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In a move that should not be surprising given United Airlines’ latest antics, the airline has removed their partner award chart and it’s bad news.
UNITED AIRLINES DEVALUATION
In late 2019, United started down the path towards dynamic award pricing by removing its own award chart.
At the time United said partner awards would remain unchanged but who are they kidding!? This is an industry that charges passengers for seat assignments, snacks, and to take our clothes with us.
Welp, the bottom has dropped out and United has removed their partner award chart which is no doubt a devaluation of United miles.
WHAT IS A POINTS DEVALUATION?
A points devaluation is, simply, when your points are worth more today than they are in the future.
Let’s start with an easy example. Even if you do not have any points right now, you’ll be able to follow this example.
Back in the day, every airline had a chart with static numbers that told you how many miles are required to get from Point A to Point B.
For example, let’s say that you were interested in flying one-way in economy from San Francisco (SFO) to Munich (MUC) redeeming United Airlines miles to fly on Lufthansa (a Star Alliance partner)…and yes, you can use miles from one airline to fly on a partner airline.
You search for award availability on United.com and find award space on June 29.
Historically, 30k has been the price that United has charged to fly on Lufthansa and the number was static. In other words, it never changed.
However, the reason the absence of a published award chart is bad news is that the price is unpredictable and ever-changing.
For example, if you continue looking at your options on the same day, you may find this…
40,000 miles (+ $35) extra to fly in economy on Lufthansa on the same day?? AND there is a layover?? That makes no sense!
However, now the non-stop flight is also variable. Yes, it’s 30,000 in this example but with dynamic pricing, it could be 10k or 110k if you search for this same award ticket tomorrow.
INCREASED PRICES ON PARTNERS (BUT NOT ALL PARTNERS)
Not only did United remove their award chart for partners but they also increased award rates on (some) partner award redemptions.
For example, historically, a one-way Saver Award ticket from the U.S. to Japan on ANA – also a Star Alliance partner – cost 35,000 and 80,000 United miles in economy and business class, respectively.
However, it appears that United has applied a 10% increase on partner redemptions.
Again, the 10% increase is not applied across the board equally to all partners and I’m not seeing a pattern but it’s worth being aware of it.
There is a significant risk with crediting your miles to United now. While you are building up your “points stash” for an amazing trip, it could lead to disappointment because you are never guaranteed that your points and miles will retain the value over time. One glaring example is Delta Airlines.
In 2015, Delta Airlines stopped publishing their award chart. Today, the only way to determine how many miles are required for a trip is to go to their website and search. The redemption rates for a flight could be 5,000 miles or could look like this….
Yes, you’re reading that correctly…Delta wants a nearly a half million miles to sit in business class.
Without an award chart, you basically have no way to plan or “save up” for a flight you want to book later on.
Last year, South African Airways announced the end of their Senegal route and you know how I feel about that.
EARN AND BURN MANTRA
You may hear people say “earn and burn” as it relates to points meaning they redeem points as fast as they acquire them.
Personally, I think that’s a bit extreme but I also do not fall on the other end of the spectrum where I plan a trip 2 years from now. A lot happens in two years, and in this hobby. If you wait too long you run the risk of devaluation.
It’s disappointing and unfortunate that United is following in the footsteps of Delta (as they always do). I presume at this point, we are likely to see an increase for awards on other parters too (e.g. EVA, Turkish, Swiss, etc.)
Similar to life, everyone will have their own timeline and comfort level when it comes to points.
Do you have a plan for your points? What is your points strategy?