Confirmed: Massive Devaluation For United Miles #UnitedUnfriendly

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Yesterday I posted that award tickets booked on United.com or via United phone agents were pricing very strangely. The exact same flights could cost 80K, 92.5K, or 110K miles depending on if United.com found them automatically or how you searched for them.

It turns out that it’s not a bug. It’s #UnitedUnfriendly rearing its ugly head again. Gary writes that he assumed it had to be a glitch as such a change without sufficient prior warning would constitute an unfair and deceptive practice worthy of a DoT complaint. United told him that,

“There is not a glitch on the new site for multi-city — that functionality is working as we previously announced. The new MileagePlus award changes are designed to make multi-city searches easier, give our customers greater flexibility, offer the Excursionist Perk, and provide efficient options that meet their travel needs. Selecting the multi-city option will break up the search into separate awards. We believe our multi-city pricing is consistent with the industry.”

Except nothing is easier, the Excursionist Perk is a massive downgrade from a stopover, and more flexibility just means pay us more miles.

There was a nice run of improvements from when Smisek was fired. United started improving their clubs, business class, in-flight snacks and coffee, free snacks for elites, and more. Employee morale went way up which made for far more pleasant and on-time flights.

American fired their President, Scott Kirby in August. United immediately hired him and named him their President. Scott Kirby is the man who said in a press conference that the Philadelphia-Tel Aviv route was “extremely lucrative” before canceling the route due to the route “always being a money-loser.” He came over with Doug Parker from America West to destroy USAirways and obliterate American’s operational performance and AAdvantage in record time.

And now United has removed the ability the manually pick your own saver award flights. If you take United.com’s suggestions then it will give the saver award rate for the route, but if you try specifying valid saver award flights you’ll pay a separate rate for each flight. That applies whether you select the flights on United.com or with a phone agent, though there are a couple reports of rare agents that are willing to sell tickets from the old system where you can string together your choice of saver award flights without paying additional miles.

United claims this is in line with industry practices, but that’s a farce.
Even American still allows you to combine saver flights on a single saver award as long as the routing is legal and you don’t have a stopover of more than 24 hours on an international flight and most carriers allow you to do the same.

Let United know how you feel by Tweeting your thoughts to @United with hashtag #UnitedUnfriendly or email them.

You can also retweet

If you feel deceived by MileagePlus’ lack of proper notification of the change you can file a a DoT complaint as well for their deceptive and unfair practices.

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19 Comments On "Confirmed: Massive Devaluation For United Miles #UnitedUnfriendly"

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Gary Leff

“There was a nice run of improvements from when Smisek was fired. United started improving their clubs, business class, in-flight snacks and coffee”

The illy coffee and Polaris business class products were signed off on by Smisek before he left. So I’ve always been somewhat skeptical of giving Oscar Munoz too much credit.

His big bet has been talking to employees, showing them he cares, and that they’d provide better customer service as a result.

iahphx

These were really only benefits for the gamers. Why does an airline (or any company) want to be nice to gamers (aka, the people who are getting more than they paid for)?

The right thing, of course, is for United to get their search function to work correctly so that everyone can book the available saver seats.

Eric

United is awful all the way around. We flew 5 of us to Australia through New Zealand on Air New Zealand in June returning in July using our United Mileage number. On our United statement only the return flights showed a mileage credit. I called United to see where the LA Auckland Auckland Sydney flights were and was told that that fare class was not eligible for mileage in June and had it been flown in July it would have been credited to our account and therefore we were not going to get any miles. Perhaps we should have looked more closely when flying a star alliance partner with United but we are ready to find different go to airline than United who are limiting and limiting what you can do.

Anonymous

I went business lax to JFK o found service not great and now n flight snacks to be non existent
Jet bkue has the best snacks hands down and now they have the best kosher food in mint-other airlines should follow suit?

Mike

I’ve gone six days trying to book a United itinerary, MEX-MDE, stopover, MDE-MVD, open-jaw, EZE-MEX. Showing decent availability. System accepts the routing but when it lands on the payment page, it moves to error. One CSR told me can’t award book Avianca metal, a second told me can’t book Copa metal, a third offered me a MEX-MDE routing with an 11 hour layover at IAH. Then I went back to the website and tried all the itinerary variations I could live with, and had no success. This all took many hours, squeezed in over a few days. For all its inherent clunkiness in booking alliance partner flights, AA’s mileage program is looking better by the minute.

