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You might want grab a cup of something caffeinated for this one. Hey, at least it’s Friday!

United has published the following changes to their loyalty program that go into effect November 1, 2017….

  • Standard Awards take on a new name and pricing scheme
  • Various Saver Award prices are increasing (but not economy awards touching or within the mainland United States), enough that I’d call it a devaluation
  • There’s a new No-Show Fee for all award tickets

Below I’ll go over what you need to know.

Everyday Awards Replace Standard Awards

You pretty much only see us talk about Saver level awards, the cheapest level of United award space that is also bookable with other Star Alliance/Partner miles. While you might have been lucky enough (or stubborn enough, like me) to never have booked it, there’s no doubt you’ve at least noticed the more expensive level of United awards available called Standard Awards.

Standard award space between Newark and Houston is circled.
Standard award space between Newark and Houston is circled.

Standard Awards have set prices. Come November, non-Saver level award space will be called Everyday instead of Standard, and will fluctuate depending on demand but have a maximum cap. This is a step towards a more revenue-based award pricing system. Regarding why United made this change, they stated:

“Since flight prices fluctuate based on a variety of factors, we’ve decided to take those same factors into consideration for award travel pricing.”

The maximum price for Everyday awards is almost consistently higher than current Standard awards, but the minimum could also be lower in some cases. Whether or not this is a good or bad change will depend on the demand for the ticket.

United’s new award chart as of November 1, for Saver and Everyday awards, is published here. I’m not going to go into much detail about new maximum prices for Standard awards because you really shouldn’t be redeeming your miles this way anyways. Here are the maximum Standard Award prices effective November 1 within/between some of the most popular regions:

  • Within the contiguous United States, Canada, & Alaska:
    • 32,500 miles in economy (increase from current Standard Award price of 25k),
    • 50,000 miles in Business class (same as current Standard Award price)
    • 60,000 miles in three-cabin First Class (same as current Standard Award price)
  • Between the United States/Canada/Alaska & Europe:
    • 70,000 miles in economy
    • 155,000 miles in Business class

If you understand that Star Alliance/partner miles can only book Saver level award space, then it’s a given that this change only affects award prices flying United planes.

I do not have strong feelings towards this change one way or the other because I never redeem miles for anything other than Saver awards, no matter what loyalty program we’re talking. For those who do, whether or not this change is good or bad is yet to be revealed. We’ll see in November. One thing this change certainly isn’t is surprising. AAdvantage and SkyMiles have already made similar changes–they’re non-Saver level award space prices also fluctuates, sometimes to incredible rates. It was only a matter of time before we saw it happen to MileagePlus as well. At least United’s maximum Everyday prices are published…that’s more than we can say for Delta.

Saver Award Devaluation

So, back to basically the only level of award space we acknowledge as existing on this blog–Saver level.

First, the good news.

  • The price of direct Saver awards that fly a distance of 800 miles or less within the same award region (outside the United States) is decreasing to 8,000 miles. For example, from November 1 and on, you can book a Swiss Air flight from Zurich to Warsaw for 8,000 miles.
  • Saver Award prices in economy to, from or within the 48 contiguous United States are not changing (OK, so it’s not like this is great news, but it’s reassuring that something will remain status quo amidst a devaluation) 

Now, the bad news.

  • Numerous Business and First Class Cabin Saver Awards to or from the United States are increasing in price
  • Numerous international Saver Awards that don’t touch the United States are increasing in price (throughout all cabin classes)
  • Premium Business Class Saver Awards (domestic transcontinental and to Hawaii) are increasing in price

Across the board prices will increase more than they will drop, so I will call this what it is–a devaluation. In general though, the price hikes aren’t preposterous. All prices quoted below are for one-ways.

Saver Price Increases Flying United Metal, Between 48 States/Alaska/Canada and…

  • Southern South America: Business Class up to 60k from 55k & First Class up to 80k from 70k
  • Europe: Business Class up to 60k from 57.5k
  • Central/Southern Africa: First Class up to 90k from 85k
  • Central Asia: Business Class from up to 75k from 70k
  • South Asia: Business Class up to 75k from 70k & First Class up to 95k from 80k
  • North Asia: First Class up to 90k from 80k
  • Japan and Oceania: Business Class up to 70k from 65k & First Class up to 90k from from 80k
  • Australia/New Zealand: Business Class up to 80k from 70k & First Class up to 100k from 80k

Saver Price Increases Flying Star Alliance/Partner Metal

  • Southern South America: Business Class up to 60k from 55k & First Class up to 80k from 70k
  • Middle East and Central Asia: Business Class up to 85k from 80k
  • South Asia: Business Class up to 90k from 80k & First Class up to 140k from 130k
  • Japan and Oceania: Business Class up to 80k from 75k
  • Australia/New Zealand: Business Class up to 90k from 80k

Awards that Don’t Touch the USA

There are lots of other Star Alliance/Partner flights whose Saver award price will increase November 1 as well. Sadly the 40k price for Thai First Class between Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand is increasing to 65k.

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 6.24.22 PMCheck out the new award chart for November 1, 2017 and onwards here to see others.

Saver Price Increases Flying Premium Business Class

What I mean by Premium Business Class is routes that fly planes that have been upgraded with things like lie-flat seats and amenity kits. That includes Business Class flights between…

  • Newark and Los Angeles
  • Newark and San Francisco
  • Boston and San Francisco

…which will now cost 35,000 instead of 25,000 miles.

Business Class flights from Houston, Newark, Chicago, Denver and Washington, D.C. to Hawaii are also considered Premium, and will increase from 40,000 to 50,000 miles.

New No-Show Fee

If you book an award and don’t show up to fly it, the current policy is that you can get your miles redeposited for up to a year after the travel date for a fee that varies depending on your status.

As of November 1, if you don’t cancel and request for your miles to be redeposited before the flight, you will be charged $125 on top of the existing fee. The new policy (fairly, I think) applies to all members, even elites.

Bottom Line

If you’re wondering what I make of these changes….

  • I don’t really have an opinion on the new Everyday Awards as I don’t book them. Time will tell just how fair the new revenue based prices are.
  • Devaluations are inevitable. That being said, they still suck, and are the reason why you shouldn’t be hoarding tons of miles for years at a time. Earn your miles in a calculated manner and then spend them!
  • I understand why United is putting a no-show fee into place. With an incentive to avoid a fee, hopefully less award space will be wasted. Do us all (including yourself) a favor and free that seat up for someone else if you have prior notice that you won’t be needing it.

I appreciate United giving a decent amount of notice regarding the changes. November 1, 2017–when all of these MileagePlus changes will come into effect–is four months away. If you want to book a specific Saver award at the pre-devaluation price, you still have time to start from scratch. Sign up for an entirely new credit card, earn the sign up bonus, and redeem the miles on an award with travel dates as far out as October of 2018 (that’s the latest the calendar for booking will be open in October of this year).

What’s your opinion? Are you going to book any awards before November 1 that are facing devaluation?

Hat tip The Points Guy

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