We have seen airline prices climb in response to various things like the fuel hike from last month and many wondered if airlines would pass along fuel surcharges on award tickets to the customers. Well, it seems that United may be hiding behind their “no award chart” by massively hiking certain awards.
United Charging Up to 395,000 Miles for Business Class
A couple of years ago, United announced that they were scrapping their award charts. At the same time, they told us that partner awards would not go up (though they did end up going up a little). The United metal (United Airline flights on their own planes, not a United flight number on a partner flight) flights would be revenue based. This meant that the award flights could end up costing more – and of course they did.
United Award Flights Have Jumped
But, as of last night, this has taken on a whole new flair of high prices in miles. I was checking a route that had just the day before been 120,000 miles. However, it had jumped to 395,000 miles. Furthermore, most of the US-Europe flights that I was eyeballing previously had skyrocketed to over 320,000 miles – one way.
Consider that a one-way business class flight from the US to Europe was just 60,000 miles on United flights a couple of years ago and still were around 66,000 miles now for saver flights. It is a new world of United award flights now!
I think the United new Polaris business class seats are some of the best between Europe and the US – in fact, I definitely prefer them over Lufthansa business class. But, United is just going to be driving customers away from the opportunity to showcase their own product when booked using miles when they are charging up to almost 6 times more to fly them than one of their partners.
United has said that their awards are tied to revenue prices but there were some flights I saw that were not much higher than they had been last week on the same routes. Is United charging this because they can? Or is this their way of offsetting fuel costs?
United Says “Exclusive” Availability – But It Isn’t
Another thing I noticed is that signing in with an account that has a United credit card did not impact the searches I made. There were several flights that told me that I was receiving that option because it was exclusively for United cardholders (and elite members) but when I searched again in a private browser (and different network) without signing in, I received the same exact price – which wasn’t good since it was 395,000 miles!
Also, adding on partner flights is not helping, either. This had helped early on with the revenue based aspect but now it appears that it makes no impact. If the ticket costs 345,000 miles direct, adding a segment was not dropping it. Even short-haul United segments are now commanding huge price hikes in award miles as well.
Not All Flights Have Gone Up!
Fortunately, there are still options! But, on many of the routes I normally keep an eye on, the United flights on those routes and dates have taken a steep hike. You may just need to search a little more and be more flexible in your award searches.
Also, I have checked other various routes around the world and it appears that the worst of this is concentrated between the US and Europe. So, if you are headed for even South Africa on United’s own flight, you may pay significantly less in miles than going to Germany on many dates.
This is definitely not good news. It could be a glitch of some kind but whenever airlines have glitches like this, they always say that this was a mistake, blah, blah, blah. But, in reality, they are just changes that accidentally went out too early. Whether this is the new normal or a glitch, it is bad. If it is a glitch and changes, I would advise locking in your United awards now. Remember – you can always cancel them (more than 30 days out) for free.