I’m not confident that united.com will price awards correctly starting next week or offer us all the best award choices.

February 1 marks the introduction of two new United charts that are much worse than the current chart (so you should be burning United miles for 2014 travel this week).

The way the charts should work according to United’s posts on FlyerTalk is that:

  1. Awards with all flights operated by United should be on the United chart.
  2. Awards in which United-operated flights are at least one cabin higher than partner flights should be on the United chart. (Example: Chicago to Frankfurt to Rome should be at the United business price–57.5k miles–if Chicago to Frankfurt is in United business and Frankfurt to Rome is in Lufthansa economy.)
  3. Awards with all flights operated by partners should be on the partner chart.
  4. Awards with partner flights in the same cabin or higher as United flights should be on the partner chart. (Example: Chicago to Frankfurt to Rome should be at the partner business price–70k miles–if Chicago to Frankfurt is in United business and Frankfurt to Rome is in Lufthansa business.)
  5. If you’re confused about numbers 2 and 4, see this fuller explanation.

I am not confident that the 2nd category–United flights in a higher cabin than partner flights–will price correctly or that we’ll even be offered these choices. For them to price correctly, united.com would need to be overhauled significantly.

Let’s look at this example of award space from Honolulu to Tokyo to Singapore. (Click it to enlarge.)

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 7.32.44 PM

This award has two flights:

  1. Honolulu to Tokyo-Narita on United
  2. Tokyo-Narita to Singapore on ANA

There is Saver award space in both flights in economy. That’s what a blue button displaying the economy price of 25,000 miles each way means.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 4.11.56 PMThere is Saver award space in both flights in business class. That’s what a blue button displaying the business class price of 37,500 miles each way means.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 4.12.03 PMThere is Saver award space only in the United flight in first class. That’s what a blue button displaying the first class price of 50,000 miles with the Mixed Cabin explanation below means.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 4.12.13 PM

Through January 31, united.com is correctly pricing all the award possibilities in all the cabins.

Starting February 1, this exact same space will be priced much differently, and I don’t expect united.com to give us all the best options priced correctly.

Starting February 1, the options are:

  1. both flights in economy for partner economy price of 35k miles
  2. United Business and ANA economy for United business price of 50k miles
  3. both flights in Business for partner business price of 60k miles
  4. United First and ANA Business for United First price of 60k miles

I expect united.com to correctly offer the economy option at the economy price. I expect united.com to correctly offer both flights in business class at the partner business class price.

I do not expect united.com to show option 2: “United Business and ANA economy for United business price of 50k miles.” Why not?

United.com doesn’t currently show the option to fly United Business plus ANA economy. Of course, currently there’s no reason to show that option since business is available on both flights for no extra cost. But next week, booking both flights in business will cost more than invoking the rule that United business plus partner flights in economy stays on the cheaper United-only chart.

For United.com to make the tweak and show all four options I listed above would require a difficult rewriting of their search engine’s code (I imagine, I don’t know too much about coding.) United’s history of technical prowess during the United/Continental integration was poor, so I don’t expect united.com to correctly display options for United business plus partner economy at the United-only business price.

Right or wrong, I will have a follow up to this post on February 1. If united.com isn’t working properly for us, I’ll explain how to search for what you want to call in and book it for the proper price (and how to get the phone fee waived.) If united.com is properly displaying the new prices and all our options, I’ll congratulate United on a correct and difficult implementation.

Either way, burn your United miles by January 31, 2014 on your own or enlisting the help of my Award Booking Service.

I’m curious. What do you think? Will United correctly and clearly display all four options next week?


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