United Massively Devalues Its Award Chart Starting February 1, 2014


Late last night, United massively devalued its award chart for redemptions from February 1, 2014 on.

United has split its one award chart into two new ones: one if all segments are on United planes, the other–far more expensive in some cases–if you use partner segments.

Some First Class redemptions will increase 130k miles per person roundtrip. (The Middle East goes from 150k in roundtrip first to 280k on partners.)

The First Class redemption that I have planned for next March–Europe to US one way–increases 42.5k miles to 110k miles one way!

I have side-by-side comparisons of all regions at the new and old prices, a full breakdown of the changes, and the best strategy for United miles going forward after the jump.

Aaron Goldberg, United’s Sr. Manager – Customer Experience Planning, posted on FlyerTalk late last night.

Hi everyone,

I wanted to give you a heads up about some changes we’ll be making to our MileagePlus award chart and upgrade policies. More details, including links to the changes, are listed below.

  • Changes to miles needed for some Saver and Standard Awards, including domestic stopovers (link – PDF p.2)
  • Different premium cabin mileage levels for Star Alliance and MileagePlus partners (link – PDF p.3)
  • Changes to upgrade policy for intra-Asia and northern South America flights (link – see chart)

Changes to the award charts take effect for all award tickets issued on or after February 1, 2014. The upgrade policy changes will not impact any flights taken before February 1, 2014.

As always, I’m here and will do my best to answer any clarifying questions you may have.

Aaron Goldberg
Sr. Manager – Customer Experience Planning
United Airlines

The PDF of the new award chart is horrible. The huge news here is twofold.

  1. United will soon have two charts: one for awards wholly on United metal, one for awards that includes partners. The partner chart is far more expensive for premium travel.
  2. Premium cabin space will be far more expensive with United miles. Business class award prices rose substantially. First class award prices skyrocketed, nearly doubling in some cases. Economy class awards stayed the same or increased only modestly.

When the Changes Take Effect

This is the only positive of the change–how it’s being handled. You can book at the old award chart’s prices through January 31, 2014. And you can book as far out as you normally can, about 337 days.

That means you can basically book travel for all of 2014 at the old prices.

The main exception is Lufthansa First Class space, which is only released 15 days out. That means my March 2014 flight in Lufthansa First Class from Frankfurt to Chicago would cost 110k United miles–the new price–instead of 67.5k United miles–the old price.

If you have to make changes after February 1, 2014 to awards booked before February 1, 2014, I don’t know whether you will be charged more miles.

The Changes

Here are comparison charts for Saver award prices from the US to the rest of the world.

  • “Old Price” is the current price, valid for bookings made until January 31, 2014.
  • “United Price” refers to the price on the post-February-1 United-metal-only chart.
  • “Partner Price” is the price on the post-February-1 partner award chart.

One Way Economy Class Award Prices in Thousands of United Miles

For the most part economy award prices stay the same or rise only modestly. The biggest rise is the US to South Asia, which was one of the best values on the economy chart. I can live with these changes.

One Way Business Class Award Prices in Thousands of United Miles

This is where we start to see some substantial devaluations, and where we start to see the partner and United-only charts diverge.

The most popular award I book with my Award Booking Service is two passengers roundtrip in business class to Europe with United miles. That currently costs 200k United miles. For bookings made in February 2014 on, that will cost up to 280k miles if there are legs on partners. Ouch!

One Way First Class Award Prices in Thousands of United Miles

This is where the massive devaluations are, and where the massive separation between United metal and partner flights lies.

The Western Hemisphere is basically spared as is United Global First Class to Australia.

Lufthansa First Class costs 67.5k from the US to Europe or the US to Germany to Japan. Now those routes will cost 110k United miles one way.

My Thoughts

1. Book Now. Duh.

If you are holding United miles to use for premium travel, they will get a whole lot less valuable starting February 1, 2014. Use them before then.

2. Think Very Carefully About Adding Partners.

Even one segment on a partner will put you on the way worse Partner Chart for premium travel.

This will have huge consequences on trip planning. For instance, in the past Chicago to Amsterdam in United Global First then Amsterdam to Warsaw in LOT Polish Business Class would be a fine award that cost 67.5k United miles.

In the future, it will push you to the partner chart and cost 110k miles. You’d be better off just flying Chicago to Amsterdam in United Global First for 80k on the United chart, then buying a cash ticket the rest of the way.

