What depressing news to wake up to. First thing I do when I wake up (sadly) is check my emails and social media. This morning, Twitter was abuzz with words like “United award chart” and “devaluation.” I was terrified to dig further.
It turns out that what we, as travel ‘hackers’, fear most in an award program had been announced. United Airlines is making big time changes to their award chart.
First thing’s first. These changes don’t get into effect until February 1, 2014. There is time to book awards at the current rates.
The Breakdown of Changes
Here’s a link to a Google Doc I created for easier reference. I’ve highlighted and bolded the changes, the ones in darker pink and red are the most drastic. Please share if you find it useful!
Let’s be real here, United. The award chart changes are overwhelmingly obvious. United doesn’t want its member redeeming miles for First Class travel on its partners. It makes perfect business sense, but I still don’t like it.
For some First Class partner awards, there is 60+% increase in the miles needed!
Awards With No or Minimal Changes
- Any travel on United or its partners from North America to U.S., Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, or Northern South America WILL NOT CHANGE.
- Economy travel on either United or its partners from North America to the destinations listed above plus Europe, Africa, Oceania, & Australia / New Zealand.
- Economy travel to Hawaii is will only increase from 40K to 45K miles round trip.
- Business Class travel to Southern South America will increase from 100K to 110K round trip.
- First Class travel to Southern South America will increase from 135K to 140K round trip.
- Economy travel to the Middle East, Japan, North Asia, and Central Asia will only increase 5K round trip.
There are other changes in the award chart, but I’m focusing on travel originating in the U.S. (North America). Even intra-Asia Business Class awards will increase. They go from 35K miles round trip to 60K miles!
Consider where your future credit card spend will go. I surely wouldn’t put any on the Chase United card. I will still use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card for bonuses in travel & dining, but almost everything else will go to my American Express Starwood Preferred Guest and my Barclaycard Arrival MasterCard. Both just became much more valuable to me than Chase Ultimate Rewards cards after this announcement.
Here’s a note regarding mixed-carrier awards by a United Sr. Manager on Flyer Talk
Finally, a note about mixed-carrier Saver Awards. Although there will now be two charts, it will be still be possible to combine United/United Express and MileagePlus partner award flights on the same itinerary. However, the MileagePlus partner award cabin level will need to be lower than that of the United-operated segment(s) in order to take advantage of the United Saver Award price. So, for a US to Europe itinerary where the long-haul segment is in United Global First, the intra-Europe connecting segment would need to be in Business or Economy (as they typically already are) to take advantage of the United Saver Award price. Similarly, for a US to Europe itinerary where the long-haul segment is in United BusinessFirst, the intra-Europe connecting segment would need to be in Economy to take advantage of the United Saver Award price.
This is the exact reason why you shouldn’t hoard miles. Admittedly, I hoard miles, but that’s because I earn that at a ridiculous rate and don’t have enough vacation days to burn.
Will this devaluation push me to dump all my United miles? Absolutely not. My 2014 travel patterns are pretty firm so I won’t be able to. Just because I don’t dump my miles, it doesn’t mean I’m OK with these changes. I absolutely hate them!
My advice is to think about your travel for 2014. If there is premium cabin travel in your future, definitely burn your United miles before February 1, 2014. From then on, they’ll be worth a lot less. If you only redeem for coach travel, you likely have nothing to worry about.
Good luck as we move into the new norm of loyalty programs!