United Airline’s is becoming the latest airline to make it harder for frequent flyers to plan how many miles they will need to book an award flight. For flights on and after November 15, 2019, the United Airlines award charts will no longer be available. United will begin charging variable award prices for United-operated flights instead. You can already see these changes for flights on and after November 15, 2019.
United also announced that they would be eliminating close in booking fees after November 15, 2019 as well. This is a positive change.
This move follows in the footsteps of Delta and discount carriers Southwest Airlines and JetBlue that also use a variable pricing model. At this time, American Airlines and a few international carriers, including Aer Lingus, continue to offer fixed price awards.
Despite this negative news, variable pricing isn’t a completely new concept. United introduced the more expensive Everyday Award that has variable pricing. But, at least it was published with a maximum price for comparison. For instance, a one-way domestic economy class flight currently costs up to 32,500 miles. Being able to book a Saver Award costs 12,500 miles for that same flight.
For now, you can still calculate how many miles you will spend on United award flights by using their interactive award chart.
Redeeming United Miles
The disappearing award charts will be a setback for many award travelers. To avoid some of the future uncertainty, you may try to redeem your miles now.
As of now, United still won’t charge fuel surcharges to long-haul flights. This peace of mind at least lets you know that your fees and taxes for most routes will be around $5.60 each way.
Also, United is still a Chase Ultimate Rewards 1:1 transfer partner. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Business Preferred, now can be a good time to transfer your miles to get a potentially better redemption value.
Your best redemption will be booking Saver Awards. These are the last fixed-cost award seats that may be impacted the most when the award chart changes take effect. There are a limited number of Saver Awards per route so you may have to adjust your travel dates or flight times to find a Saver Award.
Economy domestic one-way flights cost 10,000 miles on routes 700 miles or less. Longer routes cost 12,500 miles. If you upgrade to a premium cabin, plan on spending 25,000 miles each way. On Polaris transcontinental routes, add 10,000 miles to the award flight price.
Flying to Europe can also be affordable on United because you won’t pay a fuel surcharge. Economy seats cost 30,000 miles each way and 60,000 miles for business class. On partner airlines, premium seats can cost 70,000 miles each way plus fees and taxes.
Book United Flights With Partner Miles
Another option to consider is booking United flights through a partner airline like Singapore Airlines. Selection may be limited, but it’s another potential tool you can use to maximize award travel.
At this time, it’s unclear how these changes will affect partner flights.
Although the United MileagePlus program isn’t perfect, the published award charts add credibility to the company and is definitely more user friendly for consumers. Going forward, it may be harder to plan United Airlines award flights. Using your United miles now is one way to know you are getting the best redemption value. While you should still be able to find competitively priced award flights after November 15, it will take by more effort.
By: Geoff Whitmore