Examples like this will abound to avoid partners, but avoiding partners will cut out a lot of awesome possible awards. For instance, there is no way to go from the US to Australia and back with a stop in Asia one direction with no partner airlines. Previously that stop would not add to the miles price. Now it will, since it will take you from the United-only chart to the partner chart!

3. What will Chase do?

The United Explorer Card, United Club Card, United Business Card, Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire, Freedom, Ink Bold, Ink Plus, Ink Classic, and Ink Cash just got a lot worse if you had them to earn aspirational Star Alliance travel.

How will Chase react?

3b. Will United miles be far easier to earn now?

If we see a devaluation, hopefully there will be a concomitant improvement in mileage earning rates. If United can now sell miles cheaper to Chase, maybe we can hope to see more and better sign up and category bonuses.

3c. We just barely have to time to get a new card that earns United miles or Ultimate Rewards and redeem them by January 31, 2014.

It will take a week or two get the card. If you then meet the minimum spending requirement within two months, the miles will post with the closing of the next statement, which would be sometime in January 2014, just in time to book on the old chart through the end of 2014.


4. What about Round-the-World Awards?

I’ve never been a fan of United RTW awards. American’s are far, far better. But I don’t see an announcement of a devaluation of United RTW awards. If they stay at the same level. They will be a far better deal relative to roundtrip awards.


I missed the footnote on the new chart: The new price is 200k/350k/450k in economy/business/first, using all the partners you want. As with the other changes, the biggest changes are to premium redemptions.

5. The Western Hemisphere was Basically Spared

United miles are now a far better deal in the western hemisphere. Southern South America is every bit as far from the US as Europe, and its prices went up only modestly. Hawaii only went up in economy and only by 5k roundtrip.

Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and Northern South America award prices are all unchanged.

Changes to award charts always create new best uses for miles. We always strive to keep diversified mileage balances and use each type for its best uses. After February 1, 2014, use your United miles in the Western Hemisphere and your US Airways, American, and Delta miles to go the Eastern Hemisphere.

6. Will We See Better Award Space?

I doubt it, since the biggest changes were to partner award prices, and United doesn’t control partner award space. But we can at least hope United releases more Saver award space on its own flights.

7. Other Star Alliance Miles Go Up in Value Relatively

To get Star Alliance award space, including space on United’s flights, the best prices are now with other types of miles including US Airways miles, TACA/Avianca LifeMiles, Lufthansa miles, Singapore miles, Air Canada Aeroplan miles, and ANA miles.


United bifurcated and inflated its award chart(s). The old one is still valid for bookings through January 31 for travel through the end of 2014.

The new one is awful for partner First Class, and really bad for partner Business Class. It’s relatively good in economy and the Western Hemisphere.

We have just enough notice to earn and burn some United miles before February 1, 2014.


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  1. It looks like some are going down by a lot for Economy for example SYD->HKG goes from 60K return to 35K return in Y.

    • That will be a nice sweet spot, but precious little consolation. I like the attitude though. Let’s b*&^h and moan for a few days, then get to work finding the new best uses for United miles.

    • Not just economy but also business and first – from Australia to both South Asia and North Asia, only to Japan first class up slightly
      Rather strange but the only good news I guess ?

  2. Bad news, but at least it establishes the parameters of what to expect now for at least a couple of years. They’re not likely to bring this out, then look very soon at a move to a full revenue-based system. It is sort of defeatist to say “It could have been worse,” but I guess that’s how I look at it. I agree that combined with the recently enforced limits on segments per award, it does continue to chip away at the value of the program. I’ll be looking forward to the articles on the new best uses for United miles – Paul did spot a nice one.

  3. Scott,

    You were first of the blogs I read to post this. I can’t say it is good news, but I’m glad to have gotten a solid recap first thing. Thanks.


  4. Another very informative & timely post – thanks Scott.

    Certainly cause for concern for those of us in the planning stage.

  5. Do you think that the United website will reduce availability of partner business flights before Jan 31, 2014? Thanks

  6. @Scott – as you said – at LEAST they advertised this NOW to set people’s expectations and not pull some last minute surprise sneak and implement it without informing the public. Interesting.

  7. Europe isn’t much of an issue since Lufthansa/Swiss was pretty much a lost cause for premium cabin, and the rest of the airlines like LOT have too few routes to matter.

