United devaluation: I woke up this morning to an announcement of some really nasty changes to the United MileagePlus award chart. These changes don’t go into effect until February 1, so you will want to issue tickets you may be considering before then (and not make changes to tickets after that).

What United has done is

  • Announced an increase in the price of many of its awards
  • Bifurcated its award chart so that partner awards will often cost a whole lot more than awards on United’s own flights

There aren’t actually very many changes to awards in North and South America. There aren’t very many changes to awards in coach. The biggest bloodbath is to first class partner award pricing.

Here are .pdfs of the current chart and the new chart.

But to make it easier I’ve put together side-by-side comparisons of the award charts starting or ending travel in North America. I’ve bolded and underlined prices that are changing.

Again, North and South America have the fewest changes.

Europe and Africa is where things start to get bad.

Check out first class changes:

  • First class between North America and Europe on partner airlines goes from 135,000 miles roundtrip to 220,000 miles roundtrip. That’s a 63% increase.
  • First class between North America and the Middle East on partner airlines goes from 150,000 miles roundtrip to 280,000 miles roundtrip. That’s an 87% increase.
  • First class between North America and Africa on partner airlines goes from 150,000 miles roundtrip to 260,000 miles roundtrip. That’s a 73% increase.

I’ve always loved first class awards to Asia, especially on United’s Asian partner airlines.

Check out first class changes:

  • First class between North America and Japan on partner airlines goes from 135,000 miles roundtrip to 220,000 miles roundtrip. That’s a 63% increase.
  • First class between North America and North Asia on partner airlines goes from 140,000 miles roundtrip to 240,000 miles roundtrip. That’s a 71% increase.
  • First class between North America and Central Asia on partner airlines goes from 160,000 miles roundtrip to 280,000 miles roundtrip. That’s a 75% increase.
  • First class between North American and South Asia on partner airlines goes from 140,000 miles roundtrip to 260,000 miles roundtrip. That’s an 86% increase.

And finally here are the changes to Oceania and Australia/New Zealand

Check out first class changes:

  • First class between North America and Oceania on partner airlines goes from 150,000 miles roundtrip to 220,000 miles roundtrip. That’s a 47% increase.
  • First class between North America and Australia/New Zealand on partner airlines goes from 160,000 miles roundtrip to 260,000 miles roundtrip. That’s a 62% increase.

Of course, changes aren’t limited to awards between North and South America. One award I’ve been keen on in the past — intra-Asia business class goes up from 35,000 miles roundtrip to 60,000 miles.

These Changes Compare Unfavorably to the Worst of What Other Airlines Have Done

This is one of the worst guttings of a frequent flyer award chart that I have seen, worse even than what Aeroplan did in 2011 and with negatives on par with what British Airways did two years ago but without the countervailing improvements like discounted short-haul awards (British Airways awards now start at just 4500 points each way).

In fairness, changes to awards on United aren’t nearly as bad as they are to changes to awards on partner airlines. But those partner airlines often have better availability, not to mention a much better inflight product.

And changes to business class awards aren’t nearly as bad (though they are bad!) as changes to first class awards. The crazy thing though is that first class awards can now be even more than triple the price of coach, where once they may have been just double.

If there’s one silver lining, it’s that at some level things could have been even worse (you can always make things worse!). At least they didn’t announce that they’re adding fuel surcharges to award tickets.

An Award Chart Devaluation Was Long Overdue

It’s actually been a long time since United has done anything like this.

There was what seemed like a pattern of devaluing every couple of years. So it was no surprise when they tweake the chart in 2011. At the time though they were more focused on merging with Continental, on aligning their policies with Continental (read: becoming Continental and adopting Continental’s award chart) that the changes were really quite modest.

And it’s easy to forget that the Continental merger brought with it an end to ‘blocking’ of partner award seats. United used to program their computers to pretend that their partners were not offering them award seats, when the partners actually were, because the MileagePlus didn’t want to pay for those seats. Telephone agents would tell customers the seats weren’t being offered to United, which was false.

When Continental joined Star Alliance they promised an award chart that was more ‘realistic’ so that they could afford not to engage in this deceptive practice, and they ended what they internally referred to as ‘throttling’ when they took over leadership of United,

But Continental executives were surprised by how much partner awards were costing them, and in some ways I’m surprised by how long it’s taken them to do something about it. Presumably they figure that the drama and reputational hit they took when actually combining the airlines in March 2012 (creating a very bad airline in the process) has mostly passed, they didn’t take too much of a hit this past summer with the introduction of minimum revenue requirements for elite status and increased change fees on award tickets. Very frequent flyer Un-friendly.

Here’s How Others May Follow United’s Devaluation

The worst thing about this, from a flyer’s perspective, is that with the consolidation in the airline industry there are fewer players and less of a barrier to changes like this across the board. Delta miles are already worth very little. Even with these changes I’d take United miles over Skypesos. And Delta has just increased the price of international business class awards (not that they wouldn’t go even further, and without advance notice, since they consider award charts ‘to be like pricing making it illegal to tell customers about changes in advance; presumably they believe United’s advance notice here is illegal even if the government and indeed the rest of the world disagrees).

