Does United’s New Website Hint At Dynamic Award Pricing?

United has a new website, which on the surface is long overdue. When United and Continental merged they kept the Continental website (and everything else from Continental, for that matter). While functional, it certainly wasn’t the most modern looking website out there.

Well, United has finally created a new website which is now in beta, and should be replacing the old united.com across the board soon. It looks much more modern than the old site.

United-New-Website-3

I’m guessing many people are interested in the award search functionality of the new united.com, given that United’s website is one of the best for searching Star Alliance award space (along with the websites of Aeroplan and ANA).

In many ways the award search is similar. They’ve basically made the calendar display look a bit more modern, though there aren’t many material changes there.

United-New-Website-2

There’s one area where there are some material changes, though. Specifically, United offers only two levels of awards — saver and standard. As of now they’re the only one among the “big three” US carriers which doesn’t have more than two redemption tiers (Delta doesn’t publish redemption tiers at all anymore, and American introduced more than two tiers last year).

However, on the new website, United has columns specifically for “First Saver Award,” “First Standard Award,” “Business Saver Award,” and “Business Standard Award,” as you’d expect.

But when it comes to economy, they only have one column, which reads “Economy (lowest).” They no longer have separate columns for “Economy Saver” and “Economy Standard.”

United-New-Website

Now I suppose this could just be bad IT or an oversight, though given the precedent set by other carriers (especially United’s idol, Delta), that seems unlikely.

In practice it doesn’t seem like any changes have been made to award pricing yet, as economy awards are still pricing out at the saver or standard level. That being said, this does seem like the start of adding a functionality whereby award pricing is more dynamic, at least for economy awards.

Perhaps United is trying to change peoples’ perception that award pricing is binary (either saver or standard), and they’re starting that process very slowly.

Nowadays we see Delta SkyMiles pricing is completely dynamic, both good and bad. I think we’re still a ways off before we have a purely revenue based program, even for Delta SkyMiles. But Delta is certainly pioneering the way when it comes to dynamic pricing, and United is eager to follow everything Delta does, so…

What do you think — is this “development” on the new united.com an oversight, or the start of something bigger?

(Tip of the hat to Dan’s Deals)

Comments

  1. The loss of the ability to make the calendar show nonstop saver award availability only is definitely a material one.

    Currently you can know in one search if there is nonstop availability from Newark to Honolulu in coach or first class anytime during September or October by clicking nonstop only.

    With the new site it requires clicking on each date in September or October to see if there’s a nonstop saver award flight.

    The loss of the saver column is troublesome, but the loss of the nonstop award calendar is a disaster.

  2. Is it possible that the single economy column simply lists the lowest available miles (saver or standard) rather than having two columns? does not seem like a big deal to me…yet!

  3. I have ultimate confidence in UA! If it’s still the infamous UA we are familiar with, I doubt they will have the capability to work out dynamic pricing, which is rather complicated I believe. After all, they can’t photoshop Delta’s web page and roll out a similar change :-p

  4. I always found the second column somewhat redundant when a Saver award was available. Why bother showing the Standard level? As your example shows, when the Saver isn’t available, the Standard pricing shows up in the economy column. I suppose the same could be said for the Business and First awards where both columns still show.

  5. I think within a sort period of time all airlines will change their frequent flyer program into a cash-back-like system with dynamic pricing. For instance the basic tier will earn 1% of the purchased tickets and the highest tier will earn 5%. Instead of miles these points will be redeemable towards the cost of a ticket. Consequently I assume that there will be no more black-out dates and nearly all seats will be bookable with your points with some restrictions. Airlines credit cards will earn you 0.5 – 1.5% (in cash-back points) on regular spending and up to +3% (cash-back points) on ticket purchases.

    I don’t know in advance whether its good or not but certainly different. We’ll see. What do you think Ben?

  6. I most certainly hope not but it does seem to be the case. Both Delta and Flying Blue (both skyteam) have started to dynamically price their award tickets in both economy and business class; but I don’t know of any in star alliance that has done that. Only time will tell I guess.

  7. Just curious, what would that do for partner redemptions on United (which I thought were only available if United showed saver availability). I hope not but would not be surprised if that’s where they’re headed.

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