United’s Mileage Upgrade Awards Will Get More Complicated — And More Expensive — Come June 15

Earlier today I detailed the upcoming June 15 changes to the United Mileage Plus award chart.

On the whole it really is just tweaking, some awards up a few thousand miles and some down a few thousand miles and actually the ones I’m most interested in are going down.

Middle East and Northern Africa become as expensive as Southern Africa, but business class to Europe and premium cabins to Asia get less expensive. I’m good with that, especially considering that it’s been a couple of years since the last bloodletting and twice that long since the one before that. It could have been time.

Of course, that might have been unlikely given the merger euphoria and that they’re about to combine Continental and United programs, but it was cause for alarm that turned out to not be bad at all. At least on the award ticket side of things. Upgrades, those are a different story.

Star Alliance upgrades continue the ‘tweaking’ most, with a whole bunch of one-way upgrades from coach to business going up by 5000 but still a handful of reductions and not what one would call catastrophic.

The real action is in United-metal upgrade awards, those are getting more expensive. Cash co-pays are getting more expensive. And the chart gets a whole lot more granular as to fare class purchased to determine pricing. So granular in fact that I have to magnify the June 15 and onward .pdf chart to 400% in Adobe Acrobate just to read it!

Lowest-fare domestic itineraries go from 15,000 miles one-way to 20,000 miles and require a $75 co-pay up from $50. Mileage Plus elite members continue to be exempt from the upgrade co-pay for domestic, non-Hawaii flights.

What’s interesting is that the chart goes from three fare categories — business class (except for discounted Z fares), full (Y or B) fare coach, and discount fares — to nine separate fare categories each with its own price in terms of miles and cash.

North America to Europe one-way coach to business used to range from 10,000 miles when buying full fare coach to 20,000 miles and $500 cash at the lowest fares. Under the new June 15 chart, upgrades start at 15,000 miles for full fare. And the cash co-pay on lowest price awards goes up to $550.

North America to South asia one-way coach to business used to range from 12,500 miles when buying full fare coach to 25,000 miles and $500 cash at the lowest fares. Under the new June 15 chart, Y fare upgrades will cost 20,000 miles (a 60% increase). The new chart no longer counts B fares as full fare, and charges 30,000 miles on B fares (a 140% increase!). And the lowest fares will cost 30,000 miles and $600 cash to upgrade.

There’s not a lot positive in the new chart, it’s much more complicated and overall more expensive — in some cases, just a little bit and in some cases quite a lot.

Mileage upgraders will find themselves unhappy with the pending changes. Premium cabin award ticket folks will be much happier, as I detailed earlier.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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