It’s been nearly four years in US Airways devalued its chart. American’s chart used to be the most expensive and they haven’t devalued in quite awhile. If a merger between those two airlines goes through my bet has been a period of quiet, no need to push customers away, they’ll “take the best of both carriers’ programs.” But given a little bit of time there’s not much reason to expect them not to follow suit. (Randy Petersen has suggested the opposite, that a merged carrier could do a ‘big bang’ change upon combination; pulling off the band-aid in one go, and a change like United has announced I think makes that more plausible since whatever they do could be spun as not being worse than that).

Here’s What to Do Right Now, and In the Future

I’m issuing a sell recommendation on United miles.

Or, more specifically, burn those that you have already banked now, or at least ticket by the end of January. Earn more for future use with a rational understanding that they will be worth less, so the effort you go to in order to accumulate the miles should be less, and when considering which miles to earn it should take earning more United miles than a competitor currency like American points to get you to choose United.

Finally, remember that miles are not a good store of value. They are a propriety currency with no independent central bank, let alone currency board, no mandate to minimize award price inflation. You should always earn and burn in roughly the same period. Miles are worth more today than they will be tomorrow. Your best hedge, and it’s not true protection since these programs can change too, is to save up currencies that can be transferred effectively to a variety of different frequent flyer programs (Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest).

  1. myb821 said,

    I think we need to start a Twitter campaign. Include United and chase in every tweet with the hashtag #unitedunfriendly. Spread it everywhere and overwhelm their Twitter accounts

  2. Chas said,

    “They are a propriety currency with no central bank….”

    Exactly the opposite, Gary. The power to inflate Miles/points is perfectly centralized.

    This is a pretty horrendous devaluation at any rate, but not inconsistent with the direction the new UA has been heading in. Screw your FF’s and juice the benefits for those inelastic full-fare customers…

  3. Joelfreak said,

    I am not pleased with these changes, but some people trying to pass this off as UA becoming the most expensive just isnt true. Unfortunately, this just seems to be the way the industry is going.

  4. jim said,

    Facebook. Twitter united to not punish us. Let our voice be headed. But I also blame couple of you bloggers for constantly posting about how long it has been since united last devalued.

  5. Alan said,

    Gary, should we consider this is also a devaluation of Chase UR somehow? In addition, I think Chase Sapphire Preferred customers should start to file complain to Chase of this partner devaluation.

  6. Ariel said,

    People need to protest. And in a big way.

    Let it be done in a big way. Bag tags, Tshirts, letters to be handed out to staff in airports, crew, pilots, calls to management….

    Bloggers unite!

  7. Gary said,

    @Alan – United was the most valuable partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. Those points remain really flexible. Hyatt transfers gain in relative value. For first class awards, Korean Air redemptions start to look really good. I’d still say given the alternatives over at American Express Membership Rewards, Chase points are still ‘better’ (United has no fuel surcharges, while Aeroplan charges for half its partners and ANA and Singapore for all where fuel surcharges apply to paid tickets… basically almost all Amex partners that’ll have award space will hit you with fuel surcharges). But I like Starwood points a little more today for transfers to American… until American devalues its own chart!

  8. Gary said,

    @jim do you really think I reminded United that’s been awhile? They’re doing this because of their internal financial statements, not because they slapped their forehead like in a V-8 commercial after reading a blog :-)

  9. ncSam said,

    Funny how they didn’t mention this a few weeks ago before they hosted part of DO.

  10. Gary said,

    @Joelfreak – United is not the most expensive, I produce the award charts here…. But it is still a very big deal.

  11. Wes said,

    I guess I should dust off my trusty old SPG Amex card

  12. Gary said,

    @Chas – the idea of the central bank is that it’s supposed to be ‘independent’, I will add the word ‘independent’ to clarify. However I think I make the point clearly already by saying ‘no currency board’ as well.

  13. EJ said,

    Am I crazy to think that this totally screws people with status on United? More people cashing in miles to fly premium cabins on United metal means less space up front for last minute upgrades. Am I missing something?

  14. Len said,

    It’s a decoy, Gary. Designed to distract us from the far bigger, FAR WORSE news.

    Starting today, UA is no longer offering full meal service on all flights 760 miles or longer. For many leisure routes, that minimum has gone up to 900 miles.


    Those passengers unfortunate enough to be flying on the morning IAH-CUN flight will now forego breakfast and be stuck with “warm scones.”


  15. BBD said,

    Definitely devalues UR points also, but not as drastically.

  16. Andrew @ LenticularTravel said,

    That’s the end of the game as we know it. So far I was able to swallow all the increases and adjust by earning more miles (credit cards, shopping portals etc). This goes beyond what I can offset with my bigger earnings. I can’t see any realistic 1st class goals to aspire to and that was my biggest motivation with the biggest payoff. A really sad day…

  17. tim said,

    Some of the changes for partner awards are almost laughable. So much for transferring my bank of UR points to united. Ultimate rewards takes a large hit on this unfortunately in my mind.

  18. Nick said,

    People grumble and complain but don’t really make any change. And what change can we make thanks to consolidation. Another change you will like. It may be time to cancel those Chase united cards.

  19. jeff said,

    Not good news for those who make their living booking trips for people with miles. That profession is quickly dying.

