You can still pay United’s award prices from January 2014 and before for premium cabin awards.

The catch is that you need to be changing an existing award that you booked February 2, 2014 or earlier. Any award you booked before that date–no matter the origin, destination, cabin, and airline–that you haven’t flown yet should be eligible to be changed to any other award at the old award prices.

I recently changed a First Class award from North Asia to the United States to a different routing on a different airline and paid zero extra miles even though the current price for the award is 50,000 miles more than I originally paid.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 12.25.08 AM
I get to fly in this suite after my change!

The MileValue Award Booking Service is ready to help you if you have an old United award you want to change to something better at the old prices.

  • How can you find out if you have any awards that are eligible to be changed at the old rates?
  • What are the old rates?
  • How do you make the change?
  • What change did I make?

When United announced huge changes to its award chart that took effect February 3, 2014, the question naturally arose: what would happen if you tried to change an award booked on the old award chart after the new award chart was introduced?

United actually gave this answer, which it turns out, is wrong:

Our existing change process will apply. Changes to awards that require a change in date do not result in a change to the award price. Any other change will require an add/collect in miles and fees for changes or cancellations will still apply as per our existing policies.

In fact, the change policy is that if the award was booked before February 3, 2014 and you change it, you pay the difference in miles according to the old award chart. It doesn’t matter what your old award was or your new award is.

Example

For instance, if on January 1 , 2014 you booked

  • Lufthansa economy
  • one way from the United States to Europe
  • for travel September 1, 2014

and you changed that ticket to Lufthansa First Class today, you would pay a change fee of $100, any difference in taxes, and 37,500 United miles–the difference between economy (30k) and First Class (67.5k) to Europe under the old award chart.

You would not pay 80,000 miles–the difference between what you originally paid (30k) and what Lufthansa First Class now costs (110k).

My Example

On November 7, 2013 I booked a four segment itinerary that got me from Seoul to Los Angeles.

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The award featured Asiana First Class and Lufthansa First Class during the glitch last November when Munich to Toronto First Class award space was released throughout the schedule.

It cost 70,000 miles, the price for one way First Class from North Asia to the continental United States at the time.

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A few days ago, award space opened up on the direct flight from Seoul to Los Angeles on Asiana’s new A380 in First Class. I had been monitoring award space on my dates for over a week, space was changing every day, and finally my day had award space.

I had to pounce on the space because the product looks incredible, and it meant an extra day in Los Angeles with friends.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 12.24.57 AM
Actual Promotional Photo for Asiana A380 First Class Suite

To make the change, I signed into my United account and clicked Change/View Existing Reservations under Reservations from the top menu.

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All my upcoming flights are arranged by date of travel. An award booked by 2/2/2014 is eligible to be changed at the old award chart’s prices. This one was booked 11/7/2013. I clicked Change Flights.

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That brought me to a search screen. When I searched my dates, I got search results that look like this. The miles for Asiana First Class was “0 Miles” even though the flight I want now costs 120,000 miles and I paid only 70,000 miles for my award.

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The cash component of the change was $29.80. That included a $100 change fee less a large reduction in taxes by avoiding flying through Germany.

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My experience disproves United’s claim that “Any [change other than date] will require an add/collect in miles.” I changed the routing and airlines.

To prove that you can make any change to any existing award and pay the old prices, I went through the process to change my Seoul-to-Los-Angeles award to Washington-to-Dubai.

This flight now costs 90,000 miles each way in United First Class.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 1.26.31 AM

It used to cost 75,000 miles each way in First Class. If I’m right that I can change my award to any other award and pay the old prices, I would be charged 5,000 miles to change to this flight (75k old price minus 70k I already paid for my award.)

Going through the change price, the quoted price to change is 5,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 1.27.29 AM

How You Can Take Advantage

Any award you booked February 2, 2014 or earlier with United miles can be changed. You can change the dates of travel, but all travel on awards must be completed within one year of the original ticketing date. My original ticketing date was November 7, 2013, so I’d need to finish traveling by November 7, 2014.

You can change to any other award you want. You will pay the difference in miles based on the price you paid for your award and the price the award you want would have cost before the devaluation.

Here is the old United award chart.

I wish I had known these would be the change rules. I would have burned all my United miles in January booking the cheapest award on the chart–intra-Hawaii–for 5,000 miles per segment and used those dummy awards to travel at the old prices through January 2015.

Note

You can make any change you want online and still get the old award prices. If you call in, the agent may try to re-price your award on the new chart. Hang up, and call again.

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