United MileagePlus Abolishes Award Charts

Filed Under: Awards, United

United will be making some massive changes to their MileagePlus frequent flyer program. They haven’t formally announced these changes, but rather have just talked to some bloggers. Since they didn’t contact me, I’ll just go off what other bloggers have shared.

These changes are awful.

United isn’t just following Delta’s lead when it comes to their frequent flyer program, but in many ways is surpassing them when it comes to lack of transparency and dynamic award pricing.

I mean, I think their intentions are pretty clear, based on the fact that they lifted the embargo on this news on a Friday afternoon, which is when you announce things that you know are objectively negative.

What MileagePlus is changing

A few weeks ago there was some buzz around MileagePlus pricing domestic economy awards at a much lower rate than was reflected in the United Award chart. At the time I noted:

Personally I’m much more concerned about the overall trend we’re seeing from United MileagePlus as they move towards dynamic award pricing.

We’re seeing more variability than ever before when it comes to United’s award pricing, and I don’t consider that to be a good thing, especially for those of us looking to get outsized value from our miles.

And that seems to in fact be the case. For travel starting November 15, 2019:

  • MileagePlus redemption rates on United will be dynamic, and there will no longer be a minimum or maximum price for awards
  • United isn’t immediately adjusting redemption costs on partner airlines, but they’re also not publishing a partner award chart anymore, so I expect we’ll see those change over time

United says that these changes are being made to better “match award pricing to customer demand.” Of course in reality this means a lot more customers will be paying a lot more miles for a lot more travel. Airlines make these changes because they’ll come out ahead, not because members come out ahead.

The only good news is that United is eliminating close-in award ticketing fees as of that date. That’s not surprising, though, given that the program is now revenue based, so you’ll be charged based on how much a ticket costs.

My initial take on this news

Based on my initial check of United award pricing, it seems to me like prices largely aren’t changing that radically overnight between November 14 and November 15. However, I imagine that’s intentional, because they don’t want the changes to seem too radical at first.

I imagine over time the changes will get significantly worse, since there will be no transparency here, and soon enough we’ll see MileagePlus award tickets that cost a million miles, like we see with SkyMiles.

Lastly, it’s worth explaining that there’s a difference between dynamic pricing and fully revenue based pricing. That’s to say that a ticket that’s retailing for $10,000 in cash won’t necessarily cost 100x as many miles as a ticket retailing for $100 in cash.

It’s starting to be the end of an era…

Update: Having slept on this, I have quite a few more thoughts on the United change, and what it means for the future of frequent flyer programs.

Using United miles

I’ll of course have more thoughts on the best ways to use United miles going forward once we see the full impact of these changes. Partner awards won’t be immediately impacted by the move to dynamic pricing, so those will likely continue to be the best value.

In the meantime, there are several great United redemptions you may want to consider before the new pricing takes effect.

And for future reference, you can find the full United award charts here.

What’s your first thought regarding these MileagePlus changes?

(Tip of the hat to Live and Let’s Fly)

Comments

  1. I was recently talking to someone about maybe switching to fly United out of Newark (currently a Delta flier out of JFK/LGA with some American). United flies basically everywhere from Newark, and the points were more valuable than Delta and AA (particularly in terms of getting to Europe). Well it seems now that the points are the same as anyone else, so now I’m less likely to switch to United…

  2. Clarify in what ways is this worse than Delta? Other than the fact you prefer delta over United?

  3. I would say this was already going on, just making it official. Was looking at some dates around the Fourth to fly to Cancun and it was 75K for econ already for last several months.

  4. I love how when they advertise their Explorer Visa Cards onboard, they say “sign up now for a 50,000 mile bonus which is good for two free one-way, anytime coach tickets”.

    Except, no, no it’s not with a dynamic award chart. Maybe it is. Likely it isn’t.

    This airline is awful. I cannot think of any logical reason I’d pay a price premium above Spirit at this point.

    “De nada”. Right Oscar?

  5. For the past 2 years I’ve been focused on paying for discount business class, depleting mileage balances whenever possible, and buying whichever ticket best suited my needs. But the next step is going to be transitioning to cash back cards. I just don’t see much of a future in the mileage game.

  6. I booked an award ticket with my United miles – TPE–>JFK on Nov 27.
    Is this ticket going to change? It cost 80,000 miles

  7. First of all, as a side note, I must say the content of this blog has been several notches higher since James left (nice enough guy, but lots of fluff postings.)

