If you’ve got a stockpile of United miles, it’s time you use them because they’re getting devalued at the beginning of next month. With Delta about to devalue their mileage program again on July 1st, it’s just better to get out of that hoarding mentality now.
Sadly, it hasn’t been that long since United devalued its program back in 2012, but I suppose it was only a matter of time. While the airline isn’t exactly sending out a huge memo about the biggest changes, you can compare the current award chart here and the new chart after it goes into effect on February 1. The changes will only apply to tickets booked after this date.
Economy fliers probably won’t see a huge change for the most part. That doesn’t mean they haven’t jacked up the price at all though. In particular, flights to the Middle East, Central Asia, North Asia, South Asia and Japan from North America will see increases of 2,500 miles per direction. That works up to a 5,000-mile increase over each trip. There will be no increase for traveling on Star Alliance partners.
Unfortunately, those who are traveling to or around Asia in economy are seeing the biggest difference. To book intra-regional award tickets there, the price of an award ticket is going up as a whole by 5,000-50,000 miles roundtrip. The only reduction I see in the entire chart so far is that a trip from North Asia to Oceania now only costs 30,000 miles roundtrip instead of 40,000 miles.1
The hardest-hit travelers will be those who are used to flying business class and first class. Not only is United raising the number of miles required for these cabins, they are tacking on a mileage surcharge if you choose to fly on a Star Alliance airline. If I had a choice between Singapore business and United business, well, frankly, there’s just not much competition between the two. It’s probably not a coincidence that United realizes this and is now choosing to punish frequent fliers who may not be so particularly loyal to the airline.
The problem with the surcharge is that United metal unfortunately doesn’t cover every market, and this is especially true internationally. It defeats the whole point of why airlines join alliances in the first place: It’s so that an airline can have coverage in a part of the world where they don’t normally have coverage. With the new chart, the cost of flying in a premium cabin on a Star Alliance partner doubles the entire cost of the ticket.
Ben Schlappig over at One Mile at a Time has a pretty comprehensive overview of some of the key changes for premium travel on Star Alliance below. (The bolded figures are the ones he considers to be particularly bad.)
- US mainland to Alaska: 10,000 miles economy, 10,000 miles business, 10,000 miles first
- US to Southern South America: 10,000 miles business, 5,000 miles first
- US to Europe: 40,000 miles business, 85,000 miles first
- US to Middle East: 5,000 miles economy, 40,000 miles business, 130,000 miles first
- US to Central Asia/India: 5,000 miles economy, 40,000 miles business, 120,000 miles first
- US to Japan: 5,000 miles economy, 30,000 miles business, 85,000 miles first
- US to South Asia: 15,000 miles economy, 40,000 miles business, 100,000 miles first
- US to North Asia: 5,000 miles economy, 40,000 miles business, 100,000 miles first
- US to Oceania: 30,000 miles business, 70,000 miles first
- US to Australia/NZ: 25,000 miles business, 100,000 miles first
Though I mostly fly in economy, this still sucks. Business- and first-class tickets have always been the best value when it comes to getting the absolute most out of your miles. I’ve been stockpiling miles for two first-class honeymoon tickets for a while, and unfortunately, the miles have come faster than the man. (Does United allow name changes to tickets?)
If you have an upcoming reason to book, you have about four days to lock in flights at the previous prices. There’s absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t be able to make changes for free to the flight later when plans are more confirmed with enough advance notice; just beware of the redeposit fee if you end up canceling the entire itinerary.
- This is probably single-handedly the best redemption value in the entire United system now, if you combine it with a stopover in New Zealand to some remote Pacific island. ↩
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