Lots of folks booked awards speculatively before the bloodshed. Transatlantic business class awards on United’s partners went up 40%. Some first class awards went up more than 80%.
Of course, there were few changes to coach awards and to awards within the Americas. And a handful of awards actually get cheaper.
But for Americans looking to travel to Europe, Asia, Africa, or elsewhere in premium cabins prices went up a whole lot.
And for those who planned ahead and booked future travel under the old rates, there’s been lots of uncertainty about what kinds of changes to travel would be permitted without an increase in mileage cost to the new, higher rates.
My rule of thumb has been to assume that any change which incurs a change fee would also require an award re-price. But there’s always some ambiguity and United rules have changed a lot as to what changes exactly do require fees, and in this case award re-prices.
Matthew notes that United has offered some clarification on this.
[T]he existing change process will apply, and any change that requires an award to re-price will require an add/collect of the additional miles under the new award price structure. Fees for change/cancel will still apply per our existing policies. Changes that will not trigger a re-price for itineraries ticketed before February 3, 2014 include:
Date/time (cabin, region, and award type can’t change)
Carrier on one or more segments (cabin, region, and award type can’t change)
Origin/Destination within the same regions (carrier and cabin can’t change)
You can change the date and time without increasing mileage cost, as long as everything else stays the same.
You can change the carrier you fly as long as nothing else changes. So that means you can switch from United to Lufthansa for Newark to Frankfurt, for instance. I am surprised by this.
You can change the origin and destination in the same reason as long as nothing else changes. So you could change from flying out of Washington DC to flying out of New York, or flying into Milan instead of Rome. I am surprised by this as well.
Now, it seems like the third bullet — that you can change origin/destination as long as you do not change the airline you’re flying — contradicts the statement that you can change the airline as long as you do not change the routing.
The way around this would seem to be first changing the city you’re flying out of or into. And only then, once that’s complete, changing the airline you’re flying.
United used to be super-generous in its change rules, and they’ve tightened up a lot lately. But it’s good to have some clarification. We’ll need to see how these clarifications work in practice before actually ‘knowing’ how it all works, so this remains ‘developing’ .. but it’s a start.