    Second, thanks for the heads up.

    Third, where to credit miles moving forward? Avianca? Aegean?

  8. @Another Steve

    Cashback cards or flexible point transfer cards like Chase Sapphire and Amex are the only way to go now. There is literally no reason to have an airline-affiliate card anymore, with MAYBE the lone exception of a Southwest card to get the companion pass.

    The airlines are going to wake up sometime soon and realize they destroyed their frequent flier programs, which frankly are worth more than their whole airline is.

    I’ll leave everyone with this: When the next recession hits and all of these airlines head into bankruptcy, don’t ever forget how they treated their customers when they beg for a taxpayer bailout. Let them liquidate.

  9. While it destroys the value of using miles for United flights, I never found much value there anyway. I’ll be curious to see how this impacts award space on partners, as Aero Plan and Life Miles could become the go to for UA bookings.

  10. I was already considering abandoning United, but I’ve been equivocating because MP works well for me. Thanks for making my decision a lot easier I guess?

    Maybe this is just a late April Fool’s joke in very bad taste…

  11. Very shortsighted. Once there’s no differentiation between frequent flyer programs (because obviously AA will match sooner than later), the choice for many will come down to the product. And Delta’s is so far and away better than the other two, they’re gonna definitely take a hit on market share.

  12. CC points transferred to foreign airline FF programs seems to be where things will be at in the future. Virgin better than Delta, Singapore better than United, BA maybe will be better than AA one day.

  13. I feel like people aren’t talking enough about the distinct possibility of American following DL and UA with this horrible new policy. That’s what truly worries me, as I’ve only got a significant reserve of AA miles at the moment. Is it worth starting to spend them more rapidly than usual in preparation for AA burning AAdvantage to the ground?

  14. I think this can be just plain awful, or hit & miss like Delta. While it is frightening how many Skymiles DL wants for many J seats based on the high cash price, I really love their flash award sales and that fact that some redemptions in domestic Y and international Y and PY have fallen dramatically if you can be flexible. I flew RT in Y on DL for 26k miles recently. So if UA can do things like that, it is not all bad. It is the fact that a one way J ticket from the US to Asia may cost 600k miles that is the hard pill to swallow. I wonder how long AA holds out? 2 months? 6 months?

  15. Not sure this is ‘the end of an era’. Airlines are so dependent on their frequent flier programs for revenue (via credit cards) that devaluing them to the point where they are worthless is going to damage the bottom line. UA is going to find this out the hard way. Once airlines tie points/miles to revenue, most of us would be better off with simple cash-back products. Banks don’t need airline partners for that…..and neither do we.

  16. The AMEX Delta cards are actually very good – SkyMiles have clear and consistent (albiet low) value, companion pass is useful, MQM boosts on the Platinum and Reserve, etc.

  17. What i don’t understand is how did UA excited to be able to sell miles anymore when they have value closer to 1c or less per mile with this change?

  18. The revenue-based system isn’t the monstrosity that travel bloggers think it is. Hilton Honors has had it for a few years now, and, yet, it has emerged as the dominant hotel loyalty program.

    The revenue-based loyalty system is the trend that will ultimately be adopted by most, if not all, loyalty programs, not because they collectively wish to kill their ‘golden goose’, but because it is a model that adapts better to a world economy that is getting more and more ‘dynamic’. Make awards very expensive when plane seats or hotel rooms are in high demand to discourage redemptions, then go in the opposite direction when demand is low to encourage redemptions. What this means is that for the same route or itinerary, UA awards may be dirt cheap or very expensive, depending on ‘market forces.’ The winners will thus be folks with a great deal of flexibility in scheduling their award travel…

    Rather than to cry foul or claim that the sky is about to fall, REFLEXIVELY, it would do more good to do some modeling and see how things might change based on individual travel or redemption pattern. Loyalty programs cannot afford to make their awards too expensive because that would have a “chilling effect” on redemptions, without which running a loyalty program would get prohibitively expensive, as companies’ financial “liability” due to awarded points/miles that can no longer be redeemed could quickly become unsustainable…

  19. Glad I was able to book Eva Air J tickets already for next year before the inevitable partner devaluation.

  20. let’s all give a huge THANK YOU to Delta for coming up with such a customer friendly idea in the first place.

  21. The UA award chart was pretty mediocre ever since the last devaluation and now this just seals it. Might as well just credit *A to ANA, LifeMiles, or Aeroplan. This also makes UR slightly worse though I’ve been finding Hyatt a better value for UR lately anyways.

