Uh Oh: United Airlines MileagePlus Program Eliminating Award Chart

UPDATE: It’s official…we’re two weeks away from the formal devaluation of the United MileagePlus program devaluation.

I wrote about the devaluation in April but if you’re unfamiliar with the changes that will be taking place, here’s a recap…

THE DETAILS

In April of this year, United MileagePlus Program (the frequent flyer program for United Airlines) said they would be making massive changes to their program for travel on and after November 15, 2019.

I’ll spare you all the confusing details but, essentially, they’re following Delta’s lead as they completely eliminate their award charts.

In other words, United will no longer have a minimum (or maximum) number of required miles that they’ll charge for a given itinerary. Up until now, the number of required miles from [Point A] to [Point B] was a stagnant number but now you will have no idea what this number is going to be.

For example, per United’s current Award chart (below), a flight from Chicago (ORD) to Atlanta (ATL) would cost 10,000 miles one-way in economy. After November 15th, it could cost 100,000 miles if you want to fly on Monday but could cost 10,000 miles on Tuesday if United decides that it wants to charge those amounts.

This concept is known as dynamic pricing. Ultimately, the more flexible you are, the better your chances are going to be for a better redemption rate.

Additionally, United will no longer be publishing a partner award chart either. Although, they have not begun adjusting redemption costs on partner airlines, I expect we’ll see those redemption levels change over time too.

With respect to partner dynamic pricing, United said this:

The partner award chart will remain in effect for travel through November 14, 2019. For travel on or after November 15, 2019, there may be flights that require a higher number of miles than the amounts indicated on the award chart. When you search for awards while booking, you’ll see the applicable award level.

MY THOUGHTS

Do not be fooled, this is awful. We all recognize that they’re following Delta’s lead here, and Delta’s dynamic award pricing isn’t good for savvy consumers looking to maximize their miles. United is making these changes because the airline will come out ahead, not their members.

Unfortunately, the “big three” US programs have a monopoly on the system and no one will hold them accountable. This is just the next step in a sad decline.

SILVER LINING

There is a silver lining…those of us earning transferrable points still have a lot of options and are not limited by the shortcomings of the airlines in the states.

How, you ask? Although, United may (potentially) charge crazy rates, you’ll still be able to book United awards at lower rates through partners. In many cases, MileagePlus will no longer be among the best programs for booking United flights.

Instead, if there are saver award seats available, we’ll see more favorable redemption rates booking through Aeroplan, LifeMiles, etc., since they’ll continue to have fixed award charts for redemptions on United.

This is no different than what we see with Delta. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, read THIS BLOG.

FINAL STAMP

For me the whole point of accruing airline miles is to redeem for aspirational travel. Otherwise I’d just earn cash back, which gives you much more flexibility.

With, both, Delta and United eliminating award charts, I think it’s inevitable that American will follow suit as American has done absolutely nothing to differentiate themselves from the competition.

In the end the overwhelming majority of customers will be paying a lot more miles for their travel.

However, if you’re a savvy shopper and earn transferrable points (e.g. Amex (READ MORE), Chase, Marriott, Capital One, etc.), you will have access to dozens of frequent flyer programs and do not have to rely on US carriers for your international travel.

Personally, I’ll continue to earn transferrable points whenever possible, and will continue to not be loyal to any airline.

What do you think about this development?

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