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This has been a kind of busy week in the miles and points world, so there are some pretty big happenings I haven’t fully covered here quite yet. One of those pretty big happenings is how things look over on United.com after the changes that kicked in on November 1st.
Some Prices Went Up, Some Came Down
Not surprisingly, the awards that we were told would get pricier have, and the awards we were told would get cheaper largely have as well. You can now fly up to 800 miles within a region for as low as 8,000 United miles. This means you can fly as far as about Zurich to Dublin or Narita to Seoul for just 8,000 United miles, which is a really pretty good value in many cases. Previously these sort of flights started at about 15,000 United miles each way. These awards do not have to be on United-operated flights, and instead, you can fly partners such as Asiana, SWISS, Aer Lingus, and more.
Award Availability Stayed the Same
Anyone who was hoping that award availability might get better as award prices went up can exhale a slow and sad amount of airline tinged breath as I haven’t really noticed any obvious changes in availability. Just as before, economy saver award availability is pretty darn solid, but business/first class is a much more mixed bag. I can say with certainty that the premium routes to Hawaii such as those through Houston and Newark had no business/first class award availability before 11/1, and they still have none available today.
The first class saver award rate for those routes went up from 40,000 to 50,000 miles each way, but they could peg that number at any amount they want because there are zero nonstop saver first class awards as far out as the schedule goes. Zero. Your only choice, if you want to use miles to sit up front in a lie-flat seat, is to pay the new 95,000 mile Everyday award rate. Speaking of the Everyday award rate…
Dynamic Everyday Pricing Hasn’t Yet Kicked In
I have checked routes all over the world and have not found any Everyday dynamic pricing just yet. As you may recall, United is keeping saver awards, but they are doing away with the two-tiered award pricing model we are used to and will have a dynamically priced Everyday award level to go along with the Saver award level. They do place upper limits on the Everyday award prices, but depending on the route, demand, what their Ouiji Board says, the award price could be somewhere between the minimum saver award rate and the maximum Everyday rate.
Only time will tell how good or bad this is for us, but I could see it going either way. If it doesn’t impact saver award availability it may be good, but if there are fewer saver awards because they can goose a few thousand more miles out of us by offering a slightly higher priced Everyday award, that would be bad. If there are a bunch of awards that jump to the new maximum threshold that would also obviously be very bad.
To use a basic example, during ski season cash prices to fly into ski towns can be very expensive, so we like to use miles for those trips. United economy award prices from Houston to Vail are currently either 12,500 miles or 25,000 miles each way, end of story. However, with dynamic Everyday prices maybe we will see some dates that are currently 25,000 miles go to say 15,000 or 17,500 miles as they still have more demand than would warrant a Saver award, but perhaps they don’t need to be at 25,000 miles. On the flip side, this could backfire since the upper limit on this and other lower 48 economy routes will jump to 32,500 miles each way, which is clearly much higher than the current 25k cap.
Either way, this round of changes hasn’t really kicked in yet, but I imagine it is likely we will see this switch over this weekend since there is a banner on United.com that says the website will be down for bookings and reservations tonight (November 4th) at 2 AM for maintenance. That could be entirely coincidental, but it makes sense to me that the changes are made then.
New Award Booking Calendar
Finally, it is worth mentioning that the new award booking calendar looks a little different than the old one. You will now see your selected date, but also a week of other prices displayed above your selected date. I suppose this makes a lot of sense if we are going to see more variably priced awards on different days.
If you want to see more days at once you can select “View 30 Day Calendar” as shown above in small blue font under the first day of the week. This will then open up a 30 day calendar as shown below. The least expensive day to fly will be highlighted in green.
If you miss the old 60 day month by month calendars that you may be used to, they still exist if you select “My Dates are Flexible” when you start your award search. It is possible they get rid of this option at some point, but it is still there as of right now.
I like looking at two months of award availability at a time, though this view has historically been buggy and unreliable, though I do think that its functionality has gotten better as of late.
Have you spent some time on United’s website since the 11/1 changes kicked in? What are your initial thoughts?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.