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The key thing for most of us is that some Saver award prices are increasing. Given that lots of us have United miles and Ultimate Rewards points (not to mention the current hotel transfer bonus) I figured I’d highlight some of the awards you should book before the end of the month.
As a starting point, let’s review how MileagePlus breaks of the world into regions. That’s going to be key to understanding the price increases, and not all of these zones are terribly intuitive.
|Mainland U.S., Alaska & Canada||Mainland U.S., Alaska & Canada|
|Caribbean||Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadalupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Netherland Antilles, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, U.s. Virgin Islands|
|Central America||Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama|
|Northern South America||Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela|
|Southern South America||Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay|
|Europe||Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom|
|North Asia||China, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan|
|South Asia||Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam|
|Central Asia||Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, Krgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan|
|Middle East||Azerbajian, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen|
|Central/Southern Africa||Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotto, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Reunion Island, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe|
|Northern Africa||Algeria, Canary Islands, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia|
|Oceania||American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanautu, Western Samoa|
|Australia / New Zealand||Australia (inc Tasmania), New Zealand, Norfolk Islands|
With that as a baseline, what zones have price increases?
Mainland US/Alaska/Canada to/from Australia/New Zealand
This goes first, because this is the big one. Business class awards between the US and Australia/New Zealand on United metal (not like those are a thing at the saver level anyway) are increasing by 14.3% to 80,000 one-way. Partner awards are increasing by 12.5%, to 90,000 one-way.
United allows you to connect in Asia on your way to/from Australia/New Zealand, and you could easily add a flight within the destination region as an Excursionist Perk, so this is a good value award to book now if you’ve been considering it.
Mainland US/Alaska/Canada to/from South Asia
This is another big increase. Business class awards on United metal are increasing from 70,000 to 75,000 miles one-way, while partner awards are increasing from 80,000 to 90,000.
South Asia to Australia/New Zealand
This is a current “sweet spot” in the United award chart, and I’m not surprised to see it going away. Currently you’ll pay:
- 30,000 in business
- 40,000 in first
There are some fun products between these zones, and you’ll even occasionally see premium cabin awards on Singapore and Thai that you might not see in other regions, so this is one of my favorite United awards.
Going forward, these awards will require:
- 50,000 miles in business
- 65,000 miles in first
That brings the costs for this region in-line with others, so it’s not unexpected, but this is definitely one you want to book now if you can.
Mainland US/Alaska/Canada to/from Southern South America
Currently United charges 55,000 miles one-way between these zones, regardless of if you’re flying United or a partner. And let’s be honest, you’ll be flying a partner, because Copa, Avianca, and Air Canada have much better award space on these routes than United offers.
The new prices are 60,000 miles one-way for business class, for both United and partners.
Interestingly, the prices for Northern South America aren’t increasing, so going forward this is a situation where you can save miles by booking two awards. If you wanted to combine a trip to say, Peru or Colombia with Chile, you could save 5,000 miles each way!
United awards to Europe
The business class prices aren’t increasing for partner awards in this case, but awards on United metal are going from 57,500 to 60,000 miles one-way.
Not a huge increase, but if you’re looking at booking United business class to Europe you might as well book now.
Although United divides Africa into multiple regions, the current chart prices flights between regions at the same price as within regions.
Going forward, there will actually be a price difference for flights between Northern Africa and Central/Southern Africa. Given how narrowly defined “Northern Africa” is this probably doesn’t impact too many people, but it’s a good one to be aware of.
Is anything going down in price?
In theory there are a few awards you’ll want to wait to book. The challenge is that these new values mostly correlate with situations where you’d probably be best off using a cash equivalent rather than a traditional mileage program, so it’s definitely going to be case-by-case.
Non-stop intra-region economy flights less than 800 miles (outside the US)
Those are some pretty narrow parameters, but if your flight ticks all the boxes this can be a good deal. I can see this being useful for intra-European flights that can sometimes be pricey, but the non-stop requirement means that in practice this is mostly useful for going to/from a hub.
But for things like Munich > Dubrovnik or Auckland > Queenstown that can be expensive close to departure, I can see this being useful.
Central Asia to/from all of Asia (including Japan) and Oceania
United defines “Central Asia” as:
Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, Krgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Prices between those destinations and South Asia, North Asia, Japan, and Oceania are all going down in price for business class. This isn’t a huge savings (5,000-10,000 miles depending on the zones), but you might as well wait to book and save yourself a few thousand miles.
Australia to/from New Zealand in business class
This one is weird, because according to the current chart, these awards should cost 30,000 miles for a one-way in business class. The new chart lists a price of 25,000 miles, but the current price in practice is already 25,000 miles, so who knows. I suppose we can cross our fingers for a further price reduction 😉
Overall, while there are some mild increases in award costs in various regions, most of them aren’t heinous. Still, if you have plans to travel using your United miles, and are able to book in the coming weeks, I’d recommend doing so and saving yourself some miles.
Particularly awards to/from Australia (which should always be booked in advance) as a 20,000 mile round-trip increase will add up quickly if multiple people are traveling.
Do you have any United awards you’re planning to book this month?