  22. @Scott UA hasn’t thought this through. They are gutting their program and will rue this day. Giving back very little while making massive profits in selling miles was not enough. They’re, like so very many other businesses, incredibly greedy. However, I truly believe they have overplayed their hand here. This will back fire on them as anyone that knows the miles game will laugh at the idea of purchasing UA miles.

  23. My strategy has evolved to leaving a substantial portion of my portfolio in flexible mileage currencies which can be exchanged at a 1,000 to 1,000 rate to an array of carriers, IE: Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ink: a far better situation than losing sleep over what UA or any other might try to pull off.

  24. And AMerican Airlines will be next to follow, IMO.

    Delta stinks (IMO) for Skymiles redemptions unless you don’t mind flying coach. I like the Delta service.

    I vaguely recall about 2 years ago Delta wanted 280,000 Skymiles for one roundtrip first class to Hawaii from Upstate NY.

    US wanted like 50k miles each way and AA wanted 57.5k miles each way.

  25. I’m certainly skeptical of how this is going to be implemented, but I’ll offer a bit of a counter. When FlyingBlue transitioned to dynamic pricing, I expected the worst, but (despite the early pricing weirdness) it has actually been giving me the same (or lower) pricing on long-haul flights. So maybe it doesn’t have to be so bad?

  26. As more than half way to 1M mile UA status, I have endured all the BS in the last few years as Laurel and Hardy (Munoz and Kirby) have ruined this airline by bringing it to a point lower than I can ever conceive; all in the guise of making Lifetime Gold. But all I can say now is F#$% you United and will use and abuse you moving forward however as I see fit for my benefit Skiplagging….YOU BET! Think I care about you threatening to not credit my flight…who cares?

  27. The big problem I have with these types of changes is that there is not any corresponding increase in availability. Southwest has long had a revenue-based chart with points that are worth basically 1.5 cents apiece. You can buy any seat on the plane for the number of points that correspond to the cash price, provided that the seat is still available for sale. While you’ll never get outsized value out of that system, at least you have the knowledge that you can use your points to get a “free” flight without having to compromise on schedule. Will the airlines moving toward that system from the chart-based system do the same? My guess is no, and as many commenters above have pointed out, will cause consumers to be increasingly frustrated at the programs.

  28. @Too Much Flying

    “Apply now and get up to unlimited domestic flights with your 50,000 miles bonus! “

  29. @Alex exactly. Give it a few months and AA will do the same and burn the AAdvantage program to the ground. I was about to book a coach award MIA-AMS but will definitely be switching that over to business class now. Time to burn through that account while it is still worth something!

    I think they are already toying around with the idea: these variably-priced “web-special” award tickets that I have begun to see more and more of wreak of a switch to a dynamically priced award system.

    Once the new award booking interface/PE awards are fully up and running, I can almost guarantee that a devaluation will follow shortly thereafter.

  30. Just called to cancel my mileage plus explorer card and apparently I wasn’t the first one !!

  31. This will hurt UR valuation as well. I wonder how this will go with *A partners. Ugh United (and I just got my 75k Explorer Biz bonus).

  32. Sounds demoralizing change… I recently upgrades my United Mileage Master card to United Club Visa card. I already have CSR for travel related spending and lounge access, so I don’t need another high annual fee card but I chose to switch only because United Club Visa cardholder won’t have to pay close-end booking fees. I tend to book UA flights using mileages last minutes due to my work schedule / my elderly parents living overseas (two medical emergencies last year… ugh.). As aspiring for 1MM / lifetime gold status (someday), this change makes me have second thought. Maybe I should consider to aim for Asiana status since match easier to acquire.

  33. I give AA a month to follow.

    By now their MBAs are crunching numbers with RM and AAdvantage.

    Worse yet Dougie might already did that ages ago and they could literally roll out today, they are just waiting for UA to be a scapegoat.

    Now DL takes the lead for idea, UA made it standard, left AA with no choice but to follow the industry.

    Nice move Doug Parker. I give AA one month before they destroy AAdvantage.

  34. I’m with Justin in that I just picked up my UA Biz Card.
    Will be cancelling wife’s UA personal card ASAP with this news.

    Who does this impact more, the CC fanatics like us that barely impact an airlines finances, or the business travelers?

