United Copying Delta Again: Goodbye Award Charts And Close-In Fees #UnitedUnfriendly

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Update: United has just published these changes on their website.


Overall, United MileagePlus is the best mileage program that exists today.

So naturally, United has decided to kill it.

I noted last week that I feared the new cheaper saver awards were probably a bad thing. And that has already come true.

It took over 4 years to copy Delta’s identical move, but for flights on or after 11/15 United will also remove their award charts. That way they can devalue on a whim without needing to provide any notice.

They will also remove close-in fees for booking award travel within 3 weeks of a flight starting on 11/15. That might sound like a good thing, but with Delta that’s been a terrible thing as mileage prices now skyrocket within 3 weeks of travel, far offsetting the old cost of the close-in fee. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same thing happen to United.

Delta gets away with it as they run a better airline from an operational standpoint. United’s main advantage has been their mileage program, which they are now taking an axe to.

Sadly, the loyalty industry continues heading in this direction. Hilton got rid of their award charts 2 years ago.

This is what happens when mergers are allowed to continue unchecked. Consumers are left with little choice and companies can do what they want due to the lack of competition.

It’s an existential mistake of epic proportions that loyalty managers will eventually learn the hard way as people will switch over to cash back cards if mileage cards don’t provide a better value. Airlines sell billions of dollars of miles to credit card companies annually and they will find themselves in a bind if people change how they earn credit card rewards or stop transferring their points into miles.

United claims they won’t be tying awards to a specific dollar amount, but there will no longer be a cap on how expensive awards can get.

Partner awards will remain at the price they are now, but like Delta, they won’t publish that award chart.

You can view United’s current award chart here, saved on DansDeals servers for when United deletes their charts.

In my eyes, this is a much worse development than the terrible 2014 devaluation. For now though we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out and reevaluate what to do about.

Your move American.

HT: mmgfarb, via DDF

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68 Comments On "United Copying Delta Again: Goodbye Award Charts And Close-In Fees #UnitedUnfriendly"

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HY

1 by 1 I feel like the whole credit card system is falling apart. Maybe apple now has a chance in succeeding

moe8555

Plenty of 2%+ cashback options out there, and plenty of 2X-5X point-earning options out there. I personally wrote off United long ago…

HelpMe

The CC game has never been better.

NooB

Explain?

DXD

We all it was coming for years now…any sense of how this will play out on other Star Alliance (AC, LH) programs when operated by United metal?

ChaimB

I wouldn’t fly United again after I flew FIRST CLASS from Chicago to LA and they refused to order a kosher meal weeks in advance. Fine first class pricing for lousy service

Helen

I agree, this is bad news :(. Are they also going to pull the chart for upgrades on long haul flights?

sad to hear

what do you mena that delta is better operationally then united? they have less delays overall better service on flights?

chaim

if they keep partner awards the same means you can book lufthansa at the current saver rates even after 11/15?

Usernamechuck

Really awful news for my family, I’ve been getting amazing value for years with United points (on partners mostly) around the holidays.

I wonder how long this has been in the works.. Guessing they put off devaluations for recent months knowing they were headed this way.

fanofdan

partners wont be affected

Ari

Not surprising. Delta’s latest earning show $7B revenue from their AmEx partnership, so clearly their terrible mileage program is not hurting their bottom line. Why shouldn’t United follow suit? (Of course Delta has better product and operations, but noone at UA will admit that).

me

This will also devalue chase points

Ari

Dan, do you still recommend getting the United Explorer card after this? Are they still going to provide better ‘saver’ award space to CC holders?

Shaul

There also are enough people in the “game” right now with the popularity of blogs like DD, DoC, TPG, OMAAT etc. that I feel like airlines are being pinched and availability has gone way down, so they need to re-calibrate the market.

eponymous coward

Airlines are historically profitable for the past 7-8 years compared to other periods of time post-deregulation. Most airports are comfortable little oligopolies with one dominant carrier (maybe Southwest, Delta or Alaska is a second carrier if you’re lucky) where your choices are limited. Coach fares give you less and less compared to years past.

Sure, they’re pinched. Or maybe they’re fattening their margins because “where are you going to go? We’re the only major carrier from your airport”.

Shaul

Airports are also getting major overhauls, and adjusted for inflation airfare is trending downwards. At the end of the day it’s a business, and the only way to hurt the bottom line would be for people to stop redeeming awards and having those seats fly empty.

eponymous coward

Airfares are lower because ancillary fees make up a big portion of revenue. This was not the case even 10 years ago.

I think the premise of “the mean ol’ bloggers are punishing the poor defenseless airlines so they have no choice but to continuously devalue mileage programs” is just not proven given the profits being generated (and the industry is generally profitable). First, guess who decides how many miles there are? Airlines, by what they sell to banks and affiliates (or even directly to consumers). Guess who decides how many seats and which seats those miles chase? Airlines. Bloggers are playing in a rigged casino where the rules get set by the casino owners (the airlines).