  20. Gary said,

    @EJ awards are still capacity controlled

  21. kelly said,

    I believe your Hawaii numbers are off. They raised all the prices. Coach, Business and First across all categories (at least on standard pricing). They also raised the interisland prices. You used to be able to find interisland for 5K each way…lowest is now 6K.

  22. jfhscott said,


    What is your speculation as to whether this comes with any concomitant increase in United award availability?

  23. David said,

    Well, one person who doesn’t necessarily lose out is the business traveler who uses miles for upgrades… In fact, it makes those 15-20k upgrades to business class even more valuable compared to book them right away!

  24. rob said,

    Absolutely disgusting!

    jeff.smisek@united.com needs to hear from everyone


    Two tier award charts? What’s the purpose of being in an alliance, then??

  25. mogon said,

    While for those who use their miles primarily for international front-cabin travel this is indeed bad news, for those of us who only use miles for intra-U.S. mainland domestic flights, the good news is that the cost stayed the same which means that it’s likely that it will be several more years before the 25K domestic r/t saver awards will be devalued.

  26. Gary said,

    @David – there are upgrade changes too, just too much to do in one post alone!

    @jfhscott – ain’t gonna happen.

  27. Gary said,

    @David – there are upgrade changes too, just too much to do in one post alone!

    @jfhscott – ain’t gonna happen.

  28. United ups mileage needed for many frequent-flier tickets | TokNok Multi Social Blogging Solutions said,

    […] VIEW FROM THE WING: United frequent-flier award prices are going up, up up […]

  29. Frequent Miler said,

    Here’s what a top United Exec has to say about the changes: http://t.co/p0KGSBxB0e

  30. CW said,

    My thoughts? Buy when there is blood in the street. Existing UA flyers should double down and new flyers looking to get the most should consider UA. All other programs will devalue too, and UA now has the longest-running clock because it reset today. Painful, yes, but the industry is going to equalize to stay competitive so what UA has just offered is probably in a couple years going to appear attractive compared to DL and New American.

  31. Andrew said,

    Everyone focuses in on devaluation when I argue it is actually inflation. Our earning power has increased dramatically over the years. There are more credit cards with higher sign on bonuses and spend bonuses then years ago. 50k, 70k sign on bonus, get this card + that card (chase has many cards that can earn UA miles), 2x for dining or travel, etc. Most people would laugh at a 25k sign up bonus for a UA card today when that used to be the standard. When the earning ability goes up, then the cost of the rewards go up. That is inflation.

  32. CW said,

    Andrew, yes it is absolutely inflation, just a particularly ugly form where the purchasing power isn’t allowed to float with market supply/demand but is instead fixed by a single entity. I do believe we see this regularly in totalitarian states.

  33. Greg said,

    They also snuck in a 40% increase in awards to Alaska in the footnotes of the chart…


  34. Nick said,

    So what happens if I fly UA to Frankfurt and then take a Lufthansa flight to say Milan, is it immediately a partner redemption?

  35. THEsocalledfan said,


    You really would rather have United miles over Skypesos? Really? Business class award availability to Europe on Skypesos is not very hard to find for Alitalia and a heck a lot less miles needs. I know the one way searching is a pain, but you can put together Delta itineraries and no fuel surcharges.

    You are much more the expert on miles, but please explain to me exactly how you view united miles better than Delta other than ease of booking and getting first class (which took a HUGE partner hit)…..

  36. iahphx said,

    Well, I can’t say I’m too surprised by this. Undoubtedly, the explosion in “points blogs” has greatly expanded the number of people “gaming” frequent flyer programs to achieve these aspirational premium cabin partner awards. I mean, it has become pretty preposterous how easy it is to get a $10,000 int’l award ticket FOR NO MONEY. And UA has to pay these airlines for these seats (I’m still curious how much it costs them).

    At the same time, it’s become more difficult to fly the USA airlines using miles. They just don’t have good award availability — and even if they did, who in their right mind would prefer to fly UA overseas if they could fly a partner airline with better service? So this pushes up the demand for partner seats, and pushes up UA’s costs.

    I’m guessing that US will now have to do the same because the demand for premium cabin Star partner awards using Dividend Miles will become insane once UA’s changes go into effect.

  37. Gary said,

    @THEsocalledfan – ease of booking, more partners with much much better availability, many of those partners have better inflight products, more generous routing rules, yes I would still rather have United miles than Skypesos!

  38. Gary said,

    @Nick – yes any partners on an award would seem to put you into the partner chart (though remember of course you can book two separate one-ways, one on United and one with partners, and average the price)

  39. Zapdude said,

    I was going to ask the same question. It seems all my international travel includes more than one airline.

  40. jfhscott said,

    @Andrew – I tend to agree, especially in a world where most miles are not earned by flying, but through credit card purchases, dining, mileage malls, etc., etc. Simply, the basket of goods which would score me 20,000 miles on a MP credit card 10 years ago now gets me 25,000. And, yes, supersized sign up bonuses may drive this even more.

    What is interesting is that they have finally decoupled, especially at the premium level, their product from their partners. I infer either (1) they are wanting to direct traffic to their own product, or (2) this reflects some premium MP must pay for partner awards. In either case, it strikes me as a bit of an acknowledgement that their premium products are generally inferior to their partners’.