  35. I was so close to pulling the trigger on a United branded Chase card. I have decided to move away from the SW card as they really don’t offer a lot of perks for having the card unless you are able to earn the companion pass. Since I use Chase cards and bank a lot of Ultimate reward points with other cards, a United card is a no brainer. Not anymore! I’ll just keep my SW card for the time being and transfer points out to affiliate airlines if we decided to do any overseas travel.

  36. Not for anything but doesn’t AA technically already do this with the “beyond Level 2” awards?

    There is really no ceiling on the price they could charge for a level 3 award as the system stands now…did United have a similar system or were they tied completely to the award chart? (I’m not familiar because I’ve never flown United).

  37. Chase will do just fine. They are on top of the affinity card market. Also, UA miles still have value, maybe more in the hands of a skilled and patient searcher who has flexibility.

  38. And there’s Henry LAX’s anti-DL post as expected. Gotta earn that paid “influencer”(-lite) money somehow!

    DL’s done a lot of things, some good some not so good. At least they are a leader in the space, vs. a follower. Doesn’t mean UA needs to follow them lockstep. But there is no longer a goal to make MP a competitive advantage.

  39. Interesting to see how this impacts the excursionist perk, as this is the reason to use United miles for me. I’ve recently started seeing 5k from IAH to TPA/MCO/FLL. Are we still going to be able to use the excursionist perk for 10k RT domestic flight? Time will tell

  40. I was excited to see the new/temporary increased (60K) signup bonus for the United Explorer card. Am (was?) planning to sign up for it before May, but then this news. How ironic. Maybe the Hyatt WOH Visa is a better option for a new Chase card.

  41. In retrospect, just six or seven years ago seemed like “the golden age of air travel,” and now we have awakened from the dream sequence into a nightmarish new reality with a slow, torturous rollout. Things used to be predictable and easy to understand how to best optimize one’s travel options. Now it’s devolved into chaos where each passing day brings negative program changes and higher costs.

    Make no mistake, this is a direct result of the mergers. When has any merger benefited any consumer? Has anything improved since these mergers? The only way we will ever see the good old days of air travel again is if new competition (and I don’t mean crappy LCCs) emerges. Until then, we’re all in for a bumpy ride. Enjoy that Oasis seat and 28” pitch along with your million mile redemption ticket.

  42. @Lucky — It seems like most of the discussion regarding award chart changes is focused on Economy redemptions. What is the effect of this ‘award-based pricing’ on Business and First Class tickets? The main benefit of having a large points stash is (used to be) to redeem for premium tickets using points instead of paying unaffordably high cash prices.

    How does this change things at United, and how has/did premium seat award redemptions change at Delta?

  43. Shocked that Parker’s American haven’t beaten them to this.

    The student has surpassed the teacher.

  44. This outcome is partly the result of an immense flood of arbitrageurs over the past decade driven by the travel blogosphere converting information into referral fees.

    While I personally don’t have any issue with that, I can understand why an airline would choose to close the value gap and instead move closer to the DAL and LUV models – keep in mind that this is occurring in tandem with domestic airlines finally acquiring firmer structural footings as business models in addition to their premium products (slowly) becoming more competitive with their international counterparts.

    Having said that, it still stings when redemption rates become higher.

  45. Someone should take them to court United and AA for what they advertise about the miles and what you can do with them when you apply for their cards and then once you apply and earn the miles , they scam you , making awards unavailable or making them cost 10 times more then what they advertise etc. simple thing like domestic award cost like 350000 miles one way on coach even though they advertise that you can just use 12.5k for any domestic one way saver. Same scam about international awards. So much dishonesty with airline miles.

  46. Yikes – living in a United hub most of my Chase UR points ended up being transferred to United.

    Time to start using my Amex cards more! Fingers crossed Aeroplan and Lifemiles charts hang around for a long while after the change.

  47. I always thought that Kirby was more shrewd than Parker, but also more diabolical. This move baffles me.
    Why not implement these bad changes after AA finally ousts Parker or sinks to its lowest point? Why not let AA generate all of the bad press and hatred before introducing anti-consumer decisions at UA? There could be a chance that no one would’ve reacted as negatively as they are at this moment with AA continuing to sink.
    What United has stupidly done is thrown AA a break. AA should have been beaten down more for all of its mismanagement, but UA had to steal the (negative) spotlight away prematurely. Idiots.

  48. @DCS you have a point. I was planning a family trip with some folks flying to AMS or CDG from BOS and return. With some flexibility, I was able to book non stop one way in J on FlyingBlue for 53-57k plus $250-$350. Not epic but got about $0.02 in value on my UR points by my estimates. The key was being flexible on dates. And this was on Delta and KLM A330’s and AF’s 777. Not DL’s 767 coffin class or transfers at LHR.

  49. I’ll be cancelling my United card with Chase if this actually goes into effect and is as bad it sounds. Thank goodness I just burned the rest of my UA points to travel to SE Asia later in the year.

    Lucky, you should continue to hammer these guys non stop on this, maybe they will reverse course if there is enough outrage.

  50. @ Ben — I’m so glad we have only ~400,000 miles left and rarely fly United. My big question now is what about redeeming Star Alliance partner miles for UA flights? Is this dead, or will it improve, or what? As things stand now, domestic premium cabin awards are effectively not available

  51. “There is literally no reason to have an airline-affiliate card anymore, with MAYBE the lone exception of a Southwest card to get the companion pass. The airlines are going to wake up sometime soon and realize they destroyed their frequent flier programs, which frankly are worth more than their whole airline is.”

    Disagree. Delta and AA have quite a lot of cards out there. Those of us who’ve read these blogs for a few years have likely had 4 or more cards each for Delta and AA … that’s over 200K miles per carrier. So while AA has made quite a number of cuts that made me no longer want to earn Platinum, I’m working now on what must be the 5th or 6th card (lost track) and have 60K AA miles accruing to my account over the next week.

    In contrast, there are fewer United cards out there and more importantly their service has sucked badly for a number of years. So there is that.

  52. I rarely use United points for United’s own metal, but is there a single route that has reliable business class saver availability (even off season)?

  53. Yeah — I think the next market here is someone who maps out their pricing schema with AI and can give guidance on the best dates/times to fly …. If UA isn’t going to give transparency then a bit of AI and publish the whole thing on the internet. I’m sure their ‘dynamic pricing’ is not that dynamic …

  54. We have been flying on United once a month since the merger LAX-HNL and overseas once in a while. No lost luggage, no delayed flights, always sitting up front because we are tall people and regular seats just do not cut it for us. What other frequent flyer miles programs do you suggest we to credit our monthly miles to?
    All suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.

  55. I cannot imagine that Aeroplan will not follow suit after Air Canada takes them over as their own dedicated program.

    I have very few Aeroplan miles at the present time and will continue to accrue Amex reward points that can be transferred (unfortunately only to a few airlines in Canada).

    In 2020 be braced for huge devaluations at Aeroplan.

  56. @Maura: You can credit your flight miles to a UA card and that way, also have the suite of free luggage, priority service if you are not up front or elite, and credit all credit card spend to a card like Chase (there are many) so you can transfer them to UA or many others when and where you you need them. You just have to make sure to use a card with 1to1 transfers to actual airline miles. Also, the sign up bonuses can be large. Don’t do one for less than 60-70M bonus.

  57. Anyone know how to convert United miles into physical miles that can be burned? Seems cheaper than firewood.

  58. @ Rob sez: “Southwest has long had a revenue-based chart with points that are worth basically 1.5 cents apiece. You can buy any seat on the plane for the number of points that correspond to the cash price, provided that the seat is still available for sale. While you’ll never get outsized value out of that system, at least you have the knowledge that you can use your points to get a “free” flight without having to compromise on schedule. Will the airlines moving toward that system from the chart-based system do the same?”

    Most airlines have had the same thing, called “standard” or “anytime” awards, like forever: as long as there are revenue tickets for sale, one can purchase the same tickets with points. However, unlike Southwest’s one size fits all approach, other lines also offered less-available but highly discounted awards known as “saver” awards…

    The more interesting bit with respect to the generally negative, but predictable, tone above in response to UA MP going fully revenue-based is, as @Rob just pointed out, that Rapid Rewards has been revenue-based like forever and…many are happy with it!

  59. @ Alex — It depends on what “significant” and “rapid” means to you. I have about 800k AA miles, and I won’t rush to spend them, given that I expect we’d at least get a similar six months of notice, which would be enough time for me to use the bulk of them if needed.

  60. @ erika — It certainly could, especially as we don’t know yet how things will price if you have a United flight and a partner flight in the itinerary, but in theory the excursionist perk isn’t going away.

  61. @ Luke Vader — United is implementing dynamic pricing, not revenue-based pricing, so while we don’t know exactly how it will work, awards on high-demand dates and routes will likely cost more. They’ll be associated with the revenue price, it sounds like, but not tied to the revenue price like Southwest is, so if a premium cabin ticket is outrageous with cash, it may still be a decent mileage redemption in some circumstances. Maybe.

