United MileagePlus Program Changes As Of November 1, 2017

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. šŸ˜‰

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 standardĀ 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:Ā 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 mostĀ short-haulĀ 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 increasingĀ 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 ZealandĀ 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 AllianceĀ 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 toĀ Australia/New ZealandĀ awards in Star AllianceĀ 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 saverĀ award pricesĀ 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 canĀ 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.

Bottom line

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)

Comments

  1. Given everything that is happening in the frequent flier space, I don’t think we can complain much about these modest increases. As you say, sure it’s negative, but not unreasonable.

  2. A flat rate for domestic econ “everyday/last seat” award at 32500 is more than fair, relatively speaking. DL’s freaking “Level 2” is already 35000 and shoots all the way to 65000 at Level 5.

    But AA is still the best, ranging from 20000 to 30000 for AAnytime domestic coach.

  3. There seem to be changes to other regions too. I don’t have time to look through the whole chart right now, but checked an award I am planning to book soon and noticed, Japan to Oceania jumps from 30,000 one-way in business to 37,500. First goes from 40,000 one-way to 45,000.

  4. Also, do we know if the new “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)” will still be bookable with partner miles? Would make Krisflyer points even more attractive.

  5. @Henry, AA has unpublished levels above 20/30K. Check Nov 26 for an example, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Pretty much every domestic trip is 75K (!) one way in coach

  6. @Jamie : i have zero insider insight but i believe the answer should be yes to your last question. They’re changing pricing on the awards, not how the inventory is managed (X, XN, I, O, etc). XN isn’t visible to partners but X and I are.

    Within an alliance you’re *supposed* to expose X I O to any alliance partner, but we all know LH withholding O, LX withholding O, and SQ withholding both I and O.

  7. Am I misreading something? Your first bullet says “Within the US & Canada: 25,000 miles economy, 50,000 miles business class” but I pulled up United’s chart and it looks like it has gone up to 32.5 economy.

  8. I miss the days when you could book partner F on intercontinental routes for just 70k miles. I spent 115k miles a few months ago on NH F HND-LHR, which is a crazy amount of miles for one flight, but I wanted F.

  9. @BrooklynBoy: I feel you. Just booked 110K NRT-IAD in NH F too. A ton of point to part with but I want to fly F. Was it worth it, do you think?

    @Jeff: Yes, you misread. It is in the article

  10. I never want to see devaluations, but they are inevitable, and given the amount of time it has been since UA has adjusted their charts, I would have anticipated worse. Most of the awards I routinely book changed less than 15%, and I would say that over the past 5 years UA miles have gotten more than 15% easier to accumulate, so it is basically a wash. The key at this point is how much saver space will be available. Let’s hope they don’t go the way of AA.

  11. @Lucky sez: “…with how much frequent flyer programs have been destroyed the past few years, thereā€™s only so much devaluing that can be done.”

    The exception to that assertion has been United MileagePlus (M+), which has remained the one bright spot amidst United’s otherwise seemingly unlimited “operations” problems since the merger with CO.

    I’d vociferously denounced UA’s switched to the revenue system, primarily because as long-haul Y traveler, I was going to get hit big (up to ~60% loss) in the number of redeemable miles I earned. However, that’s turned out to be not much of a problem thanks to new “high-end” rewards cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which have enabled one to make up for the loss of RDMs that was feared would make the FF miles game no longer worth playing.

    The bottom line is that I have not noticed any substantive differences between M+ now and M+ before the conversion to the revenue system in terms of RDMs and there have not been any other major changes to the program, so that while it is admittedly true that DL’s and AA’s “frequent flyer programs have been destroyed the past few years” that is not the case with UA M+…

    As for what to make of the just announced changes, stay tuned…

  12. So basically a devaluation (not insignificant i might add) dressed up to sound like they’re doing us a favor with their fancy jargon.
    smh!

    Just come out and say its a devaluation; all this other stuff is window dressing.

  13. They kill the sweet spot South Pacific – SE Asia. TG F now goes to 65K from 40K, a more than 50% Jump!

  14. Yeah, I’d echo what others here are saying. I’d been holding my breath for United to devalue soon, and so while I’m not surprised by this, I’m also somewhat relieved…assuming they still provide similar quantities of saver award space. People always ask why UA is my airline of choice given their issues (which I would say exist, but are not dramatically worse than those of DL or AA), and the answer is MileagePlus awards. They have a straightforward award chart, and pretty reasonable and fair awards, with substantial availability, in my experience, at least if you are an elite or have a United card. By contrast, AA awards are pretty rough these days, and I mostly don’t even bother to look at DL.

  15. At least you have a fighting chance at getting a saver level award with MileagePlus, unlike sAAdvantage these days.

  16. Weirdly, I got an AA Saver First (in a transcon A321 3-class plane) less than 24 hours before departure back in March. Whole cabin was nonrevs. Fun experience, but very indifferent service.

