Update, 10/5: Today is the final day to book a free one-way or stopover award with United miles.
Originally posted on 8/5:
Effective 10/6 you will no longer be able to book stopovers on United awards as has been allowed in the past.
Most insultingly, the email they sent out says that the changes are for “More flexible award booking and streamlined fees” and that “Starting in the fall, we are enhancing the way you book MileagePlus award travel on united.com”
Nothing good has ever come out of an airline enhancement. I’d rather be told how it is than have their marketing team try to work their spin. #UnitedUnfriendly is rearing its ugly head once again.
United writes that “Many members found the stopover policy to be confusing. Our goal is to keep the benefit while making the process of booking your multi-city trip easier, so we are introducing the Excursionist Perk, which is a free one-way award within select multi-city itineraries.”
I have no idea how Excursionist Perk is any less confusing than stopover, but I’ll try to explain what the difference is in this post. But in short, stopovers are awesome, and the “Excursionist Perk” removes all of the awesome from stopovers.
The new stopover rules are downright awful, as is the new Excursionist Perk name for the stopover. But quite frankly, the only surprise is that they are still offering some sort of stopover option at all. American and Delta no longer offer any stopovers, though many foreign carriers still do.
Stopovers allow you to add a free segment to your itinerary and the techniques of them is something that I spent a lot of time at DansDeals Seminars discussing (though it was also when I noticed the eyes glazing over on most novices as they started to get confused). For example if you book a round-trip from NYC to London in August you can “stopover” after your London trip for 6 months and then get a free one-way to Miami in February. You can then use miles or find a cheap one-way ticket back home after that, or you can book a trip from Miami to Paris the following summer with the Miami-NYC leg in February and NYC-Paris and back the following August.
You can book a stopover award here, just click multi-city. I generally search for 3 one-way awards and when I find saver award space for those 3 legs I’ll then use the multi-city option to book it. If you initially search via multi-city it often gives errors and shows fewer options that when you search for one-way awards.
United is also eliminating round-the-world awards. Those awards were a good deal before the 2014 devaluation at 180K coach, 260K business, and 350K first. With that devaluation those rates shot up to 200K coach, 350K business, and 450K first. The last day to book a round-the-world award is 10/5.
United is also updating their award fees. Here is the new award fee structure and here is the current fee structure. Currently non-elites pay $75 for changes more than 21 days in advance of a flight, $100 for changes within 21 days of the flight, or $200 to cancel an award. As of 10/6 non-elites will pay $75 for any changes or cancellations more than 60 days in advance of the flight and $125 within 60 days of the flight, so that’s actually a nice improvement for when you need to cancel an award. However Platinum elites are very unhappy as they go from not paying any award change or cancel fees to paying $50 for any changes made within 60 days.
You can still book traditional stopover awards until 10/5 for travel through the end of schedule. If you keep the first flight of your award ticket then you’ll be able to change the rest of a traditional stopover ticket, but if you change the first flight of your award ticket you will lose your traditional stopover.
Stopover rules after 10/5:
1. Free stopovers will no longer be allowed to occur in the region of origin.
2. Free stopovers will no longer be allowed to include a flight that spans 2 regions.
3. Free stopovers will no longer be allowed if the origin and destination of the trip are in different regions.
4. Stopovers will no longer be allowed on a wholly domestic ticket for an additional 10K miles.
You can view a list of regions here.
Here are examples of what all this means in the real world:
1. Intra-Hawaii coach with stopover: Currently 12K, will be 18K:
A. Honolulu-Kauai in coach on 1/15.
B. Kauai-Maui in coach on 1/22.
C. Maui-Honolulu in coach on 1/29.
This will no longer be a valid stopover award as the stopover leg B occurs within the region of origin.
View more examples after the jump: