When United greatly devalued its award chart in February 2014, it started charging more to fly Business and First Class on its partners than on its own planes. For instance from the United States to Thailand costs:
- 40,000 United miles one way in economy
- 70,000 United miles one way in United Business Class
- 80,000 United miles one way in Partner Business Class
- 80,000 United miles one way in United First Class
- 130,000 United miles one way in Partner First Class
If you fly all the flights on an award on United planes or all flights on partner planes, it’s obvious what price you have to pay, but the rules governing awards that feature United and partner planes are less intuitive. You can still pay the cheaper United prices if:
- Your United flight is in a higher cabin than your partner flights, or
- Your United and partner flights are in the same cabin, but your partner flights are intra-regional
United Flight in Higher Cabin Than Partner Flight
If you fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo in United First Class and then connect in Thai Business Class to Bangkok, you pay the United First Class price from the United States to Thailand because your United flight is in a higher cabin than your partner flight. (If your Thai flight were also in First Class, you’d pay the partner First Class price from the United States to Thailand.)
Equal Cabin but Partner Flight is Intra-Regional
If you fly from Chicago to Frankfurt in United Business Class and Frankfurt to Paris in Lufthansa Business Class, you pay the United Business Class price from the United States to Europe because the partner Business Class is intra-regional. (By region, I mean the official regions on the United award chart.)
These two rules lead to some funny pricing between a lot of regions in which the partner Business Class and United First Class prices are equivalent. One such award is Hawaii to Australia & New Zealand.
United charges 60,000 miles one way for partner Business Class and the same price for United First Class. That means you get funny award search results like this:
The Business Class column features United Business Class and Air New Zealand Business Class, both on region-connecting flights. That means you pay the partner Business Class price: 60,000 miles.
The First Class column features United First Class and Air New Zealand Business Class. Since the United flight is in a higher cabin, you pay the United First Class price: also 60,000 miles.
That means on this route, you pay the same amount whether you fly United First or United Business Class before the Air New Zealand Business Class. Easy choice!
That means you’ll see a lot of awards like this:
In both itineraries, you pay the same 80,000 miles whether you pair United First Class or United Business Class with partner Business Class because of the rules given above. These don’t have an option to pay 130,000 miles for United First plus partner First because the partner flight is a two-cabin plane.
San Francisco to Beijing on United has award space in all three cabins. The same can be said for Beijing to Bangkok on Thai. If I wanted to book this award, I’d do it by phone. Why?
I’d want to pair United First plus Thai Business for 80,000 miles. It’s not worth the extra 50,000 miles to me to fly Thai First for 5hr15min. Unfortunately the mixed-cabin award I’d want want isn’t online, so I’d just call 800-UNITED-1 to book it by specifying the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight I wanted.
Do you understand how awards with United and partner flights price? Have you seen awards where the First Class column and Business Class column show the same price like in this post?