  41. Gary said,

    United saver awards cost MileagePlus a whole lot less than partner awards do. Also another indication of the alliance crackup. But it is true the product is really inferior to that of many of their partners.

  42. Nick said,

    How come these airlines never go the other way and try and make their currency a valued one. They could have decreased the flow and thus demand and value increase. In theory then it increases leverage on your frequent flier program. Now they are just going to alienate a bunch more of their frequent fliers who are already on the fence with how bad United has been the last 2 years anyway.

  43. JA said,

    Dismantle Star Alliance!

  44. Dave Op said,

    Gary, how would this work if you’re flying one leg on United and another on partner airline? For example, EWR to FRA on United, then FRA to FCO on Lufthansa? Now, F saver award is 67,500 miles.

  45. Eric FD said,

    Sudden interesting though… I wonder if we can use this trick to avoid the partner high rates…

    if we say fly on an itinerary mostly in United business/first, with only a short segment on another carrier… would we would be charged the United award rate or Partner award rate if we purposely book downgrade ourselves to economy on the partner segment?!?!

    For example, IAD-FRA-VIE…. with IAD-FRA on United Business/First, and FRA-VIE on Lufthansa — but we purposely a downgraded to economy on LH segments. would we then get charged the United or Partner award rate? should be United right???

  46. Matt said,

    If we book a ticket before the change, then rebook it once the change takes place, do we have to pay the higher mileage level? Or are we grandfathered in?

  47. Andrew said,

    After calming down and reviewing it in more detail the whole outrage is over partner FC. I do love LH FC and it looks like it may be too expensive in the future for 2 tix, but if by myself who knows. The BC increases were modest but FC was incredible. This is actually one notch below US Airways saying it will not even book a LH fC award. UA didn’t ‘t go that far but they came close, plus added in all other partner FC. I may have to go BC now which is not the worst thing in the world.

  48. Chris said,

    I guess the one last question I have is if I book an award out in Dec 2014, is there any way to move this after Feb. 1st without having United reprice the award ticket…

    I was planning on using 240K miles for a pair of tickets to Africa in 2015…but come up a couple months short :/

  49. GeekAbroad said,

    Earlier this year I impulsively burnt my United miles for a First Class ticket to Bangkok in Dec. I sort of have been kicking myself because it happened shortly after another international trip and will be stress on my funds and time. Now I’m glad I did. It will probably be the only time in my life I’ll ever get to experience First Class

  50. homerica7 said,

    Should we start calling them UnitedPesos?

  51. homerica7 said,

    Maybe StarPesos sounds nicer?

  52. Phil said,

    MileageMinus now?

  53. THEsocalledfan said,

    Frequent miler is calling them Star Dust. That has an excellent ring to it.

  54. beachfan said,

    Thanks to your post, I have 3 months to figure out what to do with 600k miles. But still hard chocies.

    I have no room for more vacation time except perhaps a quickie over Thanksgiving 2014. I have 4 trips booked between now and then.

    LAX – LHR Thanksgiving 2013. Even if I find good award availability, I”m holding two tickets in J on the new AA flight on 777 non-stop. Even if I get LH F, it will be a two stop. Maybe it’s worth a swap if I get in LH F.

    Then I have flights on CX F in 2014. Is it worth cancelling those to fly on UA F? Those CX flights might go up in price.

    Can’t change my flights to PPT next year, as I’m going to Moorea at the old HHonors award chart.

    Oh well, noone outside our small world of blogs and flyertalk will feel sorry for us.

  55. Tocqueville said,

    I love that the Japan – Oceania “loophole” in First class actually went DOWN from 35k points to 30k. Think routings like: NRT – HKG – BKK – SYD – AKL – NOU/RAR

  56. Shafik said,

    This is a shut up response to all bloggers that keep bragging about flying Star Alliance first class when they can barely afford a coach ticket. It is clear that airlines want first class people on their first class cabins and not point and miles hoarders that get into their first class cabins and start taking pictures of even a paper napkin. That is what all airlines will do and they are only protecting real first class customers hat pay $15k+ for that seat and do not want to share the cabin with people that do not belong there.

  57. Will you still transfer UR points to United or not since the devaluation? - FlyerTalk Forums said,

    […] to, see Changes to MileagePlus Award and Upgrade Policies – Eff. Feb. 2014 Gary Leff's blog has a good overview of this debacle. __________________ Applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card? Let me refer you (40K […]

  58. David said,

    I too am also curious what will happen if you do a change to a booking made before feb in the time period after feb.

    My other question is whether or not this change will increase availability of the Star Alliance partners. While I dont like the changes made, if it means that there will be two first class ANA flights to NRT available for my planned flight in 2015, then its at least a consolation prize.

  59. Rob P said,

    Earn & burn; great advice, Gary.

  60. Philip said,

    Just like baggage fees, etc. I don’t see how this is not collusion.

  61. Sean M. said,

    I’m actually pleased with this. My usual award (Central Asia to Central/South Africa) has reduced from 40Y/60J to 30Y/55J. Good stuff!

  62. Al said,

    So, is everyone still rooting for the AA-US merger? If you think this is bad, just wait till Parker takes the reins at the new AA.