If airlines are being “pinched”, they are pinching themselves by treating their self-issued currency like Venezuelan bolivars in the pursuit of short term profits (by selling them). The bottom line is moves like this make it so I have no reason to invest energy in airline mileage programs as a differentiator, either by flying or using the credit card, not when it’s just a 1-2% cash rebate on my airfare anyway (no matter who I fly) and I can get 2% on cash rebate by fogging a mirror. If you drain all the value out of a program, all you pick on is schedule and service (and UA doesn’t always win on that).

me

considering this would you switch spending from chase?

EK

I hate delta and feel their miles are useless. i was thinking of focusing on southwest and united exclusively, but now i guess it will be southwest.

Erika

American seems to have decent values.

eponymous coward

Until they decide to rev up the copying machine, that is.

Erika

Alaska is the best mileage program! But maybe you aren’t counting them because their footprint is so small!

Dave

Why do I feel like I was born 10 years too late? 🙂 I wasn’t, that’s the sad part. Credit was hurt in 2009, couldn’t take advantage until recently.

nun

Can we trade? I’d like to be 10 years younger.

YYZ

Its interesting that they keep devaluing but at the same time every UA flight you board will have an announcement to sign up for the Mileageplus explorer card + there is a pamphlet in every seat back pocket. Even the small ones operated by skywest are now announcing this. Seems like there is big investment in the ADD but not in the program itself.

gemarakop

people apparently sign up for delta cc including one that charges 195 af not everyone is educated about milage value

JW

I carry that particular Delta card. I never use it save for when I am booking my annual companion fare where I regularly get a $350+ plane ticket for the taxes and fees. Well worth the $195 annual fee in my book. Oh and it also gets me a free checked bag on Delta without requiring me to pay for the flight with it, which is another plus.

Mountain Man

At least 11/15 is a really long notice period. That’s nice.

Sam

I guess United got jealous of Delta winning TPG’s best airline loyalty program. So they decided to copy.

Abey

Comment of the month

gemarakop

for that it would probably be easier to outbid delta

Yisroel

Hi Dan can we get new silver car promo codes for pesach

nun

I don’t think it’s true that partners will remain the same. Look at the 30-day calendar for EWR-FRA nonstop in mid-Jan to early Feb. The price on LH in business is 119k each way on 21 of the 30 days shown, and 155k on other 9. They’ve done funny things with LH in the past, which is I why I checked this route. For LX, I still see 70k prices though.

Chaim

Dan,

Its time to write a article on the best cashback cards

Beni J

agreed

Moish

How bout posting where we can let them know our grievances, so that it gets to those decision makers.

Eli

I got email from citi that China southern airline is available now with them,

Elinyc77

Sad news but glad I didn’t invest in airlines and hotel cards and miles and concentrated on the more versatile chase/amex points in the last couple of years.

Al

I like to take the United Credit Card Application card that is in the seat-back, fold it up into a hanging tray that I can use to prop up my iPhone at eye level, so I can watch a movie without hurting my neck.

moish

how will this affect Plan B?

J

I’ll be getting rid of club card for 450 with no close in fee

YoLaViajera

I’ve only ever used United miles on their partners and although this move affects their metal, I don’t trust United for a minute. I’m sure partner awards will be affected too. I guess it’s time to use up all my UA miles!

UA1K

Poor Travel Agents…

Sfuzzi

Now I understand when I tried to book a Hilton room in key west last week it was 238,000 points! I kept thinking it was a mistake for just one night!!

LSD

Well, 11/15 is still a reasonably long time from now. Enough time to book saver awards for next.pesach.

Stam Leha\'ir

Next Pesach is after 11/15.

weiss

the upgrade chart will also change ?

joel

i reckon this means the end of plan b awards ?

Jury is still out

Dan, you wrote in your post two years ago that “Delta miles have actually become more valuable since then due to availability that is markedly better than American’s.” From my experience of fare searches, this continuous to be 100% accurate. AA may have the award chart, but they are incredibly stingy on tons of routes, often charging 20-30,000 miles for a one way flight of less than 500 miles, even during off peak times when the flights are open, simply because they can.
I’ve found that you usually get a far better value with Delta, even if United leads the league in top mileage value (and certainly with Explorer card holders). So let’s hope this translate into a huge devaluation, but the jury is still out. The biggest losers?? The United club card holders, who now lose the major perk of exclusive no mileage close in fees and face the devaluation, too.

nfd

i think they will indirectly charge the 75$ close-in booking fee by charging more miles for flights within 21 days of departure

bystander

cuz united breaks guitars!!!! thats them again!

orrin

Dan: When Bimbo bakery decided to pull the kosher certification off many of their breads, there was a massive letter writing and phone call campaign, which ultimately worked.

Would you consider leading the charge with United, adding the other web blog writers tp enlist all the loyal United passengers to call, write, etc United about how upset we are with their recent plans for the program?

I suspect there would be thousands of calls and letters made.

Couldn’t hurt to try, no?

Chag kasher v’Sameach.

Thank you,
Orrin Davis MD

chaim

according to the united website
The partner award chart will remain in effect for travel through November 14, 2019. For travel on or after November 15, 2018, there may be flights that require a higher number of miles than the amounts indicated on the award chart. When you search for awards while booking, you’ll see the applicable award level.

so it seems that even partner awards are possibly going dynamic pricing

Harry Hassoun

Dan I think plan B was affected by this change. They can’t waitlist the business saver like they use to.

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