    Air NZ never releases premium anyway, so that region is basically unaffected.

    So really, it only affects travel on a few Asian carriers who have premium cabins worth aspiring to: Thai, ANA, Eva …and maybe Turkish for some routings.

    I still say coach was the best value anyway. At 3+ cents a mile, those premium awards were costing me $600-900 each way, effectively. Not worth it, I’d rather spend those points on a Hyatt stay.

    • This has a huge effect on Europe. Lufthansa business was the most widely available and just went up 40%. Lufthansa First was widely available 15 days out for a new booking or a change to an existing one. That went from 135k roundtrip to 220k.

      • Lufthansa biz sucks, except on 787-8 and those flights are so few that for those not on the east coast it’s almost useless. I don’t need business to fly 7-8hrs since you can’t get good sleep anyway.

        First I kind of agree with, but think about it, people pay 10x coach price for first, and you’re getting it for 3x miles that can be manufactured. Not a bad value. You’re just not getting something for nothing anymore, the price is more in line with the product. I’m surprised airlines didn’t have this award structure from the very beginning.

        • Don’t agree with this at all Rick, Lufthansa business is great, and they are a major part of many flights that you could have redeemed on UA to Europe.

          • Ah, nevermind, I see you are on the east coast, that makes more sense. For me, SFO – Frankfort is well worth it in Business class.

          • I’m actually smack in the middle, in Houston, so I always have to fly a crappy regional jet to get good LH flights. That’s an extra 3hrs + a layover.

    • This post reflects my more natural reading style because I had less time to edit out my favorite words, which I usually do to make posts easier to read.

      • Don’t make posts “easier to read”, bifurcated & concomitant are amazing words. If they are are your favorite words KEEP USING THEM!!!

  8. so if i get this correctly, it seems that “economy award travel” really isn’t affected, is that right? i use my miles only to fly economy…

    • Not many changes there, and not too bad besides South Asia. If you’re only economy, these changes are *almost* good because they probably lock in for another 2 years or so the award prices at a fairly low level.

  9. Hi Scott,
    Any chance you can make a list of routes/airlines/products worth booking before the new chart hits? (For example, EVA Hello Kitty Flight LAX-TPE)

  10. The only thing that’s missing from every one of you is a discussion about how we all need to let United know that these changes are way over the top. Jeff.smisek@united.com and twitter.com/united are the first that come to mind. They MUST understand how upset we are…..don’t get run over and give up!

  11. I have been contemplating for a while leaving United (I shuttle between Gold and Platinum) – especially as I will hit the One million mile status which guarantees me Gold anyway. It seems there is no upside anymore. One possible option is to go to Lufthansa’s program given that they are about to introduce a premium economy product. Anyone have thoughts? What program do you recommend (trips tend to be Europe for the most part)?

  12. With these changes I think I will need to change my strategy to flying more trips in economy vs. flying fewer trips in business. All trips that I take depend massively on partners, at least in economy those prices only increased slightly. Even in economy with these new prices I can still easily squeeze 2 cents/mile out of these UA miles.

    • I get 3-4 cents if you count free one-ways or en-route stopovers. That’s why I’ve given up on trying to find premium cabins. The extra comfort just isn’t worth it if your goal is to see more destinations. Routing becomes much easier, no need to take circuitous routes just to force a premium cabin.

      • I totally forgot to include free one ways in my calculation, you’re absolutely right. More trips > extra comfort as long as they are still free!

  13. Hi,
    Thank you for posting this. I first saw it on the facebook page and was (and still am) completely appalled.

    I use my miles primarily for USA-India tickets. I’m okay with flying coach (which is basically the same price), but I really liked the 60k one way in business.

    Now that they jacked up the prices for business class USA-India, which *A mileage program should I use for the business awards? If there is a non-staralliance program that’s better now, which is it? Finally, is there a mileage program that has better value for the economy USA-India?


    • That award in business will be very tough going forward. US Airways offers that route for 120k r/t in business. But when US Airways joins oneworld in the next few months, their partner options will greatly diminish.

      AA charges 135k roundtrip, but has great partners with Qatar and Etihad. But you can’t route through East Asia, only Europe/Middle East.

      All other Star Alliance carriers will collect big fuel surcharges on the award redemption.

      • That’s a real bummer.
        How far out can I book awards with US Air? If I booked something now on a *A partner and then changed it post-merger, would I be able to do so? I know they wouldn’t be able to book *A flights post-merger, but would they give me the award at the same price I purchased it for?

