging the higher mileage required when reissuing. I would expect the same, although it’s no guarantee.
Aren’t upgrades going to be impossible now?
This seems to be a common viewpoint, and while I can’t say for sure, I’m actually thinking it’ll be the opposite, and that upgrades will become easier. It’s hard to dispute that domestic upgrades will be easier to come by, since they’re adding a $50 co-pay and increasing mileage required to Hawaii, along with a very steep co-pay for those flights.
The major concern seems to be international flying, which I can definitely understand, but I’m still convinced that upgrades will become easier. While people can now upgrade from cheaper fares, the co-pays will be as much as $1,000 for a roundtrip flight. That’s a lot of money, and I don’t think you’ll see too many people shelling out $1,000 + 40,000 miles if they wouldn’t have otherwise purchased an H fare. Furthermore, business travelers that might have otherwise purchased H fares and upgraded might think twice about upgrading when the money for a co-pay is coming out of their own pockets. Add that to the current state of the economy, and I think upgrades will become easier, not harder.
I’m switching airlines. Where should I go?
Not so fast! I remember a lot of people saying they’d switch airlines back when United was the first to rollout several fees, only for most of the majors to follow. While the frustration is understandable, let’s wait and see what happens. I’m betting other airlines will follow with mileage requirement increases, so give yourself some time before making any radical changes in your loyalty.
When you look at the award chart more carefully, there are a few interesting things to note. For example, the mileage requirements in all classes for Central Asia/India/Africa have remained the same, and the changes to the Middle East are no more than 5,000 miles! I’ve actually not explored most of those destinations at all, so if anything this will give me a good reason to check them out. In a way I should be thanking UA for these “enhancements,” since they’ll undoubtedly widen my horizon, if only because of the lack of increases in mileage required for these places. 😀