  63. Rob said,

    @ Mogon post 25

    It will hurt you domestic coach travelers too, because with the skyrocketing costs of international premium cabin award, a lot of people who might’ve not booked domestic coach previously will now see it as a viable use of miles.

    A lot more people will now be competing with you for those coach seats, which mean fewer for you

    The people who ARE benefiting from this are those who have large dividend miles (until they devalue themselves) or other SA currencies which now will have less competition from all those United frequent flyers

  64. nsx at flyertalk said,

    Horrible news, absolutely great article.

    I’m so glad I took a last-minute opportunity to fly LH First Class and experience the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt this year. I doubt it will happen again at the new rates.

    I was really upset at Southwest for devaluing all existing Rapid Rewards points by a factor of 6/7 as of next March 31. Now that change looks good by comparison.

    I wonder what the end game is here. If only hard-core gamers will remain interested in redeemable miles, how does that benefit the airline? Why not switch to a program which offers elite travel benefits but no free trips?

  65. jfhscott said,

    @Gary – It may be for another post, and it will vary from consumer to consumer, but what is your two cents on how high redemption levels can go on aspirational awards before folks plumb give up on aspiring to them and abandon ship entirely?

    For 260K r/t to South Asia, I sure want to see some SQ availability.

  66. Nun said,

    Some of these hikes are unbelievable! Something like LX business to Europe costs more than UA First!!!

  67. jimltravels said,

    As Noted the value of Dividend miles just (temporarily) increased. The SPG card also just became more valuable.
    Gary, can you please do a post on the revised strategy given United award chart changes. I will assume it will be cheaper to book directly on the partner as opposed to going through United, unless partners match UA prices. What are the sweet spots by directly transferring miles to partners and booking with them? While I still believe having transferable miles (Ultimate, Amex, SPG, Diners) is the best strategy, this does alter the strategy for points accumulation. Assuming our strategy is still First and business, what are your suggestions, for both temporary sweetspots, and potential longer term plays as well. As we all knew, the game is everchanging.

  68. Jim said,

    Hey Beachfan…..I’m looking for 480K UA miles to book a trip to SYD….let me know if you’re interested in trading for AA miles

  69. Charlie said,

    I’ve spent $20,000 on my Chase UA Explorer card in the last two months. Today it goes back in the safe.

  70. Nun said,

    Getting J/F awards on certain UA international flights will now be practically IMPOSSIBLE given the new prices.

  71. thesilb said,

    Gary or others: I would appreciate advice. For someone who regularly purchases F/C international tickets, and likes to redeem F/C international, what’s the best Star Alliance option going forward? LH, with the 300% F bonus, and swallow the fuel surcharges? Certainly, UA is no longer a viable option?

  72. Ryan K (aloha miles) said,

    Does this change the redemptions for round the world trips at all?

  73. nycman said,

    So much for the “Friendly Skies”. Has the butt-in-seat earnings rate increased along with all the devaluations over time? Seems to me if that is how one earns miles, that is being penalized as time rolls on. Earning by flying, for that aspirational award will take forever. Perhaps this is a strategy to push more people to take advantage of CC signup bonuses, as that’s the only way most people will rack up a decent number of miles. I guess like any currency devaluation, the mileage-poor will get drowned while those in the know will manage to stay above water.

  74. Paul Hurtson said,

    Funny that nobody mentioned that the coach awards did not increase much. People are complaining that business and first class awards went way up. Didn’t you understand the message hat UA and Star Alliance partners are sending here? They DO NOT want credit card collectors flying in their premium cabin. They are tired of seeing pictures of their napkins, soaps, socks, etc… on blogs. People that pay for those seats probably complained so they sent the message. Got it?

  75. Jason C said,

    I’m using #switchingtoAA

    Fuck United. This is such chickenshit, and I’m SO glad I held out on transferring my Chase rewards.

  76. ABC said,

    “An Award Chart Devaluation Was Long Overdue”
    So what’s the inflation rate?
    How much has the cost of a seat changed from 2002, 2006, 2010 to 2014?

  77. alan said,

    I wonder how this affects something like intra-European flights to a place UA doesn’t fly. If I book a UA first award on the long-haul, am I stuck paying the partner price for the last leg being a partner?

  78. UAinATL said,

    @iahphx I think the one piece missing from your equation is that United makes hefty sums selling miles to partners, especially Chase. So let’s not feel too bad when they “have to pay for those seats!” To some degree this is double dipping: (1) flood the market with miles and make boatloads of cash doing so; (2) reduce the value of those miles after they are sold to reduce redemption costs.

  79. Henry said,

    I wish it was April 1.

  80. Boraxo said,

    At first I was pretty angry but then I realized this was not as bad as I thought. Yes, F awards via *A are basically off the table now, but the C awards are not going up much for South America and only 15K for Europe (assuming you can find space on UA). The major downside is the massive deval for *A partners, from 100k -> 140k to Europe (on mostly inferior seats) and from 120k -> 150k/160k to Japan/Asia (where *A often have a better product). I find the changes to Australia rather meaningless as these awards are rarely found though a big minus for those who had success on NZ or flying *A via Asia.

    So I think Gary’s advice to burn UA now is a bit overgeneralized. A more useful analysis would be:

    * Burn now if you want *A international F seats
    * Burn now if you want *A international C seats to Europe Africa, MidEast, Asia or Australia
    * No need to do anything if you want to use UA miles to fly domestic USA, Hawaii, Mexico, South America.
    * No need to do anything if you want to fly UA (not *A) to Europe.

