Funky United award pricing: What we have to look forward to


Lots of options from United on the trip I searched for, but not the connection I wanted
Lots of options from United on the trip I searched for, but not the connection I wanted

Back when United announced the upcoming award rules changes I was annoyed for a variety of reasons. Of them, the most reasonable (IMO) concern was that the website would not price “natural” connections in many cases, forcing a trip that otherwise easily and reasonably meets the rules to be priced as multiple flights, increasing the cost. Today I discovered that it is already happening.

Lots of options from United on the trip I searched for, but not the connection I wanted
Lots of options from United on the trip I searched for, but not the connection I wanted

I’m booking a trip to Shanghai for work and the idea of connecting in Taipei en route seemed like a good idea to me. A search from NYC-PVG had many options but the EVA Airways routing was not listed. Searching for JFK-TPE brought it up and I could also get from there to Shanghai, though only in economy class rather than business. That’s a mixed cabin, saver level award that should price as 80,000 points. The United website wanted 95,000 for my trip.

And that's definitely not the right price for this trip.
And that’s definitely not the right price for this trip.

Bizarrely, the mispricing appears to be related to the mixed class of service on the award. If I found a business class award onward from Taipei to Shanghai it would price correctly. Alas, the nonstop was only available in economy so the mixed cabin award was my play. Fortunately, calling in to an agent I was able to price it correctly at 80k but that is expected to no longer be viable starting next month when my trip would be considered two awards rather than one, even though it is a relatively normal booking.

Just something to look forward to with the updated rules and mispriced awards.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

17 Comments

  1. Is this a stopover or just a connection? I didn’t think the new rules impacts connections in theory. UA basically just admits that their website is broken so they are changing the rules such that if you use the multi-city tool to book award flights piecemail you will be charged end on end. I think you would have still been able to call this in and gotten the “right” price or tricked it eventually to give you the right connection pairing.

    Not Flyer Friendly but neither is a policy that purely exists because of shitty IT and the inability to effectively communicate existing policy with customers.

    1. This is just a connection. But it is not one that the site offered when I searched for the desired city pair. And based on what the company has said even valid connections will price end-on-end (which this also miscalculated) if you perform a multi-city search to find the “right” flights for your trip.

      Whether it will work calling in or not remains to be seen. But most of what I’ve heard suggests that the agents will have a similar search interface to what we get so this would be multi-city that way, too. We all get to find out together in a couple weeks.

  2. I just wanted to clarify, would the mixed cabin award at 95k be enforced under rule changes taking place in October? From the summaries I read, the rule changes only apply to stopovers in the originating country or an extended leg at the end of the trip. The itinerary you showed didn’t have either of these; only a simple one way award with a mixed cabin connection.

  3. I have seen this issue for a while. Once I was looking to book ORD-NRT-BKK (UA F to TG J). It should be 80K since UA allows you to fly on partners in the inferior class. In my case, the UA flight had both F and J space available, and same with the TG flight. When I used multi-city to piece the two segments together, it priced as two awards.

  4. Hi Seth, I am just curious that why would you use miles if you are traveling for work? Do you get miles reimbursed?

    1. I work for myself. That means scraping together tickets any way I can. In this particular scenario it makes far more sense for me to redeem for the long-haul business class award than to pay cash and fly coach to China.

  5. Yup – it’s a known bug since the website was in beta mode, even with UA flights, especially when you mix in p.s. flights where it’s pricing out in J, while the connecting flight is in F or Y.

  6. I had a new experience when calling in to add a “free one way” on the end of an IN round-trip. I’ll swear that in the past I could do this after the outbound legs had been flown. Now, it treats the return legs as a one-way, and prices it accordingly – a bunch more miles instead of just the extra taxes.

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