Back in April United announced the elimination of award charts. They didn’t even give advance notice, the change was effective right away for travel November 15 onward.
At the time I spoke with United’s Vice President of Loyalty Luc Bondar who told me clearly that these changes do not affect how partner awards are being priced at this time. There will be “some variability if United segments” are included in the flight itinerary.
How will this affect award flights on partner airlines?
The partner award chart will remain in effect for travel through November 14, 2019. For travel on or after November 15, 2019, there may be flights that require a higher number of miles than the amounts indicated on the award chart. When you search for awards while booking, you’ll see the applicable award level.
The line that’s concerning is that “there may be [partner] flights that require a higher number of miles than the amounts indicated on the award chart.” However that’s perfectly consistent with what United said from the beginning – add a United flight to an itinerary with a partner flight, and the partner award itinerary can change price.
I confirmed with the airline that the language is not new (it’s been up for months) and that what MileagePlus head Luc Bondar told me remains accurate – that partner awards continue to price as they have in the past, but that when you include a United flight in conjunction with a partner flight prices may vary.
While United certainly hasn’t promised that won’t ever change, they haven’t made any changes to their thinking. For now this appears to be a false alarm, but without published award charts the program in effect makes no promises as all about the future. Even though this FAQ answer doesn’t suggest the program is being devalued, we can assume that’s the direction it will continue to head.