Frequent Miler’s interview with United regarding their massive award chart devaluation

This morning I woke up to the news that United had overhauled their award chart.  Beginning February 2014, the value of United MileagePlus miles for international travel will drop to turd-like levels.  For example, round-trip Star Alliance awards to Europe in business class can currently be booked for as low as 100,000 miles.  Beginning in February, the same awards will cost 140,000 miles when partner airlines are included in the itinerary.  It’s even worse for First Class awards which go from 135,000 miles round-trip today to 220,000 miles round-trip in February.  That’s a 63% increase!

I was lucky enough to be able to get a top United executive on the phone this morning to answer questions about their award chart devaluation.  Here is the enlightening transcript of the interview:

Frequent Miler: Thank you for taking the time to answer questions this morning!  I’m not surprised to see higher prices in United’s award chart, but I’m shocked by how extreme the changes are.  Why did United decide to go from near best-in-class awards to bottom of the dung pile?

Top United Exec: It’s all about pleasing our customers.

Frequent Miler: What?!  How can higher award prices please customers?

Top United Exec: Customers regularly complain about having trouble finding saver level partner awards, especially for international business class and first class trips.  With our new award chart, we expect that customers will no longer look for these awards since they’re so expensive.  That way, they won’t complain about them.

Frequent Miler: MileagePlus awards on United flights will now be less expensive than awards on partner flights.  Won’t that increase competition for United-metal awards and make it harder than ever for customers to find those awards?

Top United Exec: Yes, at first that will be a problem.  Soon, though, most of our loyal customers will defect to other airlines.  That will result in two positive changes: there will be less competition for awards, and there will be far fewer customers complaining.

Frequent Miler: Surely you could have come up with a better plan for pleasing your customers?

Top United Exec: Of course we’ve tried!  Last year we briefly offered awards to Hong Kong for only 4 miles.  And, recently, we offered flights for free – no miles required at all!  Both of these were hugely popular promotions, but our accountants claim that they didn’t help our business.  There’s no pleasing accountants! 

Frequent Miler: Aren’t you worried about the negative publicity that will ensue with these changes?

Top United Exec: Not at all.  I remember in Marketing 101 class that we were taught that all publicity is good publicity!  Or, something like that.  Anyway, we’re going to get lots of publicity for free!

Frequent Miler: I still don’t understand why you’re willing to risk losing your loyal customer base.  There must be some other reason for this?

Top United Exec: A big motivator was Delta-envy.  Ever since Gary Leff coined the term Sky Pesos to represent Delta Sky Miles, we’ve been jealous about not having a similar “in the know” name for our miles.  Personally, I’m hoping that Gary will pick up the term “Stardust” when talking about our miles.

Frequent Miler: Stardust?

Top United Exec: Yes, we are part of the Star Alliance and dust isn’t worth much, so Stardust would be an appropriate name.  Catchy too.

Frequent Miler: Oh, OK…  Thank you for your time with this interview.  I need to go now and book awards to use up all of my United miles.

Top United Exec: Too late.  All saver level awards have already been booked by others trying to dump their United miles.  But, thank you for this chance show the world the value in our new award chart, and to underscore how we always put customers first!

Note about this interview: This interview was entirely made-up with the intention of bringing some humor to today’s award chart tragedy.  This is intended to be comedy and therefore, hopefully, exempt from any adverse actions that might be taken by United’s legal teams.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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45 Comments on "Frequent Miler’s interview with United regarding their massive award chart devaluation"

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Bender
Guest

LMAO!

Patrick
Guest

Does this increase go into effect starting Feb or is it for any reservations made now for travel start in Feb and beyond?

