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Update May 18: After a major devaluation to its partner award pricing, United is changing pricing again. Consider this an evolving situation. Pricing has gone down on partner awards, as reported by Thrifty Traveler, but could change again at any moment.
“Are you seeing this? I'm seeing a big devaluation in United miles.” That's not a fun message to wake up to.
Overnight and without an announcement, it seems United MileagePlus made massive changes to its (unpublished) award chart. We haven't yet had time to examine every route and every possibility, so expect that there will be changes and updates to this story.
Here's what we know so far.
United Award Chart Devaluation Examples
U.S. Mainland to Europe
Before this United award chart devaluation, you could fly on United to Europe for as low as (each way, per person):
- 30,000 miles in economy
- 45,000 miles in premium economy
- 60,000 miles in business class
Partner awards cost a bit more, depending on whether the airline is a Star Alliance airline or a non-alliance partner. For instance, flights wholly on Lufthansa cost 33,000 miles in economy or 77,000 miles in business class:
And mixed-carrier awards fell somewhere in the middle. For example, here's a route from Newark (EWR) to Paris (CDG) via Frankfurt (FRA) with an intra-Europe flight on Lufthansa for 69,000 United miles in business class:
Now, one-way flights to Europe from the U.S. on United cost:
- 40,000 miles in economy (a 33% increase from 30,000 miles)
- 45,000 in premium economy (same as before)
- 80,000 miles in business class (a 33% increase from 60,000 miles)
The cheapest economy awards jumped 33%; business class jumped 33% also. Premium economy is the same 45k… at least for now.
United also applied the same 33% award chart price increase for partner awards to Europe. You'll pay at least 43,900 miles in economy (a 33% increase from 33k) and 102,400 miles in business class (a 33% increase from 77k).
This same pricing is found on Star Alliance airlines Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa.
On non-alliance partners, the cheapest route we can find in business class between Newark and Paris goes through Dublin (DUB), and it's a mixed-cabin award. The Dublin-Paris leg is in economy. You'll pay 96,800 miles for this ticket — 26,800 more miles than before. That's an increase of 38%.
In fact, United's new award pricing for partner flights is especially bad when you consider other booking options. You'll pay 107,100 miles for a Lufthansa business-class booking and 121,000 miles in first class.
You'll pay just 100,000 Aeroplan points to book Lufthansa first class on that same flight. That's 7,100 below what United charges for business class.
And consider that LifeMiles charges just 87,000 miles for this same award. That's far less than United's new pricing.
But Not Everything Got Worse
Western U.S. to Tokyo
Prior to today, you could find business-class flights from California to Japan for 88,000 miles. Here's an example that routes in the wrong direction — through Chicago (ORD). You'd fly on All Nippon Airways (ANA) for this itinerary.
And as long as you book more than 30 days in advance, you'll still see the same pricing.
However, if you book tickets within 30 days of departure, you'll pay 92,000 miles for San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo. This is an increase of 4,000 miles — 4.5%.
That means this route is still showing the same pricing when booked in advance but still has United's close-in booking penalty.
Continental U.S. to South America
Previously, we saw pricing on nonstop flights from Houston (IAH) to Buenos Aires (EZE) as follows:
- Economy: 30,000 miles
- Premium economy: 45,000 miles
- Business class: 60,00 miles
… with close in awards costing a little bit more:
For now, we still see the same award pricing on routes to South America:
We checked other routes to confirm that this is still the award pricing for nonstop flights to South America with United. Flying to Santiago, Chile (SCL) shows the same rates: 30,000 miles in economy and 60,000 in business.
Massive changes to an award chart are rarely good; United's change is a devaluation in many regards. So far, routes between North America and South America or California to Japan weren't gutted. Prices from the U.S. to Europe suffered, though. And United's first-class pricing to Europe is now quite bad.
Over the next few days, we'll get a better understanding of United's new award chart. As of now, it's not looking pretty and affects some of our favorite United sweet spots.
What do you make of this United devaluation? Any particular routes where you've seen pricing changes?
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This is just so horrible. I was hoping to get a RT flight to Europe this year. Now I might not have enough
There is not First Class international on United……that should read “Business Class”
And United’s first-class pricing to Europe is now quite bad.
Dan, it’s true that United doesn’t have its own international first-class product, but it does have first-class pricing for partners that offer it. The phrase you’re referring to is about pricing for Lufthansa first, which we examined in the article.
So right now, the best ways to book United flights are via Avianca, Aeroplan and Turkish Miles and Smiles programs. Unless they’re plotting to rip up their charts soon. SMH
Yes and no. Remember that United isn’t always good at sharing award space on its own flights with partners. So it’s the best price before those limited partner seats are snagged, most likely.
Earn and burn but if you are like me and are trying to save for a special trip, well it looks like it is going to take that much longer to get there.