United Airlines left a substantial question unanswered before its award chart devaluation yesterday–what changes to awards booked under the old chart will be permitted without having to pay additional miles? Today, it answered the question and also lessened the harshness of the new award chart by relaxing a convoluted rule that would have forced regional partner flights into a lower class of service.
Here’s the official word—
The updated Saver and Standard Award mileage requirements are now in effect, and I have a few more details to share:
Updated handling for mixed UA-Partner United/partner award itineraries: As we shared with the initial announcement, the Star Alliance/Partner partner award pricing will apply to Business or First awards for itineraries that include at least one flight segment operated by a MileagePlus partner carrier in Business or First.
However, as a customer benefit we have made an exception for most itineraries which require connecting onto a MileagePlus/Star partner in First or Business for a short distance. Specifically, if a United/Copa award itinerary contains a connecting segment on a MileagePlus/Star partner that is wholly within one MileagePlus award region, then the United award price will apply.
- For example: IAD-FRA in United BusinessFirst connecting to FRA-FCO in Lufthansa Business, will be priced at the United mileage award amount.
- Note that this exception will not apply to a few specific regions and routings, such as intra-Africa connecting segments and certain fifth-freedom routes (e.g. BKK-KUL operated by Lufthansa)
Change clarification for itineraries booked before February 3: Many of you have also been asking about what kinds of itinerary changes will re-trigger a re-price to the new award chart, and I can share some additional follow-up details about that. As a reminder, the existing change process will apply, and any change that requires an award to re-price will require an add/collect of the additional miles under the new award price structure. Fees for change/cancel will still apply per our existing policies. Changes that will not trigger a re-price for itineraries ticketed before February 3, 2014 include:
- Date/time (cabin, region, and award type can’t change)
- Carrier on one or more segments (cabin, region, and award type can’t change)
- Origin/Destination within the same regions (carrier and cabin can’t change)
Sr. Manager – Customer Experience Planning
Most Changes to Existing Awards Will Not Trigger a Reprice
First, let’s look at what happens when you change an award booked prior to February 3rd:
In order to avoid a reprice to the new higher rate, changes are limited to the following–
- Carrier on one or more segments
- Origin/Destination within the same regions (carrier can’t change)
It seems that the second point conflicts with the third point, but as best I can make it out, if you have booked an award at the old level you can change the date and the time, you can change the carrier (even changing from a United flight to a partner flight), and you can even change origin and destination as long as both points remain in the same region as originally booked without triggering a reprice. If your origin or destination change, you will need to stick to the same carriers for the first change, but once that change is made, you can then change carriers.
So, say you are booked from Los Angeles-Frankfurt on Lufthansa and Frankfurt-Vienna on Austrian and you need to change your reservation to go to Zurich. As I read the new rules, you can first change from Los Angeles-Frankfurt-Zurich on Lufthansa or Los Angeles-Frankfurt on Lufthansa and Frankfurt-Vienna-Zurich on Austrian, but not Los Angeles- Frankfurt on Lufthansa and Frankfurt-Zurich on Swiss. However, after making the first change, you then change Frankfurt-Zurich from Lufthansa to Swiss. That seems far too complciated.
That makes me think–especailly because it appears these sorts of changes will have to be manually priced–that as long as you do not change the award type (i.e. saver business between the USA and Europe), you can make any change you want and won’t have to pay the new price.
If that is the case, then that will make changing existing awards a much easier process.
Regional Partner Flights Can Remain in Higher Cabins
United’s new chart charges more for partner flights than flights on United’s own metal. United first said that shorter partner flights within a region could be added onto an itinerary with a United longhaul flight for no extra points, as long as the partner flights were in a lower class of service.
So say you are going to Zurich again and booked San Francisco to London on United in business class. In order to pay the United price for a one-way business class ticket to Europe (57.5K miles) versus the partner price (70K miles), the Swiss flight from London to Zurich would have to be in economy.
Now, connecting flights within a region, like the Swiss London – Zurich flight above, can remain in business without paying the extra miles. If the partner flights is between regions, the higher rate applies. So flying Chicago-Frankfurt on United then Frankfurt-Dubai on Lufthansa in business would trigger the partner price (80K) because Frankfurt in the Europe region and Dubai is in the Middle East region.
United casts this as “a customer benefit”, but I suspect its programmers just could not figure out to get these odd mixed itineraries properly priced, so they gave up and went with a much more logical policy of giving customers a seat in the cabin they paid for, if available.
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Although minor givebacks, these two announcements do help to lessen the burden of the new chart.