United Mileage Plan Increases Partner Award Prices (…And Doesn’t Tell Anyone)

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I hate to say “I told you so” but…I told you so….

For the third time in a year, United Mileage Plus has just made “enhancements” to partner awards. Although no announcement has been made, keen eyes noticed the trend.

THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM (OR PERHAPS 4th…or 5TH…)

Before we jump into the details, let’s take a look at a little history.

In mid-2019, United eliminated their partner award chart and began charging 10% more.

Then in late 2019, United started down the path towards dynamic award pricing by removing its own award chart and charging additional miles, both, for travel on United “metal” and alliance partners.

NOW THIS…

Again, United MileagePlus does NOT publish an award chart so there is no way to know when changes are made. In other words, when you search United.com for award prices, what you see is what you pay. And for individuals that don’t know what the “real price” is, every price seems …reasonable.

Well, it appears that United has just raised the price (again) of partner airline award tickets booked within 30 days of departure.

The team at Live and Let’s Fly, has listed several examples including:

Chicago (ORD) – Frankfurt (FRA)

To recap the business class inflation cost over the last year:

  • Mid 2019: 70,000 miles
  • Late 2019: 73,500 miles (booked within 30 days of travel)
  • Mid 2020: 77,000 miles (regardless of when you booked)
  • Today: 80,500 miles (booked within 30 days of travel)

Newark (EWR) – Addis Ababa (ADD)

Again, to recap the business class inflation cost over the last year:

  • Mid 2019: 80,000 miles
  • Late 2019: 83,500 miles (booked within 30 days of travel)
  • Mid 2020: 88,000 miles (regardless of when you booked)
  • Today: 92,500 miles (booked within 30 days of travel)

THE RISKS

When airlines begin to devalue their programs, there are potential risks. In short, one word…Delta!

Yes…a half million miles to fly one-way in business class.

FINAL STAMP

It’s worth noting that United is paying their partners the same amount whether you book a partner award ticket for tomorrow or 350 days from now. There are no extra costs to the program, so they are just seeing what they can get away with by increasing the price.

Last week, I wrote a post about being able to book the new United routes using miles and I predicted United would devalue their miles because there are too many moving parts…and they did.

In a time where most travel loyalty programs recognize loyalty matters and it would be advantageous to incentivize your most loyal members to continue being loyal (rather than devalue program benefits), United MileagePlus demonstrates loyalty will we tricky and challenging for some time to come.

What do you think about this latest development?

2 comments

  1. From a business perspective, I can see why United made this devaluation. Having a bunch of points on your balance sheet is considered a liability. However, from a customer standpoint, this stinks and isn’t customer friendly.

    Liked by 2 people

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