    Keep in mind not everyone is able to burn now – some of us have families and already preplanned trips for 2014. So telling people to burn isn’t always useful. If I want to burn I could easily do it by using 2x miles on many routes, but then that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

  81. Eric FD said,

    according to the rules, it seems I could be right about a mixed cabin award…. where an itinerary with biz/F on United aircraft combined with economy on a partner airline is priced as a United award rate…

    The partner award chart explicitly says “This chart also applies to Business/First Awards for itineraries that include travel on both United and at least one partner when at least one flight segment on a partner is in Business or First.”.

    Thus, if no partner segment is business or first, then UA award rates for such a mixed itinerary should apply.

    Gary – can you seek clarification from United representatives about this? cuz this would be huge lifesaver for us flying to secondary cities not served by United.

  82. Robert Hanson said,

    Two problems with the “burn now” advice. As Boraxo mentioned, some of us, myself included, already are ticketed with award flights for next summer. Adding a second TATL trip just to save some miles isn’t a reasonable option for me.

    Worse, by now the FC availability for next summer is virtually nil, at least for the routes I need to fly. And of course, dates for 2015 will not be loaded before the Feb cut off for the old rates.

    Probably most troubling for me is the thought that up to now, many folks wanting to redeem UA miles could do so with a number of partner airlines, increasing the amount of seats available. Now that most of us can only afford to book on UA itself, isn’t the competition for those seats going to be several times as bad as it has been up to now? :(

  83. Rob said,

    “…with the consolidation in the airline industry there are fewer players and less of a barrier to changes like this across the board.”

    Exactly. This is one reason why every frequent flyer should be supporting the DoJ’s attempt to block the AA-US merger. If that merger goes through, we can expect even more changes like this.

  84. United Airlines MASSIVE Award Chart Devaluation/Devastation - The #hustle Blog - The #hustle Blog said,

    […] For more information and perspective on this huge news, check out posts by Canadian Kilometers, Milevalue, and View From The Wing. […]

  85. Sfmom said,

    The real killer is the inability to access partner space at the same rate. I only want the miles for international business class and unless United is planning to open a LOT more space on its own routes it’s mileage program will be utterly useless, to me anyway.

  86. Andrew said,

    So can I make an award booking now, at current rates, hope to change the flight dates later with my no-fee elite change benefit, and not get slammed with the miles increase? My million dollar question.

  87. Joelfreak said,

    This is what happens when there is less competition, and they don’t feel that you can do anything to fight the changes. UA doesn’t feel it has much competition in the US for large awards (AA and DL aren’t going to give you much F at a decent rate), and thus they are free to do this. The more mergers there are, the less the mile will be worth. My question is at what point does the government get involved as many people have miles saved up for trips, and will now find years of their spending gets them nothing. At SOME point someone from the government will wake up and start to regulate as to how much you can devalue without competition, or EXTREME notice.

  88. Andyandy said,

    Ugh. I just got my Chase United card as a first step towards an eventual LH F TATL flight. There goes that plan. Now I’m wishing I’d gone for the Ritz Carlton card instead. This is making cashback cards look much more attractive as well. $220K spend on the Chase card for TATL F? That’s effectively paying $4400 ($4,840 w/ 2.2% Barclay Arrival).

  89. Andyandy said,

    Come to think of it, this might be motivation to get the Miles & More card. Sure, you’ll pay $800-1K in taxes and YQ, but you can cover that with $40-50K spend on a 2% card. So, couple that with 170K M&M miles and your at $220K spend for TATL F on LH. The difference, of course, being better availability with M&M.

  90. What Should We Call United Miles Now? - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] But what about United miles now that they’ve announced an absolute bloodletting of their award chart? […]

  91. Joel said,

    It actually benefits me flying SE Asia to Australia – a reduction from 45k to 30k one way in J or 60k to 40k in F!

  92. Alan said,

    Although it clearly sucks, given the massive price difference between economy and first I could never quite understand the relatively tiny premium UA/AA/US charged for F, especially on partners – the partner airlines themselves generally charged a lot more to their own FF members for F. Thankfully I’ve only got just over 50k and am planning to redeem on UA metal but for those saving up for a big F ppartner redemption this must be really gutting.

  93. Gary said,

    An added clarification to comments above about mixed airline awards. You can use the United award chart rather than the partner award chart IF THE PARTNER FLIGHTS ARE IN A LOWER CABIN than the United flights. So if you book a United first class award you can include a Lufthansa business class flight without bumping to the partner award chart. If you book a United business class award to Europe or Asia your onward partner flight segment would have to be in coach to avoid being charged the partner rate.

  94. Laura T. said,

    I said this in another blog comment, but I may be the only person here that let out a huge sigh of relief when after reading the chart I saw that Economy class awards had been mostly spared in this massacre. I fly Economy, not because I want to, but because I simply don’t fly enough to achieve elite status every year and I don’t have enough credit cards to accumulate at a fast rate, nor do I have the money to fly Business. I want to get to my destination the fastest way possible and I’m willing to fly Economy to explore the world. Having said that, I fear even Economy will be increased soon, if any United Exec wants to continue to gut the award chart. Why not do that too? So, I’m crossing my fingers that will not happen. This is a huge bummer and bad news, and I hope Economy is not next on the chopping block.

