6 United Awards To Book Before November 1st

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A few months ago United MileagePlus announced some major program changes, which kick in for bookings as of November 1, 2017.

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 & CanadaMainland U.S., Alaska & Canada
HawaiiHawaiian Islands
CaribbeanAntigua, 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 AmericaBelize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama
Northern South AmericaColombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela
Southern South AmericaArgentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay
EuropeAlbania, 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 AsiaChina, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan
South AsiaBangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
Central AsiaAfghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, Krgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Middle EastAzerbajian, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Central/Southern AfricaAngola, 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 AfricaAlgeria, Canary Islands, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia
OceaniaAmerican 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 ZealandAustralia (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.

Intra-Africa awards

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 😉

Bottom line

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?

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  1. I’ve been trying to book a Japan to Oceania award and it keeps erroring out after clicking purchase on the website. Spent an hour and a half on the phone with web support and a “reservations supervisor” on Wednesday and they had same issue. They couldn’t ticket manually either. Claimed issue was with NZ segments from AKL to NAN. Sometimes they said it was outbound segment other times they said it was return segment, but either way they kept getting errors. I even tried different dates and a different island with same issue.

    @United Twitter suggested calling main reservations number instead of web support…which I am going to do tommorow. Expecting a long phone call which I know you would enjoy Tiffany. 😉

    I really don’t think it’s phantom space as it shows through Aeroplan as well and phone agent could sometimes see it. Tried to get them to call NZ and/or send to alliance liaison, but was told they could only do that if I had a confirmed booking, which they couldn’t create due to the issue.

    Any suggestions for my phone call tommorow?

  2. Too bad about the drastic increase for the Within Asia category. It’s also possible to upgrade by paying cash within Asia, i.e., Tokyo to Singapore or Bangkok, etc. Last time I used this in 2012, I paid $75 for an economy to business upgrade on the Tokyo-Singapore flight.

  3. Thanks, Tiffany, for your insight here. So if I already have a *A Saver award booked for late November, and my intent was to change to a more convenient routing closer to departure, does this mean that UA will reprice the itinerary or can I keep the current mileage level locked in?

    Leave it to UA to complicate everything.

  4. what information do you have about the ordinary saver awards to Europe. It is currently 60,000 miles for a roundtrip. Do you have any information for 2018 and do you think I should book these award tickets before November 1?

  5. Thanks much for the heads up! I just booked 2 RT First tickets on Thai from Hong Kong to Sydney that wouldn’t have been done without this article. Lots of value from this site regularly. Thanks!

  6. @Boris Minevich – Failed again today. Spent an hour on the phone with reservations and got an agent who claimed to have booked it without any issues (besides the agent saying her computer was being very slow…hence the hour phone call). She gave me a confirmation code, said the miles were deducted from my account, and my Visa was charged.

    But guess what??? None of that actually happened. I never got an email confirmation and the record locator she gave me is invalid according to United.com. I called in and spoke to a supervisor (another hour on the phone) who also had no record of the reservation and said when he tried to recreate the ticket that there was no longer availability on NZ53. Supervisor couldn’t help and said the only way to have the call recording reviewed was to email Customer Care. I went ahead and did that, but don’t expect a prompt response.

  7. You mentioned that South America has the same mile redemptions for united OR partners…I thought all *A partners incur higher redemption levels? Can you explain why this region they are the same? Any other locations/regions where this also applies? Thanks very much.

  8. I thought the Business Class one way on UA takes 70,000 miles currently from U.S. to Europe. What’s the real increase.

  9. FYI, you can book Thai Airways for Auckland to Hong Kong using an interesting way.

    – Business on the brand new 787-9 in Business (no first available) from Auckland to Bangkok.
    – First on the venerable 747 in First from Bangkok to Hong Kong.

    Price is split in the middle at 35,000 since it’s mixed.

    Get it while it’s hot!

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