Update: United is delaying the implementation of the new award chart until Monday.
Book what you can today!
— DansDeals (@DansDeals) November 1, 2013
— DansDeals (@DansDeals) November 1, 2013
D-Day is upon us. Come 02/01 and it will cost more United miles to go places. In some cases many more miles.
The pain is two fold as for the first time United will charge more to fly to may places and they will charge even more to fly on partner airlines.
The gist of the changes for departures from the US:
-US48/Canada awards don’t change.
-Alaska is broken out as its own category and will become much more expensive with coach now going for 35K instead of 25K and business going for 60K instead of 50K.
-Hawaii in coach goes up from 40K to 45K though business and first are surprisingly unchanged.
-South America is mostly unscathed.
-Europe in coach in unchanged but business on United goes up by 15K to 115K and first on United goes up by 25K to 160K. The real pain is for partner redemption with business going up by 40K to 140K and first going up by a whopping 85K to 220K
-Israel in coach goes up 5K to 85K. Business nonstop on United goes up by 20K to 140K and first on United via Europe goes up by 30K to 180K. Again, the real pain is for partner redemption with business going up by 40K to 160K and first via Europe going up by an insane 130K to 280K. That first class partner jump is the infamous 87% rate increase.
-See the chart for similar increases to Asia, Africa, and Australia.
-Round-The-World awards get really smacked with coach going up 20K to 180K, business going up 90K to 350K, and first going up 100K to 450K.
It’s worth noting that for flights from Israel to places besides North America there is actually some good news:
DDF user Drago has the entire changes wrapped up nicely in this spreadsheet
Among many other examples from his chart:
-Israel to Southern Africa in coach goes down from 70K to 60K.
-Israel to Australia or Japan in coach goes down from 90K to 70K.
So how can you fly United First class to Israel via Europe when United doesn’t fly from Europe to Israel?
United has announced that you can still use the United chart instead of the partner award chart if the partner award flight is in a lower class of service than the United flight. So if you fly United First Class from Newark to Frankfurt and then Lufthansa Business class to Tel Aviv you would pay the United First rate of 180K. If you fly United business from Newark to Frankfurt and then Lufthansa coach to Tel Aviv you would pay the United business rate of 140K.
How will changes to tickets booked before February 1st work?
Nobody knows. You can book travel now for travel over the next year to lock in lower rates. However United is leaving this intentionally vague by just saying that their existing change policies will apply and that simple date changes will not trigger the higher mileage rate.
In other words if something would cause a ticket to be reissued then it would have to be repriced at the higher award rates. Changing the origin or destination of a ticket will definitely require a reissue. Changing the dates will definitely not require a reissue.
However everything else is very murky.
Will a change of airlines require a reprice? Will a change of routing (connecting cities) require a reprice? It may, it may not. I guess just assume that it may and be happy if it does not.
Even more likely is that it will be YMMV with some agents doing it without requiring more miles and some asking for more miles.
In my beat the devaluation post I suggested using United.com’s often overlooked “cancel without redepositing miles” as a way to lock in Lufthansa First Class awards which are only released within 2 weeks of a flight. (For other awards you are better booking a flight that’s in a year from now and then making a simple date change.)
Some bloggers agreed that changing the dates that way shouldn’t require a reprice. Others weren’t sure while others thought it would require a reprice.
I think that taking that route should work as it keeps the pricing information from my experience and shouldn’t need a reprice. In other words I helped someone book a flight on United from Newark to Tel Aviv that they cancelled and wound up rebooking a few months later on USAirways and it only charged $50 for a simple change without repricing the itinerary. But it needs to be stressed that we are in uncharted territory here and nobody really can say for sure what will happen.
Some DDF members have asked United and the answers have been everything from of course that would work to there’s no way that would work.
United’s Twitter presence was completely worthless in their response when I reached out to them. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, we’re talking about the same @United account that said they were excited about everyone threatening to boycott United and that they would implement said boycott ASAP!
The bottom line is that nobody can give you a definitive answer at this point, not even United themselves.
It’s worth noting that not all airlines show award availability on United.com. Brussels, LOT Polish (which has lie-flat seating in business class on their 787s), and Singapore are notable exceptions that can only be booked over the phone with United (though can be researched on other sites like Air Canada’s Aeroplan and ANA). So if you are looking to lock in cheaper tickets to Israel, pick up that phone and call!
And don’t forget that although United business class isn’t being hit nearly as hard as partner awards, it definitely makes sense to lock in the current rates via a Plan B redemption. Best of all you can lock them in now even if there is only coach award availability! By setting up a Plan B award today you can save yourself tens of thousands of miles.
Does this change my overall mileage strategy?
I find myself using my Starwood card more often than before but I’m not going to shy away from collecting United miles. I’m sitting on over 5 million United miles and it stinks that they’re being devalued like this but I’m not about to burn them to the ground just because of inflation. They’re still wayyyyy better than Delta miles and you can still get an incredible value for your miles. And I don’t think we’ll see another United devaluation for quite some time.
I’d be more scared pouring miles into American and USAirways miles as their award chart is a real bargain at this point in time which makes it ripe for devaluation. So keep those Starwood points in Starwood and transfer them to American or USAirways on an as needed basis only. Better to be safe than sorry and that’s the beauty of transferable points that aren’t locking into just one airline.