United MileagePlus has just announced some major program changes, which kick in for bookings as of November 1, 2017. The changes aren’t terrible, but then again, with how much frequent flyer programs have been destroyed the past few years, there’s only so much devaluing that can be done. 😉
So, what’s changing?
United MileagePlus is introducing Everyday Awards
United is introducing new “Everyday Awards,” which will replace Standard Awards as of November 1, 2017. Standard awards are United’s more expensive “rule buster” awards, when there’s no saver space. The Everyday Awards will have pricing that varies from flight to flight. Presumably this is a move in a somewhat revenue based direction, where the cost of many awards will reflect the revenue cost of a ticket.
This only applies to flights on United, while Star Alliance flights will continue to be priced based on the saver award chart.
While pricing of everyday awards will be variable, United has published the most that everyday awards will cost (at least for now — I imagine this will change in the future). In looking at the chart, everyday award costs look like they’ll be at most a bit more expensive than current standard level award costs. Only time will tell whether a majority of flights are priced at the upper limit, and how many will be lower.
This is hardly a surprising change, since often the more expensive standard level award tickets are the most expensive for airlines to provide. That’s because saver level awards often don’t displace revenue passengers, or at a minimum won’t displace a full fare passenger. Meanwhile standard level awards can sometimes be used to book the last seat on a plane, which could otherwise be very expensive.
Just to give a few examples of the limits of one-way everyday award costs:
- Within the US & Canada: 25,000 miles economy, 50,000 miles business class
- Between the US & Europe: 70,000 miles economy, 155,000 miles business class
- Between the US & North Asia: 80,000 miles economy, 175,000 miles business class
- Between the US & Australia: 80,000 miles economy, 175,000 miles business class
You can find the full listing of everyday award prices here.
Personally this change doesn’t surprise me much, and also doesn’t concern me too much, since this isn’t how I’d choose to redeem my miles. I recommend redeeming for saver level awards whenever possible.
United MileagePlus is increasing some Saver Award costs
Speaking of saver awards, United is also changing some saver award costs. Here’s how they describe these changes:
- Lower prices on most short-haul intra-region Economy Saver Awards for flights outside of the US, such as flights within Europe
- Increased prices on Saver Awards for select international markets
- Increased prices on United Business Saver Awards for U.S. premium transcontinental routes and for select Hawaii routes
These changes actually aren’t too horrible, or at least they could be a lot worse. To give a few examples, here’s how one-way award prices are changing for United metal awards (keep in mind United has different award costs depending on whether you’re flying United or a partner):
- Premium business class awards within the US & Canada are increasing in cost from 25,000 miles to 35,000 miles (includes EWR-LAX/SFO, BOS-SFO)
- Premium business class awards between the US mainland & Hawaii are increasing in cost from 40,000 miles to 50,000 miles (includes EWR/IAD/IAH/DEN/ORD-Hawaii)
- US to Europe awards in United business class are increasing from 57,500 miles to 60,000 miles
- US to Southern South America awards in United business class are increasing from 55,000 miles to 60,000 miles
- US to South Asia awards in United business class are increasing from 70,000 miles to 75,000 miles
- US to Australia/New Zealand awards in United business class are increasing from 70,000 miles to 80,000 miles
Meanwhile here are some of the changes to one-way award costs on Star Alliance awards:
- US to Southern South America awards in Star Alliance business class are increasing from 55,000 miles to 60,000 miles
- US to Middle East/Central Asia in Star Alliance business class are increasing from 80,000 miles to 85,000 miles
- US to Australia/New Zealand awards in Star Alliance business class are increasing from 80,000 miles to 90,000 miles
- US to South Asia awards in Star Alliance first class are increasing in price from 130,000 miles to 140,000 miles
You can find the full listing of saver award prices here.
United MileagePlus is adding a no show fee
United is adding a new $125 redeposit fee for members who do not show up for their award flight and request for miles to be redeposited. This will even apply to elite members who otherwise have these fees waived.
This is a smart move, as it prevents people from just booking awards and no showing. You can easily cancel a ticket online shortly before departure and avoid this fee. Maybe this will cause fewer people to speculatively book award tickets and forget to even cancel them, so I support that.
Obviously these are negative changes, though in the grand scheme of things they don’t make the program that much worse than before.
For those don’t usually book saver level awards, the cost of standard awards may go up or down depending on when you’re redeeming. We’ll have to wait until November to see.
Then there are some mild increases in award costs in various regions, though most changes are in the range of 2,500-10,000 miles one-way, so it’s not as bad as some of the changes we’ve seen in the past.
The no show fee seems fair enough as well. All they’re asking is that you cancel before you were scheduled to depart, which doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
So yeah, the changes are negative, but not that bad, in my opinion.
What do you make of the latest United MileagePlus changes?
(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)