United’s huge award chart devaluation was supposed to kick in for bookings made on or after February 1, 2014. The devaluation was massive, and in particular negatively impacted Star Alliance premium cabin award tickets, which saw as much as an 87% increase in the number of miles required. Rather than having a single award chart for travel on United or any partner, they created separate charts depending on whether you’re flying United or a Star Alliance partner airline.
Anyway, United postponed the MileagePlus devaluation by two days, meaning the new rates would only apply for travel booked on or after February 3, 2014. I would guess that they didn’t do this out of the kindness of their hearts, but probably rather because they were having issues updating the pricing.
United.com’s award search tool was down almost all day yesterday as they updated the pricing to reflect the new chart, so we’re really only now getting our first glimpse of the new award pricing in action.
It appears as if the new pricing may be working in our favor a bit more than we were promised on paper. When United announced the devaluation, they said you could book a ticket through the United award chart and include a flight within a region on a Star Alliance partner carrier, as long as it’s one cabin below the longhaul segment.
That’s a ridiculously complicated rule, but basically what it means is that you could book something like Chicago to Frankfurt in United business class, and then Frankfurt to Munich in Lufthansa economy class, and pay the business class price on the United award chart rate (57,500 miles one-way). However, if you were to fly Chicago to Frankfurt in United business class and Frankfurt to Munich in Lufthansa business class, you’d be charged per the Star Alliance award chart rate (70,000 miles one-way).
In practice, though, if you’re flying United transoceanic and connecting to a partner airline for travel within a region, it still seems to price at the United award chart rate even if you’re flying in the same class of service. For example, take the below Chicago to Amsterdam to Frankfurt routing, with the Chicago to Amsterdam flight on United and the Amsterdam to Frankfurt flight on Lufthansa.
The award is pricing at 57,500 miles one-way in business class, which is the United award rate, despite the shorthaul segment being in the same cabin as the transatlantic flight.
My guess is this is intentional and they realized they were being a bit too restrictive with the way they originally phrased it. Or maybe they just couldn’t figure the IT out, which I guess is the most likely explanation.
It’s worth noting that this doesn’t apply if your Star Alliance connecting flight is between regions as well. If that’s the case it will price per the Star Alliance award chart.
Anyway, that’s a very, very small consolation in this overall horrible award chart devaluation.