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United Airlines has long been a favorite of mine because they are part of the Star Alliance and they don’t pass on fuel surcharges for partner award flights. This makes them a great option for Business Class flights to Europe, for example.
And their co-branded credit cards, like United℠ Explorer Card, have one of the most useful perks of any airline credit card – they give you access to more Saver award seats. So it was typically easy to find an award flight when I wanted to travel.
But United is going to be dropping down my list because starting now, for any award booked for travel after November 15, 2019, there will be no official United Airlines award chart. That’s a HUGE deal, especially if you were planning on traveling during a peak time.
I’ll share what we know so far but subscribe to our newsletter for more updates as we figure out how bad the damage is and what opportunities this change may create.
United Airlines Eliminates Their Award Chart
Last week we saw the price of some United Airlines flights drop to 5,000 miles. And now United Airlines has taken the top off and killed their award chart. According to The Points Guy, on a lot of domestic routes, you can still book the old award chart prices, and right now the hardest hit awards are those for popular travel dates. The biggest questions I have are:
- How long until another airline follows suit (American Airlines maybe)?
- And how frequently will we see unannounced award price increases?
Right now United Airlines hasn’t changed the price of partner airline award flights. This is especially important if you’re like me and looking to book a partner award flight to Europe. And on flights for less popular routes or during low season you might be able to find prices at or below what they would have under the old award chart.
So even though this is bad news, there are some opportunities for those of us with United Airlines miles already in our account. But with no award chart, the prices are guaranteed to go up over time. It’s just a matter of when and by how much.
I plan on using my United Airlines miles now.
Have Business Class Flights to Europe Been Gutted?
One of the harshest realities you run into booking your first international award flight is fuel surcharges, especially on Business or First Class awards. United Airlines has long been a go-to airline for avoiding these fees because they don’t pass them on for their own flights or partner flights. So even if their award prices were a bit higher than other programs, you could still easily save $600+ per ticket with United Airlines miles.
For United’s own flights that won’t always be the case because their prices are now uncapped. Here is the award calendar for Business Class flights from Washington, DC, to Brussels after the change:
The 70,000 miles awards are for partner Business Class flights – again, these prices haven’t changed. And there is one day with a United Business Class Saver award at the old price. And that Saver award is mixed class with the first domestic leg in United Airlines economy.
United has had Saver and Everyday awards for a while now. And Everyday Business Class awards to Europe had a maximum price of 155,000 miles one-way, although they would vary between that price and the Saver award price. Now, this is what I see for a United Business Class award on this route both before and after the change.
I don’t know how many Saver awards were available on this route before this change was announced but…I doubt that every award that wasn’t Saver was pricing out at the maximum Everyday award price, which is the case now except for that one day.
We’ll have to do a bit of research to see how bad the impact is, but for now, it looks like partner award flights are the way to go if you want to use your United Airlines miles for Business Class flights.
A Touch of Positive News…Maybe
United Airlines charges a $75 close-in booking fee for award flights booked within 21 days of departure, although it has been possible to avoid that fee with this trick. And the fee was reduced or eliminated altogether for United elite members.
Now, United Airlines will be eliminating that fee for award travel after November 15, 2019. The real question is how much will a last-minute award flight cost? Will they be so expensive we’ll long for the days when we had to sometimes pay the $75 close-in fee for last-minute award flight?
This change is a punch in the gut. I’ve been sitting on a stack of United Airlines miles and was debating on using them for a couple of Business Class flights to Europe this September. Now I’ll definitely be using up those miles for some partner flights.
What are your thoughts on this change?
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