Less Generous Stopover Rules, Increased Change Fees Coming to United Airlines Award Flights

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Via The Points Guy, United Airlines is making changes to their award booking rules and fees on October 6, 2016.

For those of y’all who book relatively straightforward award flights, this will likely NOT impact you.

But if you liked taking full advantage of United Airlines stopover rules to visit more destinations on the same award itinerary, or were planning a “Round the World” award, this is very bad news! 

And I don’t like that it’s going to cost more to make award flight changes and cancellations!

Less Generous Stopover Rules Increased Change Fees Coming To United Airlines Award Flights

Want a Free Stopover in Europe on Your United Airlines Award Flight to Asia? Then Book It Before October 6, 2016!

Here’s what these new rules and fees mean for you.

Here’s What Is Changing

Link:   United Airlines Award Booking Changes

1.   “Excursionist Perk” Replaces Free Stopover on Round-Trip Awards

Currently, you can add a free stopover to a round-trip United Airlines award ticket.  For example, you could book Newark – London – Newark – Los Angeles, with a very long stopover in Newark.  Essentially, you’d get a free one-way trip from Newark to Los Angeles.

That’s changing.  From October 6, 2016, you can still add a free stopover to certain award tickets, but the routing rules are different.  And they’re now calling it the “Excursionist Perk.”

Less Generous Stopover Rules Increased Change Fees Coming To United Airlines Award Flights

It’ll Be Harder to Take Advantage of Free One-Way Flights on Round-Trip Award Tickets When the New Rules Go Into Effect

The rules, from the United Airlines website:

  • The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates. (For example, if your journey begins in North America, you will only receive the Excursionist Perk if travel is within a region outside of North America.)
  • Travel must end in the same MileagePlus defined region where travel originates.
  • The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk is within a single MileagePlus defined region.
  • The cabin of service and award type of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.
  • If two or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit, only the first occurrence will be free.

The main takeaways:

  • No more free one-ways within North America because the Excursionist Perk can’t be in the same region where your travel originates
  • Trips like US – Europe (stopover) – Asia are no longer possible because the origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk must be within the same region
Less Generous Stopover Rules Increased Change Fees Coming To United Airlines Award Flights

You Can Still Add a Stopover on Round-Trip Award Tickets, but the Routing Rules Are More Restrictive

We’ll see how the rules play out in practice, but for now, it looks like it will be much harder to make the most of the free one-way on award tickets.

2.   Book Complex Multi-City Trips Online

With the changes, United Airlines’ online award booking system will soon price out each leg in a multi-city itinerary individually.  So you’ll be able to book trips online you’d normally have to call United Airlines for.

Less Generous Stopover Rules Increased Change Fees Coming To United Airlines Award Flights

You’ll Soon Be Able to Book Complicated Itineraries Like This One Online

But with the changes to stopover rules, some of these awards have become more expensive.

3.   No More Round the World Awards

Until now, United Airlines has offered “Round the World” awards.  For a set price, you can travel around the world with up to 5 stopovers in a single direction (not including destination), and a maximum of 16 segments.

Less Generous Stopover Rules Increased Change Fees Coming To United Airlines Award Flights

Spend 200,000 United Airlines Miles to Fly Around the World in Coach – but Book Before October 6, 2016!

Starting October 6, 2016, United Airlines will eliminate Round the World awards.  You can still fly around the world, but you’ll have to piece together one-way award flights for your journey (which will sometimes cost more miles).

United Airlines says:

One-way-based pricing will allow you to create itineraries with multiple destinations and clearly see the price.  You’ll be able to build a customized around-the-world itinerary and eliminate the need for specific Round the World awards.  In many cases, the total price to create a customized itinerary will now be less and won’t require you to stick to the routing rules that came with Round the World awards.

You can still book Round the World awards until October 5, 2016.  And if you currently have a trip booked, it will be honored.

3.   New Award Change and Cancellation Fees

United Airlines is also making changes to their award booking fees.

Here’s a chart showing the United Airlines’ new change and cancellation fees for award tickets:

Less Generous Stopover Rules Increased Change Fees Coming To United Airlines Award Flights

Most Folks Will Soon Pay More to Change or Cancel Award Tickets

The main difference between these new fees and the old fee chart is that a fee will apply when you make changes to an award ticket within 60 days of your flight, as opposed to the current 20 days.

And in many cases, folks will be paying slightly more for award flight changes or cancellations, regardless of how many days before departure the changes are made.  It depends on your elite status level.

Also, Premier Platinum members didn’t have to pay anything to change or cancel their award tickets before, but they’ll now pay $50 when making changes within 60 days of their departure date.

I don’t see the close-in booking fee listed in the chart, but it doesn’t mean it’s going away.  For now, use this trick to avoid paying United Airlines’ close-in award ticket booking fee!

Bottom Line

On October 6, 2016, United Airlines is changing the way it allows stopovers on round-trip award flights.  And the new rules are stricter.

They’re eliminating “Round the World” awards, and instead require you to piece together (and pay for) one-way award flights for your journey.

They’ll also be increasing fees for most folks looking to change or cancel award tickets.  And the fees will kick-in 61 days prior to departure instead of the current 21 days.

So, if you’re planning a trip and want to take advantage of the more flexible award policies, book your trip sooner rather than later!  Because the current rules will apply to any award tickets booked before October 6, 2016, including when it comes to change fees.

Let me know what you think about these changes in the comments!

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4 responses to “Less Generous Stopover Rules, Increased Change Fees Coming to United Airlines Award Flights

  1. It looks like this would even eliminate a simple stopover in Fiji in the way to Australia. Correct?

  2. A few years ago I flew from CLT to JFK to CAI (12 hr layover during the day) to BKK (10 hour layover during the day) to CCU, final destination. Since all the stopovers was under 24 hours and necessary to connect to the final destination, I was able to book this. Do you know if this can be done, post-change?

  3. Is it possible to book HNL-EWR(stopover)EWR-ZRH(stopover)-BOM-EWR before Oct 6

  4. Will united allow you to fly different partners on a round trip? For example can I fly united from EWR – FCO (stopover) and then FCO to ATH on Aegean and back for a round trip? Also I guess the open jaw policy will remain the same?