Has United Started Variable Award Pricing?

45 United Miles Per Dollar
Written by Dustin

I was searching for flights on United, when I noticed a difference in their award pricing.

Let me start this off by saying, I like to search award availability for flights. Even if I don’t plan to take the flight, I like to see what is out there. I was searching for possible flights to Europe when I noticed variable award pricing from United.

Has United Started Variable Award Pricing?

What I am seeing:

I don’t know if others are seeing this or if it is just me. I’m only going to speak to my experience looking for coach flights to Europe.

I am seeing different prices on United that don’t fall inline with their typical award chart. Making me believe United might be starting to rollout more variable award prices.

United’s Award Chart:

When looking to flights to Europe you can clearing see 2 prices for economy tickets to Europe. They are 30,000 points for Saver availability and 70,000 points for Everyday awards.

That is it, there aren’t other prices that United charges. Well, that they list…

When I search, I am seeing prices that vary like this:


This ticket is one way.

You can see it price out at 58,000 miles and $5.60


This is a round trip ticket way ticket, price is per segment.

These are just a couple of examples of what I have seen.

Something interesting I noticed though, when I check United hubs.

When I search United hubs (EWR, ORD, and IAH) , I only see the 30,000 miles and 70,000 miles options. I do not see these intermediate pricing of award flights.

Only In Coach:

These intermediate variable prices on United awards are only in coach from what I am seeing. Business and First Class all price out appropriately based on the award chart.

Now, there were 30,000 mile flights available for my examples above. That isn’t the point, since someone might say well you would just book the 30,000 mile ticket. While true, for me there is a larger concern or curiosity.

Shifting Towards Dynamic Awards:

We are seeing more and more airlines shift towards a more dynamic pricing model when it comes to flights. Most recently we saw Flying Blue become more erratic than Delta on their pricing (which is a feat in itself).

So, the idea of United moving towards a more variable style at some point, shouldn’t surprise anyone. I think I am just more surprised, for the moment, that I am only seeing difference in pricing for coach tickets.

From my 15-20 searches, nothing changed for the front cabin flyers. This only affected the people in the back of the plane.

Possible Reasons:

United Trying To Be Nice:

Before anyone gets truly worked up over this. I think we need to think about possible scenarios.

There could be people happy to see tickets that have more pricing options and think this is an improvement. We shouldn’t discount that idea. Maybe United is adding mid level pricing to their award tickets.

This could save customers miles on their award redemptions siren 30,000 to 70,000 miles is quite the jump.

While I think unlikely, it could be the case.

It’s A Glitch:

This could be very possible as well. I remember seeing this a couple of years ago with Wyndham Rewards, but they rectified their issue quickly and all was good in the world.

Maybe if I keep checking, I will see the standard award chart come back.

My fear that this isn’t a glitch and United is just releasing something without saying a word. Very Delta-ish if you will.

United Slowly Moving To Dynamic Awards:

While some might view this as a positive that United has more pricing options. I think United, if they are now deciding to roll this out, will slowly reduce the standard 30,000 miles awards.

Eventually we will see fewer and fewer 30,000 mile awards and they’ll be replaced with awards like these:


I’m not sure why I’m not seeing this pricing from United hubs. One would think this would capture all flights.


Maybe I missed the ball on this one and this was announced somewhere. I feel like I would have seen or read about this if this were the case. But I am human and I do miss things. Let me know if I am just a dum-dum and wasted your time 🙂

I’m really hoping this is a glitch, but as airlines shift to more dynamic award charts I think this option is inevitably going to happen.

If United is starting to roll this out, they dropped the ball on mentioning it.


These variable prices I am seeing could be a number of things. It definitely isn’t a reason to get all worked up about at this point. It is something to pay attention too though. I am just bring what I am seeing to your attention.

We need more data points to see if this is happening on other award ticket in other parts of the world. Feel free to leave your data points below if you have any.

Am I going crazy, or do you see these variable award prices too?

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About the author


After completing 6 years of pharmacy school, I finally had the time to travel. I started investigating ways to travel for less and when I redeemed my first award flight for my honeymoon, I knew I was hooked! Fast forward a couple of years and places I had never dreamed of visiting like Budapest, Honolulu, Bermuda and many other places where all within my reach, and for little to no money out of my pocket. Now, I have collected well over a million points and miles, and try to help people travel for less on their wallet.


  • What I think is that these are multi segment trips with no saver space on some segments hence the higher price

    • Hey Abey,

      That could be very possible too, good point.

      Thanks for reading, I appreciate it!

      • you could test that. is there saver award between the originating city and the united US hub? If there is, then there’s cause for concern.

      • It’s not. Check SUN-SFO on Aug 19. 29K for a standard award, on a single segment flight to a domestic hub.

        So far its only on the anytime economy awards ( YN ), but I suspect it will be making its way elsewhere soon.

  • I’ve noticed something similar, but on nonstop routes so it’s definitely not a case of different award levels on segments being averaged out. Doing a search just now for IAD to LAX on August 18, I see some nonstop flights at the saver level (12500 miles), but also several nonstops that price out at 16K, 20K, 22K, 29K, and 32.5K. Nothing at the “normal” standard price of 25K. I think United is experimenting with dynamic pricing.

  • Yep been this way for a little while. United still far and away has the best saver level pricing. AA is dumb, and delta is ridiculous. Gotta love MileagePlus

  • Nothing now-a-days surprises me about United.

    On a side note, I see as of yesterday, a fellow Boarding Area blogger, Summer Hull’s “Mommy Points” has jumped ship from Boarding Area to “The Points Guy” blog. I suspect she might feel the need to reduce her blogging time to spend more time with hubby Josh, oldest daughter Cate and the youngest one. Guess time will tell how successful that move will be.