United creeps towards revenue-based awards

16

United announced today that they are making a long-expected yet still disappointing move in the direction of loosely revenue-based award pricing for some awards and are raising the prices of other awards (both on United metal and on Star Alliance awards).

New “Everyday Awards” to replace “Standard Awards”.

Beginning November 1, 2017, they will offer new “Everyday Awards” in place of “Standard Awards”. These new Everyday Awards will feature variable pricing that will fluctuate in relation to cash ticket prices. One Mile at a Time reports some examples of the maximum end of the new Everyday Award pricing as it has been announced:

  • Within the US & Canada: 25,000 miles economy, 50,000 miles business class
  • Between the US & Europe: 70,000 miles economy, 155,000 miles business class
  • Between the US & North Asia: 80,000 miles economy, 175,000 miles business class
  • Between the US & Australia: 80,000 miles economy, 175,000 miles business class

Again, these awards are not replacing Saver Awards. Saver Awards will still (theoretically) exist. The new pricing will replace the more-expensive “Standard Award” prices. Initially, this doesn’t look so bad. The rates within the US and Canada match current standard award pricing. The prices above are maximums, and the number of miles required for an Standard Everyday award will fluctuate in loose relation to the cash ticket price. This means that some awards may be cheaper at the “Everyday” level, though time will tell whether they will raise the maximum levels. You can see the full list of “Everyday” award changes here.


Some “Saver” award prices increasing (moderately)

United also announced an increase in the price of some saver awards. Nobody likes a devaluation, but these increases are pretty mild.

Here are the changes to one-way award pricing on United-operated flights:

  • Premium business class awards within the US & Canada are increasing from 25,000 miles to 35,000 miles (includes Newark to Los Angeles or San Francisco and Boston to San Francisco)
  • Premium business class awards between the US mainland & Hawaii are increasing from 40,000 miles to 50,000 miles (includes Newark, Dullars, Houston, Denver, and Chicago to Hawaii)
  • US to Europe awards in United business class are increasing from 57,500 miles to 60,000 miles
  • US to Southern South America awards in United business class are increasing from 55,000 miles to 60,000 miles
  • US to South Asia awards in United business class are increasing from 70,000 miles to 75,000 miles
  • US to Australia/New Zealand awards in United business class are increasing from 70,000 miles to 80,000 miles

And here are the changes to Star Alliance-operated awards:

  • US to Southern South America awards in Star Alliance business class are increasing from 55,000 miles to 60,000 miles
  • US to Middle East/Central Asia in Star Alliance business class are increasing from 80,000 miles to 85,000 miles
  • US to Australia/New Zealand awards in Star Alliance business class are increasing from 80,000 miles to 90,000 miles
  • US to South Asia awards in Star Alliance first class are increasing in price from 130,000 miles to 140,000 miles

Final Thoughts

In addition to the above changes, United is instituting a $125 fee for no-showing an award flight. Overall, the changes aren’t that bad yet. The introduction of variable pricing on award tickets won’t yet affect most readers as the variable pricing only applies to what are now known as Standard awards and I imagine most of us are not booking Standard awards often. However, the introduction of this kind of semi-revenue-based pricing on standard awards is likely just a precursor to the same type of change eventually with saver awards. Thankfully, it seems that change is not yet upon us.

For more analysis on these changes, see One Mile at a Time and The Points Guy.

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