Travel News

Wow! United is Charging Up to 395,000 Miles for a Business Class Award!

Chase Sapphire Preferred 60,000 point offer
Written by Charlie

United awards have seen a major price hike on many flights – up to 395,000 miles for a one-way business class award to Europe!

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.

The new “normal?”

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!

“Exclusive?” Nope – check the photo in the previous section

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.

Not all flights have gone up!

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.

Bottom Line

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.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

12 Comments

  • Plenty of 60K one way Biz awards available for those with a brain and a little search ability. Just booked ORD-BKK in January (peak season in BKK) for 60k one way….Biz all the way.

    • If you read the whole thing, you would have seen that I said this was concentrated in Europe and that there were still plenty of lower cost options as well. This post was to show that United is raising prices way above what they used to be.
      And good job on your nice redemption – always nice to get a good one.

  • I’m seeing that increase as well. I was looking at STL – FRA and depending when yo want to go the award “fares have really increased a lot. Even for Coach seats. Were 30,000 now 70,000!
    Not everyday, but way more than previously.

  • Yep, all airlines aspire to be Delta…

    I noticed it even earlier…My DTW-Berlin flights in September are all in coach because absolutely nothing was under 200k in Business class! I need to start booking two nights at arriving airport hotels to…get over the jet lags 🙁

  • Last week i locked in some “old max price” flights for the family to Europe for 155k miles per ticket, hoping i can rebook them cheaper over time. I just had a weird feeling that United was going to pull some shenanigans. And sure enough, two days later the price jumped to 245k a ticket. Pretty pissed about the Deltafication of United awards.

  • Well, that’s what we get when award charts go away. That’s always been the goal. Delta recognized this earlier.

    When you remove the award chart, you can price as many seats to whatever amount you want. You no longer are limited to just a handful of seats to allocate. You can charge whatever you want, and have the flexibility to remove award inventory at any time without issue, and still get the most bang for the buck. It’s the solution revenue management wanted for years.

  • I just booked to France in the fall. It took hours of searching across multiple airlines to get Air France to Paris and Turkish home (SEA) on “normal” business class pricing on two seats using Flying Blue and Aeroplan. I had a 4 hour flight and it took the entire time.

  • Is this any more complicated than supply & demand? Does anyone really expect any airline to sell their most popular and lucrative product (Business Class seats to Europe) for less than market price? As crazy as these redemptions are, I doubt that those seats will fly empty.

    • Certainly! However, I monitor these routes pretty closely and this is the first time that United has jacked the price up this high. Especially since some of them actually had somewhat reasonable (as in, not peak pricing) cash prices. Hopefully they won’t do the same to the rest of the world when this current 60K “sale” on biz ends! There are some great deals out there to the rest of the world!

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