  95. Flying Piggie - Helping you get the most out of airline and hotel loyalty programmes said,

    […] won’t go into all of the details of the devaluation. I’m sure the big US bloggers such as Gary Leff will discuss it to death. But, as an example, a business class return from Europe to the US used to […]

  96. Why United Devalued its Award Chart: Three Competing Explanations - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] announced big changes to their award chart which will go into effect February 1. But why did they do […]

  97. Thui Doan said,

    This is the benefits of the merger between United and Continental Airlines that Jeff Smisek promised us. He stood by his words. What a man!

    And now, a bunch of American and US Airways’ employees praised another merger.

    Look at the % increase for First Class from US to Asia for instance. An increase of 86%!!!!

  98. How to Use United's New Award Chart to Travel to Non-United Destinations at the Lower United Price - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] massive award chart changes created a new, separate pricing chart. There’s one price for awards on United and another […]

  99. United Didn't Just Change their Award Prices, They Changed Upgrades Too - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] Friday’s award chart changes at United were biggest for redemption of awards on their partners and especially for first class awards. Coach awards, and most awards in North and South America, saw modest changes. […]

  100. What Economics Tells Us About Mileage Inflation, and Why United is Now a Banana Republic - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] United’s big announcement of devaluations of in some cases more than 80%, we can now think of MileagePlus as ‘the Banana Republic of […]

  101. United Increases International Award Prices, Drastically! - Deals We Like said,

    […] United miles increasing for international flights […]

  102. The game goes on, Stardust and all - The Frequent Miler said,

    […] View from the Wing said “I’m issuing a sell recommendation on United miles.” […]

  103. How Do United's New Award Charts Stack Up Against American and Delta? - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] all of the furor over United’s massive award chart changes, I thought it would be useful to put together some context and compare United’s new February […]

  104. Full Summary of United Devaluations & New Developments…plus my personal exposure - Point Me To The Plane said,

    […] Gary from View from the Wing outlines just how terrible the Star Alliance chart increases are: […]

  105. Lufthansa First Class Awards Available (Using United Miles) Next Summer - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] the heels of United’s dramatic devaluation that goes into effect February 1, many folks are seeing their United miles are no longer so great for booking partner awards […]

  106. Will American Follow Suit and Devalue its Miles? - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] award chart will be devalued come February, award prices are going up, up […]

  107. Devaluation Plan B: How I'll Keep Flying International First Class on Miles For Years to Come No Matter What US Frequent Flyer Programs Do - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] is devaluing its award chart. The program is still good for coach and business class awards, good for awards on United, but will […]

  108. Believe it Or Not, Some People Will Benefit from Lower Award Prices from United MileagePlus - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] enough, with United’s big devaluation that goes into effect February 1, there are actually some awards that are getting […]

  109. United launches a new and improved MileagePlus UK credit card said,

    […] However, United recently announced an incredibly bad devaluation of MileagePlus.  This particularly impacts people outside the USA, since the hardest hit awards were Business Class and First Class redemptions on Star Alliance partners.  There are over 40 articles on the devaluation listed here if you need to know more.  A decent summary can be found here at View from the Wing. […]

  110. Terry said,

    Airlines are CHEATING customers outrageously because the yare raising the actual tickets prices AND raised revenue with crap like charging for checked bags. So, we are all already paying more to earn miles!!!! Airlines are double dippers when it comes to screwing passengers!!!!

  111. Matthewsf said,

    I understand that bookings made (before 2/1) can have a change of travel dates (after 2/1) and nothing else without a penalty that triggers the new, higher rates (whether your booking a first/business class or Star Alliance carrier. That existing rule stay in affect. But what happens if I book a flight now and make a date change…does the routing HAVE to be on the same metal? If there is something else available on a different airline, do any changes kick in, or does the routing from origin/destination have to be on the same carrier? That rule might be in place right now, I just don’t know off hand. For example, if I booked a non-stop now (for travel in March) SFO to NRT on UAL, can the new rebooking dates be made on ANA (assuming seats are available) without paying more? And vice versa?

  112. Marty said,

    It’s really not that bad. I purchase coach seats and then use miles for upgrades. The upgrades have barely changed if not at all. I fly to D.C. to LAX and it’s usually 40k miles round trip. That hasn’t changed. Same with U.S. to Europe. It’s still 40k round trip. Your miles stretch further this way anyways.

