United MileagePlus has increased the cost of transatlantic awards on its own flights by one-third, and on partners by 39% – 46%. We’ll see what the effects are on other regions. I first saw the reference to United increasing the price of its own awards on Reddit,
- Coach between the U.S. and Europe on United increased from 30,000 to 40,000 miles each way (1/3 increase)
- Business class on United increased between the U.S. and Europe from 60,000 to 80,000 miles each way (1/3 increase
Nick Reyes mentioned this in passing today, “Side note: When did United begin charging 80K for one-way business class to/from Europe?” and One Mile at a Time points out changes to partner award pricing as well.
- Coach between the U.S. and Europe on partners increased from 30,000 to 43,900 miles (46% increase)
- Business between the U.S. and Europe on partners increased from 70,000 to 97,100 miles (39% increase)
United also charges a premium for awards booked within 30 days of travel – 4,000 more each way for coach and 10,000 more each way for business class – meaning that a “close-in” redemption for partner business class is now 107,100 miles each way or 214,200 miles roundtrip. Crazy.
So far Japan award pricing seems to have gone up while South America pricing remains the same.
When United eliminated award charts they eliminated any up-front promise of value. Every time an airline has done this, they’ve increased the prices they charge for awards. Every. Time. They can do it in stealthier fashion. They don’t need to tell members they’ve done it. The temptation is just too great.
Still, with devaluations at other programs United’s miles have remained competitive. The airline doesn’t make a lot of saver award space available on their own flights, but they’re part of Star Alliance which means they have more quality partners than competitors like American, Delta, and Alaska. That’s meant more ways to get where you want to go at reasonable mileage costs, even though they kept drip dripping partner award prices during the pandemic.
Several key takeaways: we already knew not to trust United or MileagePlus. They were among the worst during the pandemic (refusing refunds for cancelled flights, increasing mileage costs when no one was looking). These increases without notice make their miles worth less.
They presumably figure they can do this with Delta miles worth less than Venezuelan Bolivars and American eliminating saver awards on their own flights. However,
- Spending on United’s credit cards is now worth less.
- Transfers from Chase (and Bilt) to United are worth less. That marginally reduces the value of those transferable currencies.
- And it’s probably counterproductive for United in any case, since around 2018 the revenue growth MileagePlus was seeing was accounted for in transfers from Chase.
When United has raised the price of awards in the past they’ve taken a hit on credit card charge volume, and that’s bad for their bottom line. Perhaps they are hoping this time will be different, that customers won’t notice, because – having eliminated award charts – they don’t have to tell anyone they’ve done this. Shame shame.
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