Eight Silver Linings of Today’s Massive United Mile Devaluation

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The massive devaluation of United miles that I first reported earlier today is unambiguously bad news for miles collectors.

Don’t flame the comments of this post by saying I am calling it a good thing. The devaluation and introduction of a second chart are bad things, very bad things.

But there are some pieces of good news or relative good news in the devaluation, and this post will focus on those.

What are the eight silver linings in today’s disastrous United devaluation?

1. Economy Award Prices Largely Untouched

Here are the new and old charts for one way economy awards that originate or terminate in the US.

I see a lot of awards that stay the same or go up only mildly. The only price increase that is big is the US to South Asia, which includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Going from 65k to 80k roundtrip to South Asia is a big loss. In fact, I just booked my friend from Los Angeles to Phuket, Thailand with a later free oneway to Newark, and I loved paying only 65k United miles for the award. See Anatomy of an Award: Last Minute United Award from Los Angeles to Phuket with a Later Free Oneway.

But that award was oddly priced the same as the US to Japan, which is far shorter. And US Airways already charges 80k miles roundtrip to Southeast Asia, so I can’t say that the new price is anything other than fair.

The best news for economy lovers is that their award prices are now probably locked in for at least two years, since airlines tend to devalue their charts every 2-4 years. If you liked the old economy prices, you have to be happy about 2-4 years of these new prices.

2. Western Hemisphere Prices Largely Untouched

Here are the new and old charts for one way economy, business, and first class awards that go from the US throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Economy Chart
Business Chart
First Chart

The biggest change is for business class from the US to Southern South America, which is Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. This devaluation is a bummer because Rookie Alli really got great value from her flat bed from Buenos Aires to Newark, which will now cost 55k United miles each way.

Again, the best news for Latin America lovers like me is that their award prices are now probably locked in for at least two years, since airlines tend to devalue their charts every 2-4 years. If you liked the old Western Hemisphere prices, you have to be happy about 2-4 years of these new prices.

3. Notice

There were three big airline mile devaluations announced this year.

Delta

In mid-August, Delta announced that all flights from June 1, 2014 on would be on a new award chart. The new award chart has all the same economy award prices, but business class prices that cost 10-25% more.

So we have 9.5 months to book at the old prices, but only for travel before June 1, 2014. Anyone planning to book a summer trip the day of the devaluation had his miles devalued with no notice.

Southwest

Five weeks ago, Southwest announced that all flights from March 31, 2014 on would require 17% more points for award redemptions.

So we have six months to book at the old price, but only for travel before March 31, 2014. Anyone planning to book a trip in April or beyond on the day of the devaluation had his points devalued with no notice.

United

Today United announced that all bookings from February 1, 2014 on will be on one of two new charts that require up to 87% more miles than the current chart.

So we have three months to book at the old price, and we can book as far out as we normally can, which is about 11 months. Effectively we have 14 months to travel at the old rates, and no one had his miles devalued immediately. Everyone has three months to plan.

I prefer United’s system of notice and change–bookings made after a certain date cost more–to Delta’s and Southwest’s–flights after a certain date cost more. It’s fairer because there is no immediate devaluation for anybody, and we get longer to travel at the current rates.

4. Price Reductions

Price reductions are few and far between, and probably not too useful for US-based flyers. But there are some, and they could come in handy.

Hat tip to commenter Paul Tiffen for flagging South Asia to Australia/New Zealand dropping substantially.

Currently Hong Kong to Auckland costs 30k/45k/60k each way in economy/business/first. That will drop to 17.5k/30k/40k each way on the new partner chart.

What other price reductions do you see?

5. Australia Is Basically Unchanged on United Metal

The current prices to Australia on the United awards that route via San Francisco and Los Angeles to Sydney and Melbourne are 40k/67.5k/80k each way in economy/business/first. That will rise to 40k/70k/80k.

Economy and Global First–which I flew last New Year’s Eve and reviewed here–remain the same price no matter where in the US you live as long as you fly only United flights on the award.

The partner award chart to Australia skyrockets to 40k/80k/130k each way, but that will only affect the Vancouver-to-Sydney flight on Air Canada and routings through Asia because Air New Zealand doesn’t release business class space to partners.

6. No Fuel Surcharges

Even worse than inflating miles prices would have been an imposition of fuel surcharges on awards to match foreign carriers.

When we mistakenly believed American Airlines was adding fuel surcharges to award flights in August, I freaked out a lot more. Adding fuel surcharges is worse to me than inflating an award chart. Of course, this depends on the size of the fuel surcharges and chart inflation, but I’d still rather see the latter.

Only United and US Airways have no fuel surcharges on any awards among legacy carriers worldwide. American collects fuel surcharges on British Airways flights and Iberia flights. Delta collects fuel surcharges on a lot of partners’ flights.

7. US Airways and American Airlines’ Charts Are Unchanged (So Far) This Year

The combination of these two charts being in tact lessens the blow considerably.

I can now use US Airways miles for all my Star Alliance awards at prices that are now substantially below United’s.

I can continue to use American Airlines miles for ultra-luxury redemptions, minimizing the impact of United gutting its partner First Class award chart. I always said American Miles are Best for Ultra-Luxury, United Miles are Best for Merely Premium Awards anyway.

Unfortunately I do expect to see devaluations in both charts as they combine during the merger of the two carriers that I anticipate clearing legal hurdles.

8. Other Star Alliance Charts Untouched

I got this tweet today:

https://twitter.com/stocknut7/status/396366559418912768

Jon is safe.