  113. Weekend Jaunt to Europe, Part II: Lufthansa First Class ORD-FRA | Andy's Travel Blog said,

    […] February, that booking will cost almost twice as much (Gary from View from the Wing has a great article explaining the United devaluation).  So I lucked out booking the trip when I […]

  114. Free Upgrades on United, Free Money from Southwest, and Free Stopovers on Alaska (Bits 'n Pieces for December 13, 2013) - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] have thought that the impending partner award chart pricing armaggeddon would have satisfied United’s bean […]

  115. A Day with United Management: Elite Status, Mileage Devaluation, and Increasing Change Fees | The Cranky Flier said,

    […] overstayed my time, but I knew I had to ask one more question. What did he have to say about the big redemption devaluations that happened recently? He first denied that they were really major. But he did say that rates should go up because the […]

  116. United Decides Not to Let Members See Singapore Airlines Award Space Online, Misleads Members About It - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] much any) premium cabin award seats between the US and Europe or Asia, and you’d expect that United’s massive price increases for partner awards would more than handle any budget […]

  117. The Holidays Are a Time To... Book Award Travel: the Deadlines and Opportunities You Need to Know About - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] MileagePlus awards go up, up, up in price on February 1, especially for international business and first class partner awards where some […]

  118. DON'T Turn Your Holiday Gift Cards Into Miles - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] coming devaluation on February 1 makes this an even worse […]

  119. Get the United MileagePlus credit card (UK) with 12,000 miles said,

    […] However, United recently announced an incredibly bad devaluation of MileagePlus.  This particularly impacts people outside the USA, since the hardest hit awards were Business Class and First Class redemptions on Star Alliance partners.  There are over 40 articles on the devaluation listed here if you need to know more.  A decent summary can be found here at View from the Wing. […]

  120. The Mileage Devaluations Are Almost Over -- And We're Still Better Off Than We Used to Be - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] United devalued its award chart, especially premium cabin awards and especially partner awards in fi… […]

  121. Mileage Redemption Fuel Surcharges -- the New Cash and Points Awards - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] United is devaluing its award chart effective February 1. […]

  122. Amy Schaffer said,

    Your chart showing the current and changed United awards is missing CRITICAL information. The 25,000 for a domestic award ticket is not 25,000. If you read their chart and information, you will see that they now calculate only 1 way for your 25,000 award. That means you need to spend 50,000 if you intend to fly back!

  123. Gary said,

    @Amy Schaffer – that’s not correct

  124. mike feldman said,

    its pretty hard to find a united roundtrip for 25,000 miles unless it is a really short haul and or far away in the future and or on select days of the month

  125. I'm Not Burning My United Miles Before the Devaluation, But Here's How You Can... - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] United’s big devaluation goes into effect February 1. […]

  126. Last Day to Book United Miles Before Devaluation - Deals We Like said,

    […] United miles increasing for international flights […]

  127. What Changes Will Be Allowed to United Award Tickets Issued Before the Devaluation? - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] big award chart devaluation which was scheduled to go into effect on February 1 was put off a few days but is now in […]

  128. United Won't Charge More for Connecting Flights on Partner Airlines (Despite Their Earlier Threats) - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] big devaluation also creates a more complicated mileage program. There are distinctly different award charts for […]

  129. Fantastic First Class Award Availability on TAM to Brazil (Bookable With Points from United, American, US Airways, Amex, Chase) - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] transfer partner, and points transfer instantly. The price of South America first class awards went up only 2500 miles each way with the MileagePlus devaluation. You can use 125,000 US Airways miles roundtrip (and no fuel surcharges). You can make bookings […]

  130. 40% Discount on Purchased United Miles - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] miles above 2 cents, though this is as low a price as United directly sells miles for — in a post-devaluation MileagePlus world I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where I’d be buying 40,000 United miles, enough to […]

  131. Another Devaluation -- This Time It's Airport Parking - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] seen devaluations in airline mileage programs, such as United and […]

  132. The "Up in the Air" Deleted Scene That Shows Us Just How Much Has Changed in Four Years - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] increase the cost of premium cabin partner awards by as much as 87%. Delta move forward with its revenue-based system even after devaluing its award chart. American […]

  133. The 10 Airline Frequent Flyer Programs That You Should Know About Now - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] You just need to diversity. If all of your points were with United, and you like partner airline awards, then you are not a happy mileage earner. […]

  134. United is Making Another Huge STEALTH Devaluation: What You Need to Know - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] already massively increased the number of points required for awards, especially premium cabin awards and especially on partner airlines, back in […]

  135. I'm Giving Away $400 to My Blog Readers. Click Here to Enter. All You Have to Do Is Be Positive! - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] United devalued its award chart, especially premium cabin awards and especially partner awards in fi… […]

  136. United Just Destroyed Its Frequent Flyer Program as a Way of Rewarding Travel on United - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] already devalued their award chart. This change is earning only, the redemption side has already been gutted. So here they’re […]

  137. United MileagePlus Has No Strategy, So Where Do We Go From Here? - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] But we’re seeing a lot of change in how miles are earned and how awards are priced. Delta has been a real destroyer leader in this. United had already gutted its premium cabin international awards on airline partners. […]

  138. Delta's New Lounge Food and the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] Delta is pretty clearly running the best all-around airline these days. Not in every dimension of course, the Skymiles program is poor compared to competitors (though it isn’t the worst). Even United’s miles are better which is saying something. […]

  139. Switching Back to American’s Mileage Program | Once A Traveler said,

    […] least, I was. Earlier this year, United scaled back the value of their points. It doesn’t really affect people flying economy, but for business and first class passengers, the […]

  140. Add A Comment

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View from the Wing is a project of Miles and Points Consulting, LLC. This site is for entertainment purpose only. The owner of this site is not an investment advisor, financial planner, nor legal or tax professional and articles here are of an opinion and general nature and should not be relied upon for individual circumstances.

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