  17. The math says that these changes will have little to no effects on the program. On the contrary, the changes are simply tweaks that make the program compatible with a revenue-based system. In fact, the correct way to think about these changes is as an adaptation of the Hilton revenue-based system to an airline frequent-flyer program.The next thing that will happen, if it has not already happened, will be the demise of the award charts, as award costs become more closely linked to ticket costs. The net effect is variable award cost scale that has values as low as so-called saver awards and as high as standard awards, which have now been capped, enabling outsized values to obtained for booking premium cabin tickets with miles…

  18. The mayhem in the Star Alliance chart seems inconsistent. Unsurprisingly, the most blogged-about sweet spot (TG First BKK-SYD) got whacked hard, but the equally underpriced 85k miles for Europe to AU business only gets raised by 5,000 miles? Finally, the unicorn in the chart remains: 30k for an Oceana-Japan J redemption. I’ve yet to actually see any availability on this route, but, technically, you can still fly between Tahiti and Japan in business for 30,000 miles on awards booked after Nov 1.

  19. For those of us who collect Chase Ultimate Reward points with the primary goal of transferring them to United miles, United’s decision will force us to reevaluate our commitment to Chase credit cards. It looks like UR is still a good deal overall, but the impact of the United decision has to have a negative impact on UR, even if only a small one.

  20. @Charlie Agreed, though it’s an easy reevaluation: UR are still the best points to accumulate unless you’re married to a specific airline that isn’t United. Their flexibility is outstanding, and spending earns a minimum of 2.25% on any airline if you have both the CSR and CFU. If the new UA award chart doesn’t pay off in a given case, then you can fly someone else, or even fly United by paying with points if the cash price is low.

    With this devaluation of United miles, it appears that they still have award ticket prices that are far superior to AA, DL, JetBlue, and the rest is the domestic carriers. UR only makes that better, in terms of earning faster and having greater availability.

    And if your main redemption is domestic economy saver, nothing has changed at all.

  21. @Charlie sez: “…Unitedā€™s decision will force us to reevaluate our commitment to Chase credit cards.”

    People can’t wait to make big pronouncements as soon as a programmatic change is announced, calling the change a “devaluation” even if it is insignificant, but what exactly do you think UA has just done and could you quantitatively evaluate how it is going to affect your ability to redeem UR points or UA miles in comparison to any alternatives that you might consider as a result?

    Inquiring minds wanna know, but you might start by considering the wise words of @Ivan X just above, who seems to have given it some thought…

  22. I usually use saver awards internationally so it doesn’t affect me much. It does make me realize that using everyday awards domestically just aren’t worth it.

    Overall, it’s just a way to them to re-brand and make us use more miles.

  23. Wow, this is a massive devaluation. Among the increases is a 30 to 50k cost for business awards to from/Australia- South Asia – basically 70%!

    Sure, if you’re lucky enough to only travel routes which have small increases, that’s fine – but it doesn’t mean “though in the grand scheme of things they donā€™t make the program that much worse than before.” I know of quite a few people who will be switching travel to other programs because these changes are severe.

  24. My wife is Albanian so i’m very happy and a bit surprised to see business saver to europe from US only going from 57.5 to 60k. Just have to wait and see if saver awards availability are reduced; if not I’ll still be maxing out my allowable purchase of miles each year.

  25. Just one doubt:

    If I book in next 30th October a ticktet to fly in Thai First (SYD-BKK) on September 18 and, on December, change the date of the flight to October 18, will I be charged for the difference of miles?

    Or will I have just to pay a fee (without being charged of the difference between the old and the new award chart)?

  26. They’d be better off just getting rid of Mileage Plus altogether. If they’re not losing any revenue by people dropping out of their ff program, don’t see what the point of continuing it is. Other Star Alliance carriers destroy United in redemption levels anyway. Certainly don’t know why anyone outside the US would stick with United at all.

  27. @Pete: The award prices on UA are still decently competitive with other carriers actually, considering that they don’t pass on fuel surcharges. Comparing UA with Air Canada, wouldn’t you rather pay 70k miles to Europe than 55k miles and $500?
    Let’s keep in mind that it’s much easier to earn UA miles. In my case, since I have 1k status, for a single ticket in business class to Europe with 7500 flown miles I can earn around 45k award miles (up to a max of 75k miles per ticket if you have 1k status that is). Meanwhile the flights of those tickets can still be on LH etc
    So for those people who spend a lot of money on UA, Mileageplus is much more worth it than the programs of overseas airlines. For me, it’s not even close. What all the US carriers have been trying to do is make the program worse for low spenders and mileage runners. It doesn’t affect me with UA but I feel the effects when I deal with AA and DL, which are airlines I don’t fly much.

  28. This one hurts guys!
    I have been eyeing up TPE to NZ (AUCK/CHC/WEL) for 40K points one way United reward in BIZ.
    I had options flying with Thai, Air China, but most exciting of all, Singapore Airlines. A380 availability to Auckland was non existent, but stopovers in Sing, and Canberra before Wellington would not have been bad for 40K each way, considering Singapore airlines asks for 55K Krisflyer points for same. Now United want 55K as well since devaluation.
    Have to weigh options now…….

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