United has announced a new award chart set to take effect April 27. On the whole the changes aren’t drastic, split up a couple of regions, and basically copy Continental.
They created separate regions for Northern and Southern South America.
Currently the cost of an award from North America to South America is 55,000 miles in coach, 100,000 miles in business, and 135,000 miles in first class.
Under the new award chart, “Northern” South America is 35,000 miles in coach, 70,000 miles in business, and 90,000 miles in first. Meanwhile, “Southern” South America remains at the old (55/100/135) pricing.
So this is actually an improvement, awards to Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, and Venezuela are less expensive. Awards to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay remain the same price.
Business Class between North America and Japan goes up by 5000 miles (from 120,000 to 125,000) while the cost of coach and first class remain the same, and the cost of North America to the rest of Asia remains the same.
The new chart also breaks up Africa into “Northern” and “Central and Southern.”
Currently, awards from North America to all of Africa run 80,000 miles in coach, 120,000 miles in business, and 160,000 miles in first class.
Under the new chart, Northern Africa becomes less expensive — 75,000, 115,000, and 145,000 miles respectively. And Central and Southern Africa goes up a bit to 90,000 for coach (10,000 mile increase), and 125,000 for business (5,000 mile increase), while first class remains the same at 160,000.
All of these changes bring United’s award chart into line with Continental’s.
And the splitting of Northern and Southern South America makes sense as Star Alliance begins to beef up its South American membership.
Of course there are other changes to the award chart, too, and I’ve only mentioned routes to or from North America. But on the whole I’d actually agree with United that this represents minor tinkering rather than wholesale devaluation. In the meantime, you have through April 26 to book under the current award chart (.pdf).