What Changes Will Be Allowed to United Award Tickets Issued Before the Devaluation?

United’s big award chart devaluation which was scheduled to go into effect on February 1 was put off a few days but is now in effect.

Lots of folks booked awards speculatively before the bloodshed. Transatlantic business class awards on United’s partners went up 40%. Some first class awards went up more than 80%.

Of course, there were few changes to coach awards and to awards within the Americas. And a handful of awards actually get cheaper.

But for Americans looking to travel to Europe, Asia, Africa, or elsewhere in premium cabins prices went up a whole lot.

And for those who planned ahead and booked future travel under the old rates, there’s been lots of uncertainty about what kinds of changes to travel would be permitted without an increase in mileage cost to the new, higher rates.

My rule of thumb has been to assume that any change which incurs a change fee would also require an award re-price. But there’s always some ambiguity and United rules have changed a lot as to what changes exactly do require fees, and in this case award re-prices.

Matthew notes that United has offered some clarification on this.

[T]he existing change process will apply, and any change that requires an award to re-price will require an add/collect of the additional miles under the new award price structure. Fees for change/cancel will still apply per our existing policies. Changes that will not trigger a re-price for itineraries ticketed before February 3, 2014 include:

  • Date/time (cabin, region, and award type can’t change)
  • Carrier on one or more segments (cabin, region, and award type can’t change)
  • Origin/Destination within the same regions (carrier and cabin can’t change)
  • You can change the date and time without increasing mileage cost, as long as everything else stays the same.

    You can change the carrier you fly as long as nothing else changes. So that means you can switch from United to Lufthansa for Newark to Frankfurt, for instance. I am surprised by this.

    You can change the origin and destination in the same reason as long as nothing else changes. So you could change from flying out of Washington DC to flying out of New York, or flying into Milan instead of Rome. I am surprised by this as well.

    Now, it seems like the third bullet — that you can change origin/destination as long as you do not change the airline you’re flying — contradicts the statement that you can change the airline as long as you do not change the routing.

    The way around this would seem to be first changing the city you’re flying out of or into. And only then, once that’s complete, changing the airline you’re flying.

    United used to be super-generous in its change rules, and they’ve tightened up a lot lately. But it’s good to have some clarification. We’ll need to see how these clarifications work in practice before actually ‘knowing’ how it all works, so this remains ‘developing’ .. but it’s a start.


    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 InsideFlyer.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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    Comments

    1. I think you meant to say “in the same region” instead of ‘reason’.

      Still not clear on something. So let’s say you’re flying fra-muc-bkk in TG F. Would you be able to change it to LH F fra-bkk?

    2. Gary,

      Do you have any idea what would happen in the situation in which an F award is booked (e.g., SFO – FRA – BKK), but one leg is currently in Business due to availability. Later, F becomes available on the same flight. Would that reprice? Thanks!

    3. I also have the same issue of changing the cities. I would love to fly FRA-LAX direct instead of FRA-MUC-YYZ-LAX..and YYZ-LAX is in economy no less.

    4. Of course, United’s official guidance and what the CSR actually thinks are sadly going to be two very different things.

    5. I booked MIA-IAH-PEK-NRT (United/Airchina/ANA)and then return NRT-ICN-JFK on Asiana but was unable to book the last segment home to MIA because it wasn’t available. If that last segment comes open either with USAIR before they depart star alliance, would that be permissible to add without a reprice?

    6. Just got a nasty surprise. Booked LH F FRA – EWR. Just went to go change the date and it came up as an add collect :-/ hopefully this is just a temporary glitch.

    7. UnitedEf, I’m guessing all of these changes need to be done over the phone with an agent manually reissuing rather than with United.com, which I can’t imagine being able to determine new price or old price.

    8. @HansGolden you are probably right. What will be interesting will be if we can change origin – destination but in the same region

    9. Quick question,

      I’m currently booked FRA-BKK on Thai in F. If LH F opens up on this route, based on what’s outlined above, in theory I should be able to switch to this without re-pricing no?

    10. Lots of clarification is needed. The top of my list is whether you can make two changes. Let’s say you change origin/destination. At this point, you will re-ticket. Now, is your ticket a post-2/1 ticket or does it go back to the original ticketing date for purposes of the no-reprice change?

    11. Not within the stated exceptions, so not surprised I got charged the higher amount. Changed a single-segment JNB-PER award to PER-JNB today (was building alternate Westbound and Eastbound RTW itineraries, and Westbound won). Flight I changed to was the same day, same carrier, same cabin . . . just reversed direction. 10K increase in mileage per ticket.

    12. Who needs change info?? I’m NOW waiting @ IAD LH 1st lounge. Found this Sunday nite late at old rate (135K) LH 419 seat 1A. Tomorrow LH 418 seat 2K with 5 hours LH FCT. #bucketlist

    13. I have a ticket from DFW-JFK-ICN-SGN that leaves in mid February in F. Our trip was postponed until mid march now. We found flights on Cathay, but I’ve flown that before and want to try a new carrier, hopefully LH.

      If I just don’t show up and hope something else opens up, can I change the ticket dates and pay one fee, or do I have to change the dates, pay one change fee, then change again when I get within a week and F start to open up on LH?

    14. Gary,
      Just a report update concerning this.
      I had been rebooking some predevaluation award seats and the United Airlines mileage reservation representatives have been telling me that I need to pay more miles even though I am not changing the origin and destination of the flights but only the dates.
      Only after I challenged them and cited what a United airlines mileage person had told me in Chicago and cited your article did they relent and only charged me a change fee.
      On revenue tickets they were charging a change fee and a fare difference. However, they were trying to charge me the adult fare difference for all three passengers and two of the passengers were children between the ages of 7 and 9. The united representative even had the gall to tell me that they charge adult fares on childern over 2 years of age.Only after I again cited the IATA rule regarding the children did they relent.
      It seems that either they are not well briefed or trained or at worse exploiting this to the customer’s detriment.
      I would like to elicit some valued opinion and advise from you on this as well.
      Is this a buyer beware scenario as far as the airline industry is concerned or this is limited to some airlines only?
      For normal fare revenue tickets is something like this actionable as a valid complaint with the federal trade commission?
      Michael

    15. I changed some awards the other day and at first the rep quoted me the new rates with an add-collect of something like 75k additional miles per person on a 95k redemption. I patiently explained that since I wasn’t changing origin or destination or carriers that it was grandfathered at old rates and that they should have a memo to that effect. He soon came back and said, “Ok, I was able to get my support desk to give you a one-time exception, but any changes after this will revert to new prices.” “I’m telling you, it’s a United policy, but hey… I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, so whatever.” “I’m notating the record that you agreed to no more changes.” “That’s inaccurate, don’t do that. Aaron Goldberg, Sr. Director of Customer Experience at United posted an announcement that these tickets could be changed and remain at old prices. You guys need to know your own rules better. I am not agreeing to any such thing.” “Oh, ok. Sorry.” (I think he didn’t believe me until I quoted a specific name and title at United that had posted such an announcement.) *sigh*

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