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Get Your Tickets Now! Last Day Before the United Devaluation – And Everything You Need To Know

by on January 31, 2014 · 45 comments

in United

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Today is January 31 – and that means tomorrow is the day we’ve all been dreading for months now: the day that United will devalue its award chart and drive the cost of mileage awards up 90% in some instances.

Before you panic, remember, you’ve got the rest of today to book whatever awards you can before these changes go into effect. With that in mind, I wanted to put together a comprehensive post reminding you about the changes, with suggestions of what awards you should book while you still can before their award requirements go up astronomically, and how you can top up your United account from other sources at the last minute if you need to score a few extra miles in a hurry.

The Devaluation

United announced in November that awards booked on or after February 1, 2014 would be going up in price. Here’s a quick look at the new award chart from North America on United itself.

Here's what the new chart will look like from North America.

Here’s what the new chart will look like from North America.

 

here are links to the current chart and the new chart:

Old United Award Chart Through January 31, 2014

New United Award Chart Starting February 1, 2014

Now the really bad news is that while awards on United itself will be going up, those on its partner airlines like Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines will be going up even more! Here’s a quick chart I drew up outlining the old award levels versus the new ones on both United and its partners for awards originating in North America at the saver level in Economy, Business and First Class each way. I’ve bolded award levels that will change

OLD NEW UNITED NEW PARTNER
Mainland US/Canada 12.5
25
35
12.