    But overall, awards will almost certainly become more expensive (at least for awards on United), and will absolutely become more difficult to plan for.

  62. @ Gene — I’d be surprised if it improved, unless they’re able to negotiate reimbursement rates that they feel are generous enough to support having more X inventory domestically.

  63. @Tiffany — Isn’t “dynamic pricing” a key feature and, perhaps, the primary rationale for revenue-based system, with the costs of awards in points varying in pseudo-synchrony with cash costs of the same tickets or rooms?

    Dynamic pricing works reliably and predictably only within a revenue-based system, and that is why I have always said that award charts are inconsistent with the cioncept…

  64. @UA-NYC – for someone like you being a 51yo loser still making $45k, consider keeping your opinion where ur income band belongs

  65. @DCS: “The more interesting bit with respect to the generally negative, but predictable, tone above in response to UA MP going fully revenue-based is, as @Rob just pointed out, that Rapid Rewards has been revenue-based like forever and…many are happy with it!”

    Comparing WN’s conversion to a revenue-based program with the UA/DL conversion is truly an apples/oranges comparison. When WN made the switch in 2011, it was part of a complete revamp of their program (going from credits to points). As most people will probably recall, under the old program, a person earned a credit for each one-way trip, irrespective of length or cost, and could redeem for a one-way ticket after accumulating 16 credits (again, irrespective of length or cost).

    In 2011, Southwest scrapped this system in favor of RR 2.0 – the revenue-based system. In the end, I’m sure the people who were earning free flights based on cheap one-ways between DAL and AUS probably weren’t happy about the change, but if someone was flying between the west coast and MDW on a regular basis, I’m sure they figured that this was more favorable than the old system. The point remains, though, that people were probably less objectionable to this change because the revenue-based system was a completely new system, and not the revaluation of a current system.

    (Whether those same people were happy in 2014 or 2018 when their points got devalued under RR 2.0, though, is a different story.)

    For the examples that have been brought up here – DL and UA on the airline front, and Hilton on the hotel side – the switch to the revenue-based system exists within the same framework of the existing program. Thus, depending on where each of these airlines sets their redemption value in the program, people may be better off or worse off, depending on how many more or fewer points are needed to redeem for what they want.

    The saving grace for Hilton’s move to a revenue system and elimination of the award chart is that they capped the maximum amount of points that could be charged for a standard room at 95,000, and did not increase the maximum point levels that a lot of hotels were charging even below that level, which has made it possible to redeem (to some extent) beyond the 0.4 to 0.5 cent value that Honors points largely have under that system. To that end, Hilton’s system isn’t a pure revenue-based system – if it were, then a standard award wouldn’t be capped at 95,000 points (or 120,000 points, in the case of the W=A Maldives) – and really isn’t even a fair comparison to WN’s system.

    And if the airlines do something similar to what Hilton is doing – that is, ensure that they still have rewards available at reasonable levels even without a chart – then it might not be the end of the world going forward. I think many people’s experiences and observations of the DL shift, though, leave them cynical of what this move means for UA (and, inevitably, AA).

  66. @HenryLAX – I’m much younger and much wealthier than that. Nice try chump.

    Keep those paid-by-UA $5 influencer drive-by posts coming though! You’re as transparent as they come.

  67. I got an email from United describing the changes. (I’m not a blogger, but I am a 1K member.) If you want me to send you the email, send me a note.

  68. So glad I just blew all my crappy UA miles on merchandise. Will never fly them again after they beat up a doctor, killed multiple dogs, and a FA yelled at me on a closed Facebook group. I’m done. Staying with AA, where I’m already Executive Platinum till next year sometime.

  69. A remarkable thing about the comments here, which are mostly negative or apprehensive, is that there are none or very few directed at UA’s business side of things, which used to be the butt of every joke. That is a testament to what’s happened to UA’s bread&butter business of making money by flying people to where they want: The company has been dramatically turned around by none other than…yes!… Kirby ( with Oscar’s vision, of course).