FrequentMiler
Guest

Patrick: Only awards booked Feb 1 and later will be under the new prices. You can book now with the old prices for trips after Feb 1. Gary has the details here. Or, look at just about any other blog for details 🙂

jim
Guest

This is a destruction of CHASE UR points indirectly and massive devaluation of UNited miles on international flights
Absolutely disgusting!

jeff.smisek@united.com needs to hear from everyone

twitter/united facebook united airlines

Two tier award charts? What’s the purpose of being in an alliance, then??

frequent churner
Guest

Boo hoo! I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but I’ve tried various airlines for biz and first and it wasn’t worth the extra miles for me anyway. I just want to get to the destination. Maybe this will temper the CC signup insanity perpetrated by so many bloggers who sell readers on the glamour of unlimited free first class travel. More seats left for the rest of us.

FrequentMiler
Guest

frequent churner: I think there are many who would agree with you. Personally, I love how good business & first class flights can make the journey as much of the vacation experience as the destination. I completely understand and appreciate your view of it though.

Jerry
Guest

Stardust

I like this post!!

Nick
Guest

Stardust – brilliant!

@Jim: agree on the alliance point. NZ did the same thing and it killed (from a value perspective) the vast majority of their partner redemptions.

TrAAveller
Guest

Perhaps a painful bit of truth in the humor. All more of a reason not to hoard miles. Burn baby burn!

Lively
Guest

The interview reads like a SNL skit!

Narayana S
Guest

Brilliant !!!!! painful though.

Ford
Guest

@Jim Totally agree, just price the damn award at what you need to for the alliance, 99.9% of people aren’t going to know which metal they’re flying for an international trip, so won’t understand the redemption price…hopefully United agents will be among them.

Also agree this is a devaluation of UR for me, luckily we can still cash out those points.

@FM next piece is which *A partners are best to book awards on United metal with taking into account new award prices.

Greg M
Guest

Your post made my morning!

Rachel
Guest

It shamefully took me about halfway through the interview before I realized it was fake. Well done, sir.

And boo to United. But, really, is there anything we can honestly do about it?

How about instead of MileagePlus, it’s now MileageDust?

Nick
Guest

Why oh why oh why .. time to burn n all, miles I mean.

Nick @ Personal Finance Digest
Guest

Hilarious! Though it took me a couple of paragraphs to realize it was a joke.

THEsocalledfan
Guest

So, miler. You are a Delta captive like me. While I know none of us were delusional to think Sky Pesos were better than United Miles, what say you post devaluation as a Delta guy like me? Combined with my status, I think Pesos may now be pretty close if not better thanks to Korean, China Southern, and Alitalia awards.

Shafik
Guest

This is a shut up response to all bloggers that keep bragging about flying Star Alliance first class when they can barely afford a coach ticket. It is clear that airlines want first class people on their first class cabins and not point and miles hoarders that get into their first class cabins and start taking pictures of even a paper napkin. That is what all airlines will do and they are only protecting real first class customers that pay $15k+ for that seat and do not want to share the cabin with people that do not belong there.

frequent churner
Guest

Halloween is the most appropriate day to unleash such a spooktacular change on the miles junkies.

@FM — I agree with you completely about aspiring to try first class, but now it’s priced in line with what you’re getting. People are just pissed because they can’t get something for nothing anymore. They were getting a gifted horse and expecting it to have a diamond grille.

Bikeguy
Guest

THEsocalledfan: Unless you know the secret handshake, you can’t book Delta awards for low, as the search engine is broken.

Well, only if you want to go to Australia you can, just you can’t get to the West coast to start your trip.

United is still worth way more than Delta.

eds
Guest

Ok, lets face it. Someone did some analysis and figured out that too many people were signing up for two/three credit cards, and then redeeming very expensive F tickets on their partners.

This is the nature of arbitrage, you find hole, you exploit it until it closes, and then you move on to next hole that you find.

The people who really have a right to be angry are those who earn miles the old fashioned way – through flying.

Travel Summary
Guest

I had to read a few answers before I realized this was fake! I guess that speaks to how little I think of United’s executives…they might really answer this way.

Gabriel
Guest

Not surprising they’re charging more for their partner awards…after all, it’s not like anybody actually *wants* to get stuck on United’s first class long haul product.

