United’s massive award chart changes created a new, separate pricing chart. There’s one price for awards on United and another price for awards on partners.
I initially assumed that on flight on a partner as part of an award itinerary would cause the award to be priced at the higher partner price, even if the bulk of the ticket was on United. For instance, if you flew United transatlantic from Chicago to Frankfurt and then connected on Lufthansa to Berlin.
Now, if award space is available on United one-way but only on partners in the other direction you can still of course use the United chart for a one-way award and the partner chart for the other direction. That way you aren’t paying the full partner roundtrip price.
But what about the majority of Star Alliance destinations that United does not serve? Semi-fortunately United has issued a clarification, and a ‘sort of’ out (via Mommy Points):
Although there will now be two charts, it will be still be possible to combine United/United Express and MileagePlus partner award flights on the same itinerary. However, the MileagePlus partner award cabin level will need to be lower than that of the United-operated segment(s) in order to take advantage of the United Saver Award price. So, for a US to Europe itinerary where the long-haul segment is in United Global First, the intra-Europe connecting segment would need to be in Business or Economy (as they typically already are) to take advantage of the United Saver Award price. Similarly, for a US to Europe itinerary where the long-haul segment is in United BusinessFirst, the intra-Europe connecting segment would need to be in Economy to take advantage of the United Saver Award price.
This means that if you fly United transatlantic to Frankfurt, as in the example above, you can fly Lufthansa coach to an onward European destination for 115,000 miles (the United award price) and not 140,000 miles (the new partner award price).
Currently 100,000 miles gets you transatlantic in business class on United or its partners, and includes the onward destination in business class.
Not that intra-European business is special (it’s generally just a blocked middle seat and meal plus lounge access), but if you want to be in business for that segment you will either need to book the 140,000 mile partner business class award (or the 220,000 mile partner first class award – up from 135,000 miles, or the United first class award).
This reminds me of when United would only allow coach travel on Singapore airlines when traveling transpacific in Singapore business class.
This exception is, I suppose, better than a hole in the head. But it’s still pretty punitive. If they’re going to separate out United vs. partner award charts, and make partner travel more expensive, they could have determined the chart you would used based on an IATA rule like ‘most significant overwater carrier’ (fly United transatlantic or transpacific, you get the United award chart and a partner flight in the same cabin for your connection).
Remember you can still use the existing award chart for tickets issued through January 31.