I hate all devaluations. But United’s latest devaluation could have been much worse. Much worse. Let’s review what will change on November 01, 2017.
For over a year now I have been predicting another United MileagePlus devaluation. While both Delta and American Airlines have introduced rather substantial devaluations, United has not touched its award chart in nearly four years. That changes this autumn.
Summary of United Mileage Plus Changes
Here’s what is changing on 01 November 2017:
- Introduction of Everyday Awards, a dynamic award with pricing that will vary from flight to flight. Everyday Awards will replace Standard Awards on Nov. 1, 2017
- While prices will fluctuate, members will know the highest number of miles needed for each award
- Lower prices on most short-haul intra-region Economy Saver Awards for flights outside of the U.S., 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
- Implementation of $125 redeposit fee for members who do not show up for their flight and request a redeposit of their miles
- This fee will apply to all award bookings made on or after Nov. 1, 2017, and will apply to all members
New award chart here.
Let’s discuss each change.
Everyday Awards – Dynamic Pricing on Standard Awards
Dynamic pricing on standard awards is hardly a surprise, as American, Delta, and even Alaska Airlines do the exact same thing. Still, the new “dynamic awards” will have a published upper limit so you will know the maximum you will have to pay.
I’d imagine that on shorter routes we will see standard awards cheaper than present levels, but do not expect to see non-premium transcon flights on the low-end of the new sliding scale.
For example, a current standard award in domestic economy class costs 25,000 miles and this includes all Lower 48 flights, including premium transcon flights. Starting on 01 November, flights will cost up to 35,000 miles. Standard first class is now 50K miles one-way. With the change, flights will be priced up to 60K miles one-way.
This change moves United closer to a revenue-based redemption model, but is certainly not the full-blown revenue-based redemption scheme many (myself included) feared.
The changes in standard (now Everyday) award pricing will not alter the fixed nature of saver awards.
You can review the new award chart here.
Increased Saver Award Prices
There are a few painful changes, particularly when originating outside the USA, but these changes could have been much worse. We are not seeing massive devaluation, like Delta, and we have been given notice.
The most used and straightforward of redemptions — the 12.5K domestic economy class one-way award — does not change. Most changes, particularly for those touching the USA, are for premium cabins.
USA to Europe pricing, for example, remains unchanged at 70K one-way for partner awards in business class. Flying on United metal will rise from 57.5K to 60K one-way. That’s not too bad.
Other notable changes (one-way) from North America on United metal include:
- Australia/New Zealand — Business Class from 70K to 80K
- Central/Southern Africa — First Class from 85K to 90K
- Central Asia — Business Class from 70K to 75K
- Japan and Oceania — Business Class from 65K to 70K
- North Asia — First Class from 80K to 90K
- South Asia — Business Class from 70K to 75K
- Southern South America — Business Class from 55K to 60K one-way
Prices are going up in three-cabin (“Polaris First”) as well, but since that product is being phased out, I am not even including it above.
If flying a partner airline to/from North America (one-way), note these changes–
- Australia/New Zealand — Business Class from 80K to 90K
- Japan and Oceania — Business Class from 75K to 80K
- Middle East and Central Asia — Business Class from 80K to 85K
- Southern South America — Business Class from 55K to 60K
- South Asia — Business Class from 80K to 90K / First Class from 130K to 140K
If starting outside the USA, there are many changes as well. Check out the new award chart here for details.
Increased Prices on Premium Domestic Routes
I’ve written extensively about United’s new premium transcontinental service, which now includes Boston ⇄ San Francisco and replaces the former “p.s.” brand. Prices will jump on the following routes:
- Houston, Newark, Chicago, Denver and Washington, D.C. ⇄ Hawaii
- Newark ⇄ Los Angeles, San Francisco
- Boston ⇄ San Francisco
On the premium transcon routes, saver will rise from 25K to 35K and Everyday awards will cost up to 60K miles one-way (still much better than what we see on Delta and sometimes American). For Hawaii, saver business jumps from 40K to 50K and an Everyday award may run as much as 95K one-way in the front cabin.
Cheaper Nonstop Intra-Region Economy Flights
Non-stop economy class flights within a single region (outside the USA) will cost 8,000 miles one-way provided the flight distance is 800 miles or less. This may turn out to be the most valuable change for last-minute pricey bookings within Europe or Asia.
You can review the new award chart here.
$125 No-Show Fee
United currently has an extremely generous no-show policy: there is no obligation to let United know you won’t take your award flight. You can miss your award flight, call back a couple months later, and still get all your miles and taxes back.
That changes on November 01, 2017. If you fail to cancel your award prior to travel (takes mere moments online), you will pay a $125 fee to re-deposit your miles.
What Happens if I Ticket Now and Change Later?
Unlike in the past, United tells me any change after 01 November will trigger new pricing. Keep that in mind if you are making a speculative booking.
Do I like these changes? No, of course not.
But I am thankful that we dodged a bullet. I was expecting much worse and can certainly live with these changes, especially if this represents pricing levels for the next few years.
Kudos to United for being transparent, giving advance notice, and maintaining a published award chart.
(H/T: Zach at The Points Guy)