    Also, I believe that MileagePlus has remained a rewarding FF program even as Skypesos and the dAArk side have been on a race to the bottom. In fact, for a while MP was the only bright spot in a company that, until recently, seemed so utterly in the dark it did not seem to be able to do anything right. Thus, as long as the core benefits of MP remain, I will view whatever happens on the earn/burn side of the program as timely adjustments or necessary course corrections to remain competitive…

    …speaking of which, in a few hours, I am flying out of EWR to LHR and back after a few days in London. I will be seated in Polaris Business to and fro’, because my outbound W ticket was immediately upgraded Polaris J with a GPU, and then a week and half ago the inbound W ticket also cleared a GPU to Polaris .

    I am UA 1K/1MM/*G and I’ve been with MP since 2002 — a long time. Except for the period right after the merger with CO under the totally failed leadership $mi$sek, UA has remained suitably rewarding for me…especially with respect clearing cabin upgrades as above.

    Cheers, mates!

  70. @DCS

    Unless you’re a shareholder, customers have no incentive to care about UA’s business side of things, so that point is completely irrelevant. UA could also up their profit margins significantly by halving GPU’s, capping complimentary upgrades, and cutting mileage earning by another mile per dollar. I assume you’ll be right there cheering them on?

  71. As FF programs go, it is interesting to see second-string Programs such as Alaska MP and Avianca LM, edge further towards the top simply by sitting still. The heavy hitters, like UA, make endless devaluations dressed up as something else, and consequently sink a few notches each time. Seems the overinflated egos of the Loyalty department morons really couldn’t give a toss about the long-term damage they are inflicting on their employer.
    When the next economic ahem… downturn unfolds we will see who has been caught with their pants down!

  72. Too much flying – Luckily, even with the current buffoon president, the people making decisions like that are a bit smarter about it and are able to use their business brains instead of being ruled by emotion…

    Any bailout the government does isn’t a favour or reward for the company being nice in the past – it’s solely because it would be better for the country. This should have no impact whatsoever on that decision.

  73. @AS sez: “Unless you’re a shareholder, customers have no incentive to care about UA’s business side of things, so that point is completely irrelevant.”

    A misreading of what I meant, likely my own fault. By business side of things, I meant it as I said it, its bread&butter commodity for which it earns money: flying people around and doing it well. I do care a great deal about that, as do most consumers. I did not mean the “business” side as in corporate boardrooms, Wall Street, stock and bonds…

  74. @Glenn T – They aren’t morons, you are. Every single time there’s a devaluation a bunch of idiots like yourself come out bleating on about how this is the last straw, you give up on Airline X and that they will face imminent demise because of it, yet it never happens.

    Frequent flyer schemes are effectively giveaways to try and keep passenger numbers up. If passenger numbers are already at a good enough level, there’s less need to keep bribing people to fly with you so the benefits will reduce. Basic common sense…

  75. So basically in the near future getting credit cards for miles will be useless since they wont be too valuable anyway….

    sad really

  76. UA has formally announced the changes, effective strangegly enough on my birthday (Nov. 15)!

    —————————-
    We’re removing our award chart and introducing a broader range of award prices.

    DCS, we’re making some updates to award travel. Here’s what you need to know:

    ■ For flights on or after November 15, 2019, we’ll no longer publish an award chart listing the set amount of miles needed for each flight.

    ■ Air awards to U.S. and Canadian destinations that are 10,000 to 12,500 miles today may be available for less moving forward. You might have already noticed these lower award prices, and you’ll be able to get them right away.

    ■ Other air award prices may be higher than what you see today, especially if you’re traveling at popular times. This will be effective immediately for travel on or after November 15.

    ■ As a member of the United MileagePlus® program with Premier® status, you can still travel whenever you’d like – there are no blackout dates.

    Increasing award travel prices for the most in-demand flights lets us offer lower prices on other flights. If your award travel is flexible, these updates will help you make the most of your miles. However, we realize this may impact your plans if you need to fly on a specific date or have a set destination in mind.

    You can use the flexible award travel calendar on united.com or in our app to see what’s currently available. Thank you for your continued loyalty to the United MileagePlus program.
    —————————–

    They interpret the changes exactly as I did: they would be good for folks who can be flexible!

  77. BTW, the preceding arrived in an email 8:05pm but I only now saw it.

    The subject line:

    “We’re making some updates to award travel”.

    Then graphic inside says:

    “Updates to award travel are on the horizon.”

  78. The pricing of awards is already pretty dynamic. I have been helping my son book an economy award NRT-EWR and IAD-NRT. Every time we logged on, within hours, different flights were available. Generally UA or ANA were available for 35k but not all days/time slots….or they differed when we logged on. As a 1K, when I checked on my account it didn’t differ much. The next “price” up was 80k, which is a big jump from 35k. At one point there was a J seat available on ANA for 65k, but it disappeared fast. On the flip side, if you are paying, UA has had some relatively reasonable prices for J from NRT to EWR.

