First it was the 2-day delay in implementation. Then it was the all-day outage on the website for most international award searches. But now the new United Airlines award charts are bookable in the system and, quite pleasantly, not as bad as previously expected. Two main things to consider with the new rules:
Better options for short-haul connections
When the changes were first announced the rule was essentially that anything which involved a partner flight would price at the partner rate. Even if it was a short hop within a region on that partner, the original rule was that it would be a partner award. A few days later that was revised such that short-haul partner flights would be permitted within the UA rates, but only if at a class of service lower than that of the long-haul flight. So a business class award would require a partner flight to be in coach to price properly. And now we get the actual rule as implemented:
If a United/Copa award itinerary contains a connecting segment on a MileagePlus/Star partner that is wholly within one MileagePlus award region, then the United award price will apply.
- For example: IAD-FRA in United BusinessFirst connecting to FRA-FCO in Lufthansa Business, will be priced at the United mileage award amount.
- Note that this exception will not apply to a few specific regions and routings, such as intra-Africa connecting segments and certain fifth-freedom routes (e.g. BKK-KUL operated by Lufthansa)
This is a pretty nice give-back from United and makes a lot of sense with the way the awards are priced on the back-end.
Here’s SFO-PVG in business class showing UA and partner long-haul options and the differing prices.
One bit I’ve noticed in a few searches is that connecting to Asia via Japan is going to trigger a higher price in nearly every scenario because Japan is its own region and there are only two UA operated routes (SIN & ICN) onward from there. Everything else will price at the full partner rate, even if you fly UA into Asia. I saw this on a simple SFO-ICN-NRT award where even with UA on SFO-ICN it is pricing at the 75k partner rate because of the ICN-NRT on OZ in business class.
For travel to mainland China this means connecting in Seoul or Taipei in most cases. For travel to South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) you’ll need UA metal into Hong Kong; that’s not often an easy get.
What’s a “change” to an award?
When the chart adjustment was announced there was much confusion about what would qualify as a “change” to an award which would trigger a re-price. The only advice offered for the past three months was that changing the date of an award would be safe. Turns out there is more to it than that. Straight from the source:
Change clarification for itineraries booked before February 3: Many of you have also been asking about what kinds of itinerary changes will re-trigger a re-price to the new award chart, and I can share some additional follow-up details about that. As a reminder, the 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)
This is very nice and WAY more generous than expected. United is essentially saying that an issued award is similar to a coupon valid for travel between two regions in a specific cabin. So long as you are not changing the booked cabin or the regions the “coupon” remains valid. Much like the connection rules revision this is one tips heavily in favor of the customer.
Of course, we still need to see some real-world examples of these in action. I’ve already spoken with one reader who says the changes he’s trying to make aren’t going 100% smoothly. But at least the theoretical rules are looking a bit better than previously announced.
Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.