United Airlines has announced changes that are coming to their award program redemptions as of October 6, 2016. There are some things they are promising to be helpful but they are also instituting changes that will hurt the many people that have come to love how the routing rules worked for United Airline awards. Travel is Free has had some excellent material on these routing rules.
New United Award Changes – Stopovers & Fees
Here is the page that gives their FAQ and a look at the new rules. Read on below as well for some analysis and details about these changes.
New Stopover Policy
They had this to say about the reasons they are changing their stopover policy – “Many members found the stopover policy to be confusing. Our goal is to keep the benefit while making the process of booking your multi-city trip easier, so we are introducing the Excursionist Perk, which is a free one-way award within select multi-city itineraries.” Yet, how they broke down the new stopover, rather Excursionist Perk, policy could be read as confusing by many of the same members as well. Here is what it says:
- 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.
Here is the example they give of two such scenarios:
But, what you will no longer be able to do is to book a stopover in a different region than the one you originate from or terminate in. For example, you cannot build a stopover in Europe on your way to Asia from the US. This is something that many people use to take advantage of and will no longer be allowed. It will not be priced out at the one way award levels for such a ticket.
More Customized Search Engine
United has long had one of the best award search engines and now they claim they will be making it better with more functionality to allow you to customize your award bookings. For example, you will soon be able to filter based on certain connecting airports and then filter down even further with more specifics (WiFi, etc). In short, it looks like it will provide the level of customization and filtering that something like Kayak currently gives when you search for revenue flights. If they don’t break the engine and they do add some positives, this will be something to look forward to.
No More Round the World Awards
Now United has jumped into the no round the world awards anymore. They had some pretty decent prices for such awards but I am not sure how many people are devastated to see them go. Yes, it will be a blow to those were saving for such an award (you can still book it until October 6) but you would likely be better served in the long run by taking advantage of multiple programs to achieve more flexibility in cabins, airlines, and destinations.
Changed and Increased Award Fees
Award fees are never a nice thing but they are a reality for all but the top tier elites in a US-based program. With the other changes, United is also changing up some of the fees for awards and eliminating the redeposit fee for Premier Platinum members – a big blow to them. Here is the new fee structure for awards:
What they have done is made equal changes with cancel/redeposits when it comes to fees. While it use to be cheaper to simply make changes (even within 21 days of departure), now a change will cost the same as a cancellation/redeposit. That is good news if you have to redeposit often but very bad news if you make changes to your awards.
The worst part about this change is that they have moved it from 21 days from departure as the date when the fees go up to 60 days before departure. They claim that “When a customer changes or cancels a ticket closer to departure date, it reduces the chance for that seat to be used by another customer.” Sorry, it actually allows for award seats to be more available if the seat goes back into the award bucket which can be very helpful for certain destinations. What they really mean to say is “we like money and this is another way we can get it.” Nothing wrong with this, but just say something like this instead of making it sound like you are changing it for all of your customers.
At least they did not announced they were going revenue based on their redemptions! Still, there are several changes here that will make many people upset, specifically those of us who try to get the most value from our miles. If United really wanted to make things simpler and not cause confusion for their members, they would start with not having ill-informed people work their kiosks in the airports for the lousy 30,000 mile offer. It is not about making things simpler for all members – it is about getting more miles and money from those who get the most value from the system.
Of course, it is their system and they are free to do with it as they want. Still, we do not have to love every change!
What changes disappoint you the most?