    I think overall this will suck for flights at peak times or to popular destinations like Australia or Hawaii. Probably more will be available at lower prices close in when they realize they still have 30% or more of the seats available. Trying to book a long time ahead will likely be expensive on the popular routes.

    And yes, like others I have received the email from MP on this change.

  79. I have an important question for partner bookings. I.e. booking United tickets with partner programs like Aeroppan, Avianca. In the past, you could only book an Award at say Aeroplan if and only if United had saver award space. For example, flying to Europe it’s 30k one-way. Now that essentially United has no more “saver awards”, what does that mean for booking them with Aeroplan? Means no tickets available at all??

  80. If AA is smart they won’t follow and they should pull some new customers as a result. Really stupid move by united.

  81. I interpret this a slightly different way: the big-boy FF programs are sitting on a big corporate financial liability that is hoarded mileage points and simply have to do something about it. If we all redeemed all of our points tomorrow – the equivalent of a FF bank run, I suspect the airlines would be in significant mid-term fiscal trouble (not earning enough cash to cover operational costs during the period of heavy redemptions). They cannot operate as a business with this giant liability, much as all other things equal I think they really do appreciate their customers.

    Devaluation either through increased fixed redemption levels, or through floating cash-equivalency that aims for $.01 per mile redemption valuation, has almost universally been the answer to reduce that liability.

    Typical retail loyalty rewards programs offer a return benefit of 2-3% of spend. (Amazon Rewards is at the high-end at 5%.) Making a bunch of assumptions (picking on AC as example, assuming economy flights earning 50% status miles with eventual status bonus), with fixed-level rewards redemptions (J trans-Pac @ 220k miles), it’s possible to get return benefit of 35% or more of spend (roughly $11.5k cash price equivalent J reward ticket from $31k airfare spend). At redemption valuation of $.02 / mile, you still come in at return benefit around 17% of spend (roughly $11.5k cash price J ticket from $67.5k airfare spend), just that it takes more than twice as many round trips to earn enough points.

    It sucks for those of us hoping for the big long-haul F/J reward tickets, for which we’d never be able to afford paying cash. It sucks less for those who have different goals, e.g. short-haul domestic redemptions. But as loyalty rewards programs go, it seems to me FF programs are still pretty good value (just not anywhere what they used to be).

  82. “@UA-NYC – for someone like you being a 51yo loser still making $45k, consider keeping your opinion where ur income band belongs”

    [email protected], wasn’t there some discussion about moderation of troll comments awhile back?

  83. @JoePro – he is under some bizarre assumption that I’m an over 50 UA gate agent. Couldn’t be further from the truth.

    He is just a little peon who suspiciously defends UA at every turn.

  84. End of an Era folks, was fun while it lasted but the party’s over. AA to follow in 3, 2, 1…

  85. 2019 shaping up as the year the clueless overpaid FF execs finally trashed their programs. Stand by for a slew of ‘shown the door’ announcements in 2020!

  86. Just to put last week’s hubbub to the test, I just booked and ticketed 2 saver awards nonstop between IAH and SYD on UA100 for 80M a piece in mid November. My search took me 10 minutes.

    Dynamic pricing, award or revenue, may not be such a threat. Both have been variable for quite a while. It’s just revenue management 2.0. Customers will need to be flexible to get the best rate and airlines who get too greedy will ultimately lose since their program is their most valuable asset.

  87. I’ve been using Chase through US Mileage Plus to fly Star Alliance internationally. So now I’m starting to question the value of UR points, as other programs aren’t very good where I like to go. I may be rethinking my whole card strategy, if *any* airline mile programs survive!

  88. United continues to whittle away customer benefits/comfort/service to feed greater profits. David Dao was an iconic example of the United business model: we act in our own financial interest and sometimes people are hurt in the process. I have switched to the Star Alliance’s Avianca mileage program and changed to Delta and Alaska for travel in the United States. After many encounters with hostile and aggressive customer service, lengthy flight delays, repeated mechanical failures and outrageously substandard service it was necessary (and a pleasant relief) to change.

    MileagePlus lost its charm for me years ago when I was awarded 36 miles for a trip from Mexico City to Houston and 40 miles for travel from Medellin to Bogota.

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