        Regarding AA awards to India: Doesn’t Etihad/UAE qualify as Middle East? And what about using British airways? I remember I once called AA and they said it would cost 95k to go to India; 40k to London and another 45k to India from there. Is that true?

  14. Scott, could you do a post on the best way to earn United miles quickly before the devaluation (outside of a new CC)? I have a trip planned in 2014 and am 40 K miles short of what I need to book. What would you recommend as the best way to earn those miles in the 3 months remaining? I have the Ink Bold and Chase Sapphire Preferred.

    • Obvious answer is hit your local office supply and get 5x with your Bold. 40K means $5K spend = easy if you have a Bluebird and have patience to load those gcs at the Walmart kiosks.

      • Thanks Paul. I never got in on the bluebird game. I thought most office supply stores were no longer accepting credit cards for vanilla reloads? Is that different for buying MC or Visa gift cards?

  15. What does this mean for US Airways miles? Anything?

    Will US Air miles still find availability on United at the same rate?

    In other words – does this change only affect spending United miles?

  16. US 49 + Canada should actually be US 48 + Canada. This lovely footnote is in extremely small font, “Routes between Alaska and the continental U.S. or between Alaska and Canada will be charged an additional 5,000 miles for Saver and 10,000 miles for Standard.” Those values are one-way, so it would cost 35k Y and 60k C roundtrip.

    • Thanks for catching that. I missed it. This only applies to US 48 or Canada to/from Alaska.

      Alaska to Europe is the same as US 48 to Europe.

      Alaska to Asia is the same as US 48 to Asia.

      I won’t change the post to avoid further confusion, but thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  17. Some of the intra-Asia changes are huge. Intra-Japan one way changed from 6 to 10, and Japan to South Asia one way changed from 15 to 22.5. The one bright spot about this new award chart is that the partner award prices are not higher than the United award prices on all economy redemptions.

    When were the last changes to the United award chart, before this one? It would be easier to live with as long as these changes don’t happen too often, and we get more opportunities to earn miles or more award space availability.

  18. Huh. So would it be possible to book a first class flight from east coast to malaysia in April with the first 2 segments in Lufthansa in Business, then switch to first class 2 weeks before and still get the current first class reward value? I should probably email United…

  19. Absolutely disgusting! Join the Twitter campaign. Include United and chase in every tweet with the hashtag #unitedunfriendly. Spread it everywhere and overwhelm their Twitter accounts

    jeff.smisek@united.com needs to hear from everyone

    twitter/united facebook united airlines

    You can also call Chase to voice your concern about this if you hold Chase INK, Chase United credit card or the Chase Sapphire preferred card because Chase has stake in UA Mileage plus program and has agreement.Chase customer service # 1-800-432-3117 ask for senior manager

  20. Thanks for this post! I’m really upset about the change but glad you posted so much detail about it.

  21. For those of us unsure about exact travel dates after Jan 2014, it will be important to know if changes to an itinerary made AFTER the devaluation will require forking over the difference in award miles or if the old award charts will be honored since the original tickets were booked at those rates. Any idea?

  22. They have stated that you won’t have to pay the higher price for changes after FEB1 to bookings made before that date.
    SO should i make a LH F reservation on JAN31 and then change it every two weeks until April when i actually want to fly?

    UA Insider via FLYERTALK: “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.”

    • If you can make free changes, that’s a neat trick! But you’d have to keep routing the same. Otherwise $75 change fee each time would add up.

      • Scott,

        Assuming we keep the same origin/destination pair, and no close-in booking fee (21 days), can you verify that the free changes made to a reservation is for just a new date and time…e.g. a different day of the week and a different departing flight time, and thus not kicking in the new higher mileage rate? Routing (e.g. stopovers/layovers) and aircraft (metal) would not be covered? I called and spoke to a CSR with United Mileage plus, and gave her an example of booing and changing an award ticket from San Francisco to Toronto non-stop on Air Canada, then changing the date/time to a new flight on United via a stop in Chicago or Washington since they don’t do non-stops…or vice versa…booking the United with a stop then changing to the AC non-stop. She assured me that any of those changes would be OK to do with no additional payment of miles (outside of taxes), but from what I have read, that simply isn’t the case. I’m looking to book a premium award to Asia on a SA carrier. Will most likely need to change the date so just want to be ready and prepared as to what my options really are when I go to rebook. thanks.

