United MileagePlus Awards Post-Devaluation Are Pricing Better Than Expected

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.

MileagePlus-Award-Rates-Star

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.

Comments

  1. Lucky – It says “mixed cabin” on the award tix… so isn’t one of the award in economy then? likely the lufthansa one…. hence the pricing?

  2. I’ve been loading up on United miles (mostly through Chase UR points), but is this a bad move given the devaluation? Living in NYC, should I focus on accumulating different pts? AA? Delta? Would appreciate anyone’s thoughts!

  3. @Steve, based on the columns he’s displaying, I believe that last column is the “First” column, not business class. The “Mixed cabin” designation refers to the fact that the long-haul segment is in UA GF, while the short-haul segment on LH is merely in intra-European C.

    Note that there’s no “Mixed cabin” designation in the box on the far left, the routing pricing at 57,500 miles.

  4. That said, getting intra-Europe business class instead of economy on a 70 minute flight isn’t really *that* much better.

  5. @JL

    true, but it’s good especially departing Europe because the business class check-in is way way faster. plus you get more free bags.

  6. the original wording made no sense – you fly SFO-FRA for 12 hours in J then forced into Y for that 30 min flight FRA-TXL ? really ?

  7. @JL : it’s not really about the comfort of intra-europe J/Y (there’s nearly zero diff), but rather the flexibility of availability – frequently i’ve seen only J not Y on MUC-FRA

  8. For what it’s worth, it also appears that domestic segments on US will price at the United price. Though, TATL on US prices at the new partner price. Only matters for two months, but FYI.

  9. UA just announced on FT that this is intentional, not a glitch. Along with some other ‘good’ news about changes to existing tix. Good in the sense it is customer friendly, except that it would have been a whole lot more helpful pre-devaluation.

  10. Lucky, I have 4 free tickets (2 coach and 2 global first) on UA from EWR to MUC via Brussels in Sept. If Lufthansa First space opens up, can I make the switch?

  11. Thanks Lucky for all useful info. Fortunately :-), I have used all United miles for first class Lufthansa flights and others on first and biz segments before the bloodbath devaluation. Special thanks to you, I made myself on LH first class longhaul 747-400, 747-8i, and A380. Without your tips, I would not have had those unique special moment during those flights. Thanks again.

  12. @ Steve — The first column is for business class, where it’s pricing business class for both segments. The second column is for first class, where the intra-Europe flight is indeed in business class, since there’s no first class cabin on intra-Europe flights.

  13. @ Eric1 — Chase Ultimate Rewards points are still incredibly valuable, so I wouldn’t necessarily change your accrual behavior since you can earn so many Ultimate Rewards points through credit card spend. It can’t hurt to diversify and take advantage of great sign-up offers (like the current 100,000 mile American one), but in general I think your strategy is still sound.

  14. @ Neal — Yep, in theory that should be possible it seems. United posted the following:

    Change clarification for itineraries booked before February 3: Many of you have also been asking about what kinds of itinerary changes will re-trigger a re-price to the new award chart, and I can share some additional follow-up details about that. As a reminder, the existing change process will apply, and any change that requires an award to re-price will require an add/collect of the additional miles under the new award price structure. Fees for change/cancel will still apply per our existing policies. Changes that will not trigger a re-price for itineraries ticketed before February 3, 2014 include:

    — Date/time (cabin, region, and award type can’t change)
    — Carrier on one or more segments (cabin, region, and award type can’t change)
    — Origin/Destination within the same regions (carrier and cabin can’t change)

  15. @FlyingDoctorWu thanks for sharing that link? I can’t believe they are not going to reprice for changing the origin/destination as long as it’s in the same region. That means I could have booked a flight to FRA and then later changed it to CDG without triggering a reprice? This would have been great information to have prior to 2/1. United, you suck.

  16. Looks like it’s the good old days… If I have an F award ticket, I can still change airlines as long as origin / destination are still the same! (looks like only if the date/time is not changing)

    yay for one last hurrah

  17. I have an award booked HNL-NRT on UA F then continuing on to NRT-BKK on TG J. I booked in Jan and paid the First Class award price (100,000 miles).

    If I change to TG F, will this trigger an award re-price? I technically paid the F price for TG prior to the devalue, but there just wasn’t award space when I booked. The post UA insider doesn’t directly address this question.

    does anyone have an answer for this situation?

    thanks in advance.

  18. Old rule didn’t make any sense so I’m glad they are being smarter about this.

    Ability to change carriers is good; changing origin/destination is very, very good and I bet more people would’ve booked awards if they’d announced it ahead of time.

  19. darn! of course i would have booked if the allowable changes were announced before… well, i don’t have status on united anymore, so rebooking fees would apply, and i have no idea when i will return to the US.

  20. Please stop sugar coating.

    The devaluation is awful, especially if you live where LX/LH offers international flights and UA does not. We are stuck trying to connect to UA hubs to get to Europe or paying through the nose.

  21. Dearest Ben,

    Now that the new award rates are in place, I would like to pre-emptively beg and plead that if you some day discover UA missed something, that you please NOT tell us.

    Big Brother is watching. I mean UA.

  22. Lucky – Is one not allowed to route through Europe AND SE Asia to get to PVG? i.e. BOS-MUC-SIN (layover under 24 hours)-PVG

    Would this be allowed: BOS-SIN (layover under 24 hours)-PVG? or this considered backtracking?

  23. @ mangoceviche — United’s routing rules are all over the place nowadays, so really not positive. They seem to have switched policies recently, though they’re only selectively being enforced. So the only way to know for sure is to try to price it.

  24. Lucky – if I use the “cancel and rebook later” feature now, and if before the one-year ticket expiration date, I decide not to travel, do I still have the option to “cancel and redeposit miles” for a fee?

  25. Lucky – is this a valid routing: bos-muc via fra (stopover)- nrt via fra (destination)-bos via ord?

    And I have LH and NH seats on hold via the paypal method. The holds are under different reservation numbers. Will the united agent be able to piece the segments together? I’ve got F seats on LH 747-8, 747-400 and NH 777-300ER so don’t want to lose them. :). Thanks

  26. @ Mangoceviche — The routing is valid, but an agent can’t merge records. You’d have to book it all on one record by “releasing” the space in the other record.

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