Back in August United announced new change fees for awards and new limits award stopovers. They eliminated round the world awards as well.
This was a devaluation, but — at least based on the announcement — seemed to be in areas where United was more generous than the competition. They’ll still allow stopovers, just only in the same region as your destination. If you’re flying between the US and Asia with a connection in Europe you used to be able to stop over at your European connecting point. Now that costs more miles, since United prices it as a separate award.
It turns out the changes were more draconian than what United announced. You can only book awards at the award chart price that United presents to you. Any awards you build yourself online, or with an agent, will price each portion of the trip separately — even for a simple one way or roundtrip without any kind of stopover at all.
And since United’s IT has long been a weak spot, failing to offer even simple connecting options that are available, it’s frequently necessary to put together awards segment-by-segment. Charging more for United’s inability or unwillingness to display awards that are available is both a major devaluation and an affront to members.
Here’s how this works: you only get to choose flights that United offers you at the published price. Even the flights you want are available, if United’s systems don’t suggest it — and you get the website to put the flights together with multi-city search, or you get an agent to build the itinerary one flight at a time — they’re going to charge you separately for each flight segment.
- Even though saver awards are available
- Even though the route and connections are permitted under United’s rules
- And even though United publishes a price for that routing
- United is still going to charge you more miles.
Since United announced the changes that were going into effect and this wasn’t one of them, and since it seems like an ‘unfair and deceptive’ practice (of the kind DOT says they’ve been mistakenly failing to act against, charging more than the published price for an itinerary), I assumed it had to be be a glitch.
However a United spokesperson tells me,
There is not a glitch on the new site for multi-city — that functionality is working as we previously announced. The new MileagePlus award changes are designed to make multi-city searches easier, give our customers greater flexibility, offer the Excursionist Perk, and provide efficient options that meet their travel needs. Selecting the multi-city option will break up the search into separate awards. We believe our multi-city pricing is consistent with the industry.
For more coverage,
- Dan’s Deals wrote about this yesterday wondering if it was a glitch, noting that “[i]f United.com comes up with [New York – Los Angeles – Auckland – Sydney] it’s 80K [miles] in business class. [If it doesn’t and] I use multi-city search it can be 92.5K [miles] or 110K [miles] depending on how I input the search.”
- Tiffany wrote about it this morning and sums up the changes rather aptly — that “[m]ulti-region routings are allowed, as long as it’s not your idea” and “MileagePlus is now less predictable than SkyMiles.”
As I concluded when Hyatt made more changes than they announced they would on August 1, I shouldn’t need to run down a list of all of a program’s features and ask whether or not those are changing, too.