  23. They have posted this regarding #2 above:
    Finally, a note about mixed-carrier Saver Awards. Although there will now be two charts, it will be still be possible to combine United/United Express and MileagePlus partner award flights on the same itinerary. However, the MileagePlus partner award cabin level will need to be lower than that of the United-operated segment(s) in order to take advantage of the United Saver Award price. So, for a US to Europe itinerary where the long-haul segment is in United Global First, the intra-Europe connecting segment would need to be in Business or Economy (as they typically already are) to take advantage of the United Saver Award price. Similarly, for a US to Europe itinerary where the long-haul segment is in United BusinessFirst, the intra-Europe connecting segment would need to be in Economy to take advantage of the United Saver Award price.

  24. Scott,

    Will you change your frequent flyer program after seeing this bad news? Or you will tell me “just get used to this devaluation, it will happen eventually”..? haha.. wondering your thoughts.

    • I am a miles omnivore. I need to keep collecting United miles because they are a big player, and I love no fuel surcharges on awards. I will complain and adapt!

      • Scott,

        Yeah exactly, even if what just happened with United miles, it’s still a FFP with many advantages. But I’m afraid that after Delta and United, American will follow what they did in the near future…

        I’m based in Asia. For us there is only one region that the required miles for award tickets are reduced, which is Oceania. I guess this is a good news for some of us because I’ve been wanting to go to Australia and New Zealand. For people who are based in the US, are there also some regions that require less miles than before?

  25. I live in Asia, but will be visiting the U.S. and Canada in December. I don’t closely follow point earning strategies for those markets, since I don’t live there, so can anyone let me know if there are any strategies similar to, say, buying a money order on my UA Visa card?

    • You can’t usually buy money orders with a credit card. You can with a debit card, which you can buy with a credit card. Extra step.

  26. Hey Scott
    I have been racking & saving up United miles for a trip to Europe in Global First.
    SFO > PRG & VCE back to SFO.
    Don’t have enough miles yet, but did a search after I read your blog with the bad news about United, and I couldn’t find ANY saver first awards for my route. I tried dates a week out to 6 months out, and I tried from different cities as well, (ie: DEN, LAS, PHX, SEA etc) but nothing. I am open to flying to another nearby gateway city to get the award.
    * So, Am I wasting my time saving United miles??
    * Should I use them for something else, (whatever that may be)?
    * Are United saver first awards going to dry up to almost non existence??
    Curious to know your thoughts.

    • There is plenty of United Saver space in Global First on routes to Europe, but maybe not on the routes/dates you selected. Either keep searching different routes/dates or hire my award booking service –> milevalue.com/award-booking-service

  27. Quick question: I booked a trip to dump some UA miles and am having trouble changing the itinerary. I want to move the departure date one day later. When I search for award space, there’s plenty in the Saver category. When I go to change the flight under My Account, it doesn’t show the same space! Should I just call in?

  28. I’m the idiot – spent 13 years accumulating over 350k miles with United (and no other airline) — I did not plan, nor do I have any time, for a vacation / over-seas trip next year and I am therefore screwed – I have no flight to book before the devaluation – so what do I do? waste 96k miles redeeming miles for iPad Air 128GB (knowing that miles for merchandise is a straight rip-off?)…I’d love a miraculous / hail-mary solution: like a credit card that will transfer my miles from my United Mileage Plus Visa to a new program?….I hate United

  29. […] If I’m right that US Airways will not change its chart in the coming months, our victory will be short lived. I expect a single new chart for the new, combined AAdvantage program in 2015 that is substantially worse than either the current American Airlines or US Airways award charts. Unfortunately I can’t see much reason for the new American not to copy the devaluations of Delta and United. […]

  30. […] If I’m right that US Airways will not change its chart in the coming months, our victory will be short lived. I expect a single new chart for the new, combined AAdvantage program in 2015 that is substantially worse than either the current American Airlines or US Airways award charts. Unfortunately I can’t see much reason for the new American not to copy the devaluations of Delta and United. […]

  31. […] United miles got less valuable in 2014. Delta miles have gotten less valuable in 2014 and will get even less valuable in June. American miles got less valuable this month. US Airways miles got less valuable this month. British Airways Avios have gotten more valuable relatively and absolutely in 2014. […]


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