Skwok
Guest

Wow that was awesome. I didn’t get it until the third “top United Exec.” However not so funny for people who are heavily invested in United. Glad to have 0 united miles but all in Chase UR and Amex MR. Diversity for the win.

Gabriel
Guest

On a sad note…I better savor my first class ticket coming back from Singapore in April. Looks like I’ll NEVER be doing that again since they’re basically jumping the miles required up 100%. (HOLY SHIT!!)

jack
Guest

Bloggers times (X) = Bubble bursting! Did anybody think this could go on forever with now 100’s of bloggers pimping “Free Travel, Ask me how!). Seminars, TV interviews, quote’s in travel mags and newspapers… the bloggers have killed the golden goose over cc referrals. Traveling the world for peanuts wasn’t good enough for them, they had to try to get rich while doing it!

FullMoon
Guest

Thank you for adding humor to a very disappointing turn of events.

Green Espirit
Guest

I could not resist not frowning while reading the post, and end up with a big laugh at the end. Thanks for making fun of the United devaluation news. 🙂

I learned about this news early this morning also. Guess I will say bye-bye to first-class United partner flights, because of 60% increase. Business class flights are still manageable. I do like to support United, but they have to deliver great business class and first class flights first.

Have a great day

JW
Guest

I just cant wait to see Gary Leff and Lucky start blogging about their international saver economy trip report.

Laura T.
Guest
IF there is a silver lining, it is for people like me who travel Economy and have never been able to accumulate enough points or miles, nor have had enough money, to travel Business or First. Economy Awards have been left mostly untouched, so for those who still want to travel, although not “in style”, there’s still a way to do this. Having said that, his is a bummer because I was actually getting close to having enough miles to get business class, so now I have to keep working on that. I’m new to the miles & points game,… Read more »
Jorge
Guest

Excuse me Mr Top United Exec but I have to buy you a long and thick dildo…..

LMAO good one !!!

marathon man
Guest

well done FM! haha. But the problem is this is not made up. I had the same call with a UA exec and he was totally serious! lol
.
I think UA has every intention to make many people dump UA miles and then stop bothering with miles all together so that next year they can come out with some statement like, “Well we did what our customers wanted and got rid of the MileagePlus program and we are now a rev based airline!”

STL
Guest

When are all the changes Jeff Smisek said we were going to like coming?

harry
Guest

wow I cant believe united would say that…that’s ridiculous. Screw them

jim
Guest
United’s Newest Customer Unfriendly Campaign: Increase the Cost of Award Tickets,raising the mileage redemption levels for some awards over 60%. We don’t have to take this sitting down! -Retweet my Tweet here and send your own tweets to @United with the hashtag: #UnitedUnfriendly The more you post the quicker mainstream media will pick up on this story. Let’s get it trending! -Express your displeasure to Chase (Twitter: @Chase, @Chase Support) about these changes. Chase buys billions of dollars of United miles and isn’t likely to be happy that they’ve been devalued. They’re especially not going to be happy to lose… Read more »
Andy Shuman @ Lazy Travelers
Guest

Absolutely hilarious. Bravo!

PhatMiles
Guest

Hilarious post. Hopefully UA and Chase biggies will take a slice of the slap and change some redemption rates….Sighs!

James
Guest

Thanks for the heads-up. I just cashed in almost all my United Points for a trip to Asia.

I guess I will have to redeem these UR points elsewhere going forward.

JustSaying
Guest

Hello Barclay’s LH card…..into the shredder goes the Chase UA cards………and once the Hyatt shoe drops then the Chase card value will sink like a rock……..

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[…] DEVALUATION: I really don’t have anything to add to the conversation, but I will say that Frequent Miler’s exclusive interview with a high-ranking United exec was pretty […]

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[…] Frequent Miler’s interview with United regarding their massive award chart devaluation […]

jewsus
Guest

This made me laugh. Nice post.

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[…] regardless of their possession of Stardust (a new term for United miles coined by Frequent Miler in this post, if you want to read […]

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[…] posed in a press conference.  And yes, there are precedents in the travel blogging world about fake press conferences.  So here […]