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.