Mike

By the way, in a flagrant violation of the Never Call The Airline rule, I emailed Oscar Munoz about this.

lindnuck

Dan, can you game the search by inputting your connection preferences? I haven’t looked at the new site but I recall you could prefer or exclude certain cities in the past. Would this work as a workaround?

Laura

WHAAAT??!! This is TERRIBLE news. So basically every segment in a multi-city award trip prices separately? This is insane. I don’t remember them saying it was going to go that way, in which case this is truly sneaky and deceptive. Thanks for sounding the alarm, Dan! Bad, bad news. 🙁

Uly

@iahphx: I would argue that this affects everyone, not just the gamers. United can now reduce award availability simply by tweaking their algorithm to make certain routes to not show up. Less availability means harder even for the regular people to redeem.

Case in point: I often fly SIN-JFK via North Asia. Sometimes I can’t find availability for the entire trip, but I can find trans pacific availability. I would then look if I can fly from SIN to North Asia by SQ; if I find it I would call and book it manually.

Now, that would no longer be possible because the two legs would be priced separately.

So I agree that this a massive and unfriendly devaluation. We are at the mercy not of the award rules, but of the computer.

Tim

United is horrible. I avoid them like a snake when flying internationally or coming back to US from Asia. In 2015, unfortunately our return flight from Tokyo to ord happened to be UA. We booked front coach 3 seats for me wife and our 16 month old child. We had car seats and we buckled him and our on blanket and he started sleeping. A female attendant comes to us and tells us child should be buckled , I told her he is buckled and asleep. She then gives us a plastic bag and says that is for you to use for his diapers. And she says you guys are nice you booked seat for him blah blah and asks us to look for her when we land and give her bag the plastic bag and says if you need anything for your child just lemme know. Well during the entire 14 plus hour, not once did she look at my child and not once did she ask us if we need anything for our child. Their attitude towards family is just downright nasty and they have a horrible attitude . It was an award trip and I couldn’t find Asian carriers back so I has to choose UA for return trip. I have flown UA before that before we had a child and the old and overweight flight attendant are down right nasty and condescending. I avoid AA as well for international trip.

Jim

I guess it’s time to find another airline program.

I’d love to see an article on the best one for travel primarily from SFO. Currently I have Silver status on United (which is essentially worthless) but I often pay for upgrades to first class and I have their Economy Plus plan that I pay for annually because it gives me and a companion Economy Plus at no additional charge. Since I always fly Eco Plus it pays for itself very quickly.

I also have the Mileage Plus Club card because club access is very important to me (also have amex platinum for Centurion club and a Priority Pass membership)

I prefer to fly Jet Blue but they don’t have routes to many places that I have to travel.

Any recommendations for a good plan where I can get club access, extra leg room on flights and many routes out of SFO would be really appreciated.

P

I was just trying to search a KOA – TYO flight (always via HNL) and none are available, but if I do multi-city KOA-HNL and HNL-TYO, the results are there. This sucks because this would be two itinerary which would require paying inter-island baggage fees and then checking again on international flight in HNL after picking up luggage.

Frank Roche

I can’t wait to ride in the new seating plan for their 737-800’s 192 in coach with 2 bathrooms that should be a real zoo probably charge for carry ons spirit air her we come! explains their last 2 exec hires

sk

can s/o please post a template for a dot complaint? (for the lazy ppls)

Srulky

All considered, AA sAAver award availability is awful and Delta doesn’t have pricing on award travel. United is still the best. Though unfortunately.
But I have always said that if you are a paying passenger go with Delta as they take care of their elites.

shmuel

hi dan just a random q if i close any amex card or chase card all the reps told me that i would have to leave at least 500 on the card before closing it even if i transfered the balance is that true? do you leave at least 500 before closing your cards even after you transfer the balance? thank you very much for your time

BMW

one workaround which might work in some cases, is to book any routing the website gives you [possibly even a different day] just make sure the departure and arrival city are the same. once your booked for the cheaper mileage price, ring united in the first 24 hours to make a date or routing change..in worst case you just cancel the whole thing ..

yitz

can i book a united flight with singapore or another partner airline for travel on ua that has availability even if ua themselves arent showing it on their search results?

Anonymous

Time to switch to Cashback cards! All the loyalty programs are garbage at this point….

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