United has a huge award chart devaluation which kicks in for bookings made on/after February 1, 2014, and I know a lot of people are trying to redeem miles in anticipation of that. The awards going up most in price are those for travel in premium cabins on Star Alliance partners, as United is now making a separate award chart for travel on United vs. travel on partner airlines.
The big question has been whether it’s possible to lock in an award now and then make changes to it after February 1, 2014. United has been somewhat vague in answering this, though my understanding is that they’ll allow flight and date changes without recalculating the miles, though once you change the route, airline, class of service, etc., you’ll be charged per the new award chart.
Anyway, Dan’s Deals suggests there’s a possible workaround for booking award travel at the current rates now and being able to change it for future travel. Here’s what he suggests:
Within a year from the date of ticketing you can rebook the award for a different date on the same route and just pay a $50-$100 date change fee, you won’t have to use more miles. Don’t wait until 01/31 to book something though as lots of people will have that same strategy.
For example below is the cancellation screen for a one-way ANA First Class Suites award to South Asia for 70K miles. Come 02/01 and it will be 130K miles. But just use the change ticket later option to pay a date change fee later without having to use more miles:
Lets say you make a booking for travel next week from Detroit to Frankfurt in Lufthansa first class. Dan is suggesting that before the travel date you cancel the trip. However, instead of redepositing the miles you choose the “cancel reservation now and change ticket later” option, which appears on the website when trying to cancel a booking. Then when you later go back to change the ticket, you can rebook the same route without having to pay a difference in miles.
He seems convinced this will work for locking in the old rates. I don’t necessarily disagree, I’m just not as confident about United’s system working that way as he is. If this works, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- You would have to rebook in the future on exactly the same routing, since routing changes would trigger an award rate reprice. So if you’re trying to use this method to lock in Lufthansa first class, consider booking one of the more readily available Lufthansa first class routes, and not a super-tough one like Los Angeles to Frankfurt, for example.
- All travel has to be completed within a year of the date the ticket is issued. So if you issue the ticket today and cancel the ticket next week and save it for future travel, all travel still has to be complete within a year from today.
- You would have to pay change fees to do this, per United’s award change fee chart. These fees can be up to a $100 if you don’t have status.
We don’t know exactly how United will handle changes starting February 1. Dan is more confident about the above method working than I am, which isn’t to say that I don’t think it’ll work, but rather just that I’m not positive. I’d suggest doing what you can to redeem United miles before February 1 for travel you actually intend to take, but if you can’t then there’s little downside to trying the above method. Worst case scenario you’re out of pocket $100, best case scenario you can possibly book Lufthansa first class at the old award rates 10 months from now.