A report on FT suggests that United has imposed new, stricter routing rules on travel between the USA/Canada and North Asia. Thus far, my research points to a case of a mistaken agent.
Still, the following new rules, apparently effective today, were read to a customer just a short time ago–
- No transit in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia or the Philippines on a US-North Asia award
- Maximum four segments (previously five segments were permitted)
- Must cross the same ocean in both directions
- No circle trips (circle trips were already technically prohibited)
I called the Star Alliance desk and the 1K desk to verify and both denied that there were any new rules in effect. I even asked the 1K agent to pull up the award routing rules and all recent memos to verify and she did. According to her, the five segment restriction remains in effect for travel to Asia, Australia, and Oceania, but no restrictions on ocean crossings or embargoed transit cities.
I also tried a dummy booking on united.com and was able to price an award to Japan connecting in Hong Kong as normal:
Still, I am a bit uneasy. The agent must have been reading something and though the blocked transit cities rules is just ridiculous if true, this appears like the type of move that United would stealthily make. Delta also has a four segment maxium in each direction on awards.
So for now, it seems that these rumored changes are not in effect, but it will come as no surprise if these changes turn out to be true.