Airlines are definitely in need of cash right now and airlines around the world are trying various things to get cash – including from the government and taxpayers. US airlines have taken this time to do something on a different angle (while still taking money from taxpayers).
In United’s case, they are hiking award prices. Not only is this not a great time for it (would we ever think it was a “good” time?:), but it is also going against their word on this subject.
United Airlines Dumps Partner Award Chart
Award Chart Gone – First Step
Last week, many people noticed that the partner award chart, that had stuck around after United got rid of their own award charts, had disappeared. This was the one constant that would help people know how many miles it would cost to fly business class on Lufthansa from the US to India, for example. United had said that when they went to a more dynamic model with their own awards last November 15, partner awards would not change unless they were paired with United flights.
Well, getting rid of their partner award chart was just an easy way to get the process started towards dynamic pricing for partner awards as well. They had already went against their word by replacing their close-in $75 booking fee (which they boasted about dropping for months) with a stealth mileage surcharge for all customers. Anyone that trusts airlines to not make moves in the mileage department has not paid attention over the past few years because they have all done it – it is just that United is the latest to do it (again).
United Raises Partner Awards Around 10% – Second Step (and against United’s word)
The phrase “waiting for the other shoe to drop” could certainly have been coined talking about United removing the award chart. It was almost a certainty that such a move would be followed with the increase on those awards now that there was no reference to point United towards when such a move occurred.
Well, that did happen. And it was not just for premium awards like business class or first class. Even economy class is getting hit with this mileage increase.
It definitely kicks in for flights post-July 1 which is a really unfortunate move. Obviously, most people are not going to be flying United’s partners before July 1 so United is sort of tempting everyone by dangling lower priced awards for travel before that. They may look at it like they are keeping awards low for people that have to travel but it is still unpleasant for the majority of travelers.
The New Award Chart and a Little Trick
Award Wallet did a nice job of cobbling together a new award chart based on their research and searches of various routes and it mirrors what I have found as well. They noted something else I had been seeing – that when non-Star Alliance partners were in the mix, the current award hike does not come into affect.
Here are United’s non-alliance partners (note that some of them are actually flying on behalf of actual alliance partners or even using their planes):
Non-Alliance Partners Are Key!
How this works is this – if you search for a flight, especially involving travel in Europe, and you have one of the above partners in the mix, it will retain the previous award prices. This works for partner flights (which used to be 70,000 miles for one-way business or 30,000 miles for one-way economy) and United flights (where the long-haul is a United-operated flight – the previous costs would have been 60,000 for one-way in business or 30,000 miles for one-way in economy).
With a flight on Olympic Air, for example, it is owned by Aegean Airlines and operated by them (though there still may be a few Olympic Air flights in the mix). This means you are still getting all the benefits of flying Aegean but a decrease in the required miles if one segment is on Olympic.
The same works with Eurowings (which flies on behalf of Austrian) and Edelweiss (which flies on behalf of SWISS) as well as the other partners (Air Dolomiti is with Lufthansa). The biggest difference maker on the list would be Are Lingus which actually does fly to the US.
You will not find this on flights to big airports so it could be worthwhile flying to a smaller/non-hub airport if you really want to save the miles. Plus, you could always see a new city you may not have thought about checking out otherwise.
One of the ways airlines are trying to raise money is through mileage sales. I would not touch a United mileage sale at all right now – unless they were selling for super cheap (and maybe not even then!). They have shown that they have no problem going against their previous word on this subject and they are now doing this at a time when people may have been getting awards redeposited and hoping to use them again when travel opens up again.
Or, maybe this is United’s response to being forced to waive redeposit fees on awards???