Today’s news only affects redemptions with United miles. If you were going to redeem ANA, Singapore, Air Canada, Lufthansa, TACA, etc, etc miles for United flights, today’s news has no impact on you.

It was already often cheaper to use partner miles to book flights on United. Today that is equally or more true than before.

I’m sure I’ve missed some silver linings. Add your own in the comments. (Or vent some more. Either one is fine.) 😉

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41 COMMENTS

  1. What are the best values for redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards? I want to move some UR points soon (I was going to move them to United, but now Im not so sure). I know there’s lots of factors, but I really want to get the UR points into a bonus program sooner than later. Thanks in advance to anyone offering insight!

    • Depends on the award you want. United is still the most versatile until February 1. But I also love Southwest, Avios, Hyatt, Korean, and Virgin Atlantic depending on the award.

  2. North Asia to Oceania and Australia/New Z also dropped a lot! Great to route from Asia to Pacific after next Feb!

  3. Follow posters
    This isn’t a big deal if your aware of it ahead of time and that’s why your signed up for Scotts morning email . I toad (told) my sister get another card or more wisely spend MORE of her husband funds ($$$$$) it’s that simple ..

    Cj

  4. family churners rejoice! i am staring down the barrel of economy flights for the next 10 years. have been waiting to dump a lot of UR’s into united for the next big family adventure. i hope scott is right about no new changes for a couple of years

  5. It’s great that Dividend Miles and AAdvantage are still untouched, and better than United for certain redemptions now. However, the annoying thing about Dividend Miles and AAdvantage is that there’s no way to get category bonuses from credit cards that earn those miles. So, it’s a huge letdown that United miles, which are relatively easy to earn, are devalued.

    • Good point. I think these two facts are connected. The more miles running around, the more the airline will charge.

      • What do you mean? On united only or even for Us air as well? United didnt devalue them yet? If so how soon on united?

        What is ur suggestion for this to remain same amount 120k from North America to Manila?
        Thanks Scott!

  6. For the most part Coach doesn’t change. That’s a big silver lining. As for business class it makes Amex Membership Reward points more valuable since you can use Air Canada and ANA for Star Alliance.

    • Yes, but the surcharges those airlines charge are awful if you aren’t flying US Airways and United planes, so keep that in mind.

  7. I just booked a Thailand-Australia flight in Thai FC a week ago…any smart ways to get that adjusted to the lower rate when the time comes?

  8. Just called united mileage plus and the agent denied any such adjustment in mileage values next year. Any chance the flyertalk post was a hoax?

    • No chance. The new chart can be found by going to the old chart and clicking a line for the new post 2/1/14 chart.

  9. Leaving for Europe in three weeks on a ticket you booked for us, Paris/Venice…thanks. Since some of the conections are on Swiss and LH, the future cost of a ticket like this will be 140,000 points instead of 100,000?? I also have a lot of US Air miles, so if I found the above ticket in saver award after Feb 1 on the United site would it then cost me 140,000 miles to book it with my US Air miles?

  10. […] What are the improvements in new UA award chart effective 1st feb 14? document.write(''); Apparently there is at least one case where the number of miles required will be [b]reduced[b]… Australia/NewZealand to South Asia will be reduced to 17.5/30/40k for Y/J/F one-way are there any other scenarios will the number of miles required will be decreasing on the new award chart effective on 1st feb 2014? from mile value: Currently Hong Kong to Auckland costs 30k/45k/60k each way in economy/business/first. That will drop to 17.5k/30k/40k each way on the new partner chart. https://milevalu.wpengine.com/eight-silver-li…e-devaluation/ […]

  11. Well done Scott you got my sister to book her EU trip .I think it’s like $304 total for 2 from ORD to EU(somewhere) then somewhere then home from Nice ,Fr. which is a great cave area ..Less costly then my trip ..Thanks for the info your getting people to commit to something ..

  12. I’m happy to read that economy is pretty much staying the same. I just started playing this game in January and I picked United as my main airline to earn points on since I live near Chicago. I just manged to earn enough for 3 round trip flights to Europe to cross the Mediterranean off mom’s bucket list! We have to wait for the scan this week to see if the cancer has spread to her brain or not. I’m hoping it hasn’t and that I can get the doc to sign off on international travel. If he does I’ll be using your booking service just as soon as the miles for my last round of apps posts.

  13. Gina
    Sorry about your mother but once you get across the pond remember the TGV (high speed train) and Easyjet are dependable unlike the airlines here and easy to use too .Easyjet.com $100 with Lug from NCE to Gat UK ..Free is great but so is Easy leave your options open.. ..
    French Cave Dweller

  14. i dont understand the following:

    on a mileage flight if departure and destination are same but you change the city connecting at after Feb 1st -does this change
    number of miles to new requirements?

    similarly,as stopovers on openjaw roundtrips will be bannedafter feb 1st(bye bye free one ways!),if you change the connecting city will this invalidate the openjaw roundtrip or push it to higher mileage requirements?
    thanks

    • Where did you get the info that you can’t get a stopover and open jaw on the same award post 2/1/14?

      I don’t know the answer to your question.

  15. hi scott,
    it says that only certain roundtrip tkts will allow stopvers after feb 1 ..
    i was presuming this would mean no free one ways …
    and was worried how it would affect those booked before feb 1 if you tried to change only a connecting city etc..
    thanks

  16. sorry this was what i inferred from the statement from united which stated only certain roundtrips will be allowed stopovers

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