Yesterday United Airlines removed partner award charts from its website. 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.
We now know exactly why United pulled these charts yesterday without any notice to members. As One Mile at a Time reports today United is already charging more miles for many partner awards. He notes partner award prices “haven’t gone up across the board, but ha[ve] in most regions.” E.g.,
- Lufhansa transatlantic business class increased 10% from 70,000 to 77,000 miles each way
- Asiana business class increased 10% from 80,000 miles to 88,000 miles each way
- US-South Asia increased 10% from 90,000 miles to 99,000 miles each way
From United’s perspective there are likely three reasons this makes sense to do right now.
- They waited until Chase renewed their co-brand credit card deal. Chase is the biggest buyer of United miles, and agreed to pay more for those miles, before United made the miles worth less.
- They did it during a global pandemic while they figure no one is watching
- They focused on partner award tickets, which involve paying another airline – from their perspective this conserves cash, much like refusing to give refunds to customers when they cancelled flights did.
It does no good to point out the obvious,
- That United will need its frequent flyers more than ever to fill seats as they try to recover from a collapse in air travel demand
- That this will mean spending more on marketing, a departure from the past five years of devaluations (United might counter internally that they are interested in awarding more ‘new miles’ and not maintaining the value of miles earned from past business)
- Devaluing miles will make it harder to generate credit card revenue, which is core to their business