Changes to United MileagePlus Rewards Program - October 2016

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Last week United announced some changes to their MileagePlus rewards program. Most of the changes have to do with the way they structure awards and stopovers, while other changes impacted their change and cancellation fees. These changes are more confusing than they are consequential, so to keep things simple, we'll break down what you need to know about the changes.

Changes to MileagePlus – October 2016 (full details)

  • All changes implemented will apply to award bookings completed on or after October 6, 2016. Current rules will apply to all bookings completed before this date.
  • Technically speaking, United will no longer offer “round-trip” award bookings. When booking a round-trip award, you will technically be booking two one-ways. This is mostly a cosmetic change that should have no impact on United's customers.
  • United will still allow one free stopover, although there will be more limitations. A stopover, which is a connection of 24 hours or longer, will cease to be allowed in the same region where travel originates. Therefore, if you start your award in Newark and Hong Kong is your final destination, you will no longer be able to have a stopover in Los Angeles on either the outbound or return. The return restriction is not explicitly prohibited but is implied based on how the new award rules will work. Also implied is that you will no longer be able to have a stopover in a third region that is different from the region where travel originates or ends. As such, no stopovers will be allowed, for example, in Europe on a North America-Asia award.
  • A stopover will be officially called an “Excursionist Perk.” Yes, you read that right. And no, this is not a joke.
  • The United website is supposed to become more liberal in what it will allow to be booked online. Currently, if you need to book a complicated award itinerary, a call will likely be required to complete at least part of your booking.
  • If there are two stopovers on an award itinerary, only the first one will be free. Currently, you can, in theory, choose for the second one to be the free stopover.
  • Round the World Awards will be eliminated.
  • Changes must be made at least 24 hours before departure when there are Star Alliance partners involved in your award itinerary. It is not clear if this also applies to awards that include United partners that are not part of Star Alliance.
  • Award Modification and Cancellation/Redeposit Fees will Change from this:

Current United Service Fees

To this:

United Service Fees Effective October 6 2016

  • Premier Platinum Members will now have to pay change and cancellation fees for changes made 60 days or fewer.
  • Cancellation/re-deposit price has decreased for all other members.
  • The cut-off period from where fees go up has been moved from 21 days to 61 days before departure.

Bottom Line

There are some positive changes, some adverse changes, and some that are just bizarre. United's Premier Platinum members are the big losers now that they need to pay service fees for award travel changes. Those members with lower or no status win with some reduced award change fees. As for the new award rules, time will tell if these will be an improvement or not.

Changes to United MileagePlus Rewards Program – October 2016
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