I remember when I first made 1K about five years ago, I could never have enough miles. The redemption levels for awards were incredible and there was no Starnet blocking. I went to Australia for 90,000 miles in business class on Air New Zealand, I went to Europe for 100,000 miles in first class on Lufthansa, and I went to Asia for 90,000 miles in business class on Singapore Airlines. Simply put, United rocked.
Over the years I’ve become smarter. I’ve diversified my miles, and I’m happy about it. I just redeemed 126,000 ANA miles for my brother and his girlfriend to fly from New York to London in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. I’m about to redeem 240,000 Aeroplan miles for two Star Alliance first class tickets from the US to Asia via Europe both ways. All these awards come without “fuel surcharges” and there’s no blocking of partner award inventory.
And now I look at my United account. I have around 400,000 United miles, something I never thought would be the case since I’m a firm believer in earning and burning. I like to have enough miles in my account for two first class tickets to where I want to go, but never more, since miles devalue just like cash sitting around not earning any interest.
But what can I burn my United miles for? Not only does United block partner award inventory, but they also have some of the highest redemption rates among their competitors. If I want to go to Europe I can get a much better deal with ANA or Aeroplan, and if I want to go to Asia I can get a much better deal with Aeroplan. A first class award ticket to most places in Europe is a mere 100,000 Aeroplan miles, and when flying Star Alliance carriers there aren’t any fuel surcharges. That’s 35,000 miles cheaper than United!
But seriously, what the heck am I going to use my United miles for? I’ve been saving them to go to India, since that’s the one region that didn’t get “enhanced” in the Mileage Plus changes at the end of last year, but how can I get there? Certainly not on Lufthansa, where United has just about every flight blocked nowadays. Swiss? Good luck.
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to think the only real way to redeem United miles is for United flights. Maybe Australia in first class on United? Or South America in business class on United?
Don’t get me wrong, there are still some decent options, but when I really think about it, Mileage Plus is an average program at best now, and except for flight miles, I’m not collecting any further miles with them.
The only issue is, as far as US carriers go, no one else is really better. It goes without saying that Delta and Northwest aren’t better. USAirways has a good award chart, but I just don’t trust it will stay that way. I can’t trust an airline that gets rid of elite bonus miles. American? In theory nice, but the fact that they just about got rid of international stopovers greatly devalues the program for me. Furthermore, going to Europe is just so impractical with them. I prefer to redeem miles for first class on premium airlines, which leaves British Airways. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to fly British Airways between the US and Europe on an award using American miles, which means I’d have to route through Toronto. That means two stops and a really short transatlantic flight, which isn’t desirable.
United, you’ve really ruined a great thing. I hate to add this quote which I’ve heard at many airline union rallies, but it seems rather relevant:
“We don’t want to kill the golden goose. We just want to choke it by the neck until it gives us every last egg.”
United, you’re killing the golden goose which is Mileage Plus….