United Now Charges More Miles For Non-Stop Partner Award Tickets Booked Within A Month Of Travel

In late April United Airlines picked a strange time to devalue the MileagePlus program. They started charging about 10% more for award travel on partner airlines. US-Europe in business class on partners went from 70,000 miles to 77,000 miles one-way.

I figured this was because they actually pay the partner airline for travel – and United back then was doing everything it could to avoid paying anyone for anything, illegitimately keeping customers’ money when they cancelled flights for instance.

Live and Let’s Fly points out that they’ve devalued partner awards again, a mere six months later. This time they’re charging a premium for partner awards booked within a month of travel flying non-stop. Right now, of course, when people book air travel it tends to be at the last minute cause of all the uncertainty in the world.

  • Newark – Frankfurt non-stop on Lufthansa has gone up from 77,000 miles to 80,500 miles
  • Fly Chicago – Newark – Frankfurt, though, and the price is still 77,000 miles.

He notes that Los Angeles – Tokyo on ANA – which, until late April was 80,000 miles one way in business class – goes up to 92,000 miles for a last minute non-stop. Start with a United Las Vegas – Los Angeles flight, though, and connect onto that same ANA flight and the award still prices at 88,000 miles (its April devaluation price). And the close-in partner award surcharge applies to coach awards, too.

A year ago when United ‘eliminated close-in booking fees for awards’ they just started charging more miles for the awards. They didn’t really eliminate the fees, they simply charged miles instead of money. For instance a one-way partner business class award to Europe went up by 3500 miles. So United playing games with the pricing of last minute awards isn’t new, and this appears to be the third devaluation of partner award prices in the year since United eliminated award charts. That even puts Delta to shame.

This is a great reminder that the only reason a loyalty program removes award charts is so that they can raise the price of awards while trying to hide what they’re doing. I have never seen a program eliminate award charts and become more valuable. The new President of American AAdvantage, by the way, says he doesn’t understand why customers care about award charts (but they won’t go away at American). This is why. Remember, United didn’t even tell members they made this change.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] Traditionally partner award prices have been (1) available only at the saver level (though some airlines have added more expensive rulebuster awards on partners, like Alaska lately with some of its partners) and (2) based on a fixed award chart, even when the award chart isn’t published. Unpublished pricing usually leads to massive inflation over time, like we’ve seen from Delta SkyMiles. So it’s surprising to see some lower prices from MileagePlus, though that’s after only just raising partner business class prices. […]


  1. Gotta love Kirby, the guy makes no bones about hosing loyal customers. I might argue that doing so while begging for both business and government handouts is both stupid and tasteless.

  2. To do this at a time when they are mortgaging their future based on the value of their miles is particularly shocking. For me, specifically, this whole crisis has highlighted that the value of bank points far exceeds miles going forward.

  3. There is no ‘loyalty’ in the loyalty program, which is why I left the dumpster fire ages ago.

    I’m buying biz on the foreign carrier, or just going with SWA domestic.

    Good luck with it, Kirby. It’s been interesting to watch this train wreck and the ensuing outrage over and over again.

  4. Don’t think this is a new devaluation.

    They added close-in charges of 3,500 miles each way a year ago and they added 10% for partner awards earlier this year. Seems like that’s all this is, no?

  5. @Dan – the close-in surcharge which i write about in the post wasn’t applying to close-in partner awards, at least after the larger partner award devaluation in april. We got a ~ 5% devaluation on last minute awards, a ~ 10% devaluation on partner awards which was larger and replaced the first on partner metal, and now an *additional* ~ 5% devaluation for last minute partner awards.

  6. Well sure enough! I just checked IAD – ADD on Ethiopian. It used to be 80K one way in J, went to 88K in April, and now early in it’s 92K. Rotten bastards.

    Just remember this next time they offer miles for sale or you fly UA for the miles. Only a fool would do that anymore.

  7. David – I would argue that anyone who values Chase UR points with United as part of the formula is a fool as well. The other partners are the only real value of the program.

  8. @Andrew – agreed. I canceled my Chase card today. They made a pitch for another card. I listened but said there’s little value to their card when it comes to miles whether its 2x, 3x, or whatever spending. It won’t be long and these close in rates will become standard no matter when you book.

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