It was only a matter of time – and today was the day. United Airlines released their award devaluation chart that severely guts premium awards, especially on partner airlines. Most of the blogs are looking at the high points about this devaluation – the only high point (IMHO) is that these new award prices do not apply to any bookings made before February 1, 2014. 🙂
For most of the United-operated flights, the coach cost stayed the same or went up 5,000 miles round-trip. For the business and first class tickets, the cost in miles went up from 15,000 miles round-trip to 20,000 miles round-trip. While those numbers and the increase is bad, the real damage occurred with partner flights. These flights just further go to prove some of the points that I made in a previous post about whether premium cabins were worth the premium in miles. Now, most people would tend to agree with those assessments! 🙂
For flights on partner airlines (like Lufthansa, Thai, Singapore, Asiana, and ANA), the miles increased significantly. Some of the examples are first class tickets from the US to Europe that used to be 130,000 miles are now 220,000 miles! Flights to Central Asia from the US that used to cost 160,000 miles in first class now will cost 280,000 miles! To give an idea of this change, my one-way Lufthansa first class flight that cost me 67,500 miles in June will now cost 110,000 miles after February 1. That is a huge increase and one that will surely see fewer United award bookers on these flights after February 1st.
Award Booking Strategy
If you have the miles in your account, start booking soon! People will be booking up a storm before February 1 hits, many of them speculatively. As a result, the award availability, especially for partner flights, will become harder to find in premium cabins as the months go by.
If you are not a premium cabin traveler, then you should not feel pressured to start booking. There is an incremental increase for coach tickets and this devaluation is certain to be the last one from United Airlines for a while so the coach tickets are safe.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the capacity loads of partner premium cabins after February 1st. If you do find yourself redeeming for those awards after that date, chances are very good you will be flying with very few people up front! I cannot imagine people burning 220,000 United miles for a 8 hour flight (round-trip). To put things in perspective, 220,000 miles is just 20,000 miles shy of being enough miles for 4 round-trip tickets in coach to Europe! Wow!
Here are the new award charts:
The New United Award Chart for United Flights
The New United Award Chart for Partner Flights
The Current United Award Chart Valid for Bookings Made Before February 1, 2014
Here is the link for the new award chart – United Award chart (new).
Here is the link for the current award chart – United Award chart (current).