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Like it or not, we are now 1.5 weeks away from the United award chart devaluation that happens on February 1st. This means it is very much time for action if you want to book something at the current rates before they jump as much as 60%-80% in the case of first class partner awards to destinations such as Europe and beyond. In fact, premium cabin redemptions on partner airlines are where the award chart will take an absolute beating. The good news is I don’t think those are the redemptions that make up the bread and butter of most family trips, but they are still redemptions that many of us like to use from time to time. I’m going to recap a few of the changes, and then emphasize the awards you need to be locking in ASAP.
Summary of impending February 1st changes to the United award chart:
- There are no changes to award redemptions in the lower 48 or Canada at the economy, business, or first class level, so don’t worry about those right now.
- Partner awards on other Star Alliance airlines (like Lufthansa, Swiss, Air Canada, ANA, etc.) now price differently (ie higher) than awards on United metal to some regions.
- Economy flights at 700 miles or less in US/Canada are still 10,000 miles each way.
- Saver economy awards to/from the US or Canada to Alaska will be 17.5k miles each way, up from 12.5k miles each way.
- You can no longer have a stopover on a domestic award ticket for an additional 10,000 miles.
- Economy saver redemptions from the US/Canada to Hawaii increase 2.5k miles each way. Business and first class Hawaii saver redemptions remain the same, though standard redemptions do increase.
- Intra-Hawaii flights on partners increase 1,000 miles from 5k to 6k.
- Saver awards from US/Canada to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and Northern South America all remain the same for all cabins.
- Saver awards from US/Canada to Southern South America remain the same in economy at the saver level, but increase 5k each way for business, and 2.5k each way in first.
- Saver economy awards to Europe remain the same (30k each way), but increases 7.5k miles each way in business (to 57.5k each way), and increases 12.5k miles each way in first (to 80k each way) on United operated flights.
- Partner awards to Europe also remain the same in economy at 30k miles each way, but increase 20k each way in business (to 70k) and increase a whopping 42.5k each way in first (to 110k)!
- Saver economy awards from the US to Australia/New Zealand remain unchanged at 40k each way, increase 2.5k miles each way in business (to 70k), and remain unchanged in first class (80k) on flights operated by United.
- Partner awards from the US to Australia/New Zealand remain unchanged in economy at 40k each way, increase 12.5k each way in business (to 80k), and increase a tremendous 50k each way in first to 130k.
- Economy saver awards from the US to Japan increase 2.5k each way (to 35k), increase 5k in business each way (to 65k), and increase 12.5 each way in first (to 80k) on United operated flights.
- Partner awards from the US to Japan in economy increase 2.5k each way (to 35k), increase 15k each way in business (to 80k), and increase a very high 42,500 each way in first.
- The partner award pricing 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. This means if you fly United in a premium cabin overseas, you want to make sure your shorter segments operated by partners are in a lower cabin than your United operated flight to avoid the partner pricing chart.
What You Should Book Now:
In short, if you are taking any premium cabin trips using United miles outside of the US/Canada/Mexico/Caribbean/Central America part of the world in the next 11 months then you are doing yourself a real disservice by not locking the trips in by February 1st. Heck, even award trips to Hawaii, Alaska, and between the Hawaiian islands will get more expensive starting February 1st, so it isn’t just the long-haul premium cabin trips you need to be concerned with.
UA Insider on Flyertalk has shared that, “changes to awards that require a change in date do not result in a change to the award price. Any other change will require an add/collect in miles and fees for changes or cancellations will still apply as per our existing policies.” This means that you can change the date on an award booked at the pre-February 1 rates without having to shell out more miles, however if you want to change the routing, the cabin, the carrier, etc. then expect United to collect additional miles at the post February 1 rate (in addition to any applicable change fees).
MileValue has a theory on how you can potentially lock in Lufthansa First Class for use later in the year using United miles. His theory may not end up working in the end, or it might. I’m just booking trips I know I want, and I already had my “big trips” for the year booked. Sadly unless some Lufthansa first class award space opens on or before January 31st for a trip I am taking to Europe in early February, it looks I won’t be flying in that cabin again anytime soon. Do remember that no matter how/what you book, award tickets are only valid out for one year from booking, so even if you do change dates and keep the old price, you won’t be able to extend further out than one year from the day you book.
Remember that you can transfer in Chase Ultimate Reward points 1:1 instantly to secure some United award tickets on or before January 31st at the current rates. This devaluation is a bad one for those who like premium cabins on United partners. I’m actually quite happy in United operated business class seats, and thankfully the prices for those seats aren’t increasing as much, but this will still be a hard hit to take. The clock is ticking, so which awards are booking (or have already booked)?