As I have written before, I am a big fan of United’s credit card perk that allows cardholders (and elite members) to get greater United flight award availability. This is a really great way to see some value on this card that otherwise trails behind the American and Delta counterparts with benefits for traveling on the airline.
Is United Penalizing Regular Members to Give More Award Value to Cardholders and Elite Members?
But, is this benefit starting to penalize regular members who either don’t have the United Airlines credit card or are not elite members? I have been noticing a lot more flight routes coming up empty on award flights when I am not signed in. As a United credit card holder, all I normally need to do is to sign in but if you do not have any of the United credit cards, this could be a real problem.
American Airlines gets a lot of flack for their lack of regular award space on transatlantic routes. United Airlines seems to actually be having quite the constraint on award space even on simple regional routes. Of course, there are tons of routes and I have not checked them all but I have been checking dozens of routes to see what the award availability is like and have also been doing a lot of searches for people for award bookings. And I can tell you that the award space seems to be much tighter than before!
Big Problem for Flights Connecting to International Flights on Awards
What makes this even more annoying is when searching for international routes. United’s partners tend to have some pretty good availability, especially in economy cabins. But, if you are trying to depart from a smaller, regional airport with your United award, this has been a problem. I have found incredible availability for the overseas portion of the awards but really had a lot of problems finding the United feeder flights for the overseas flights.
Again, I have United credit cards so this is not a problem for me. But, there are many people who book on United that do not have the card. Since Ultimate Rewards points transfer at 1:1 to United, you do not need a United card to actually accumulate United miles.
In my mind, United may be penalizing their regular members while trying to keep award space tight to give their cardholders and elite members more value. As a cardholder, I appreciate the extra award space but I still feel that United should just open up more across the board instead of so severely limiting regular United members without the cards.
What do you think? If you do not have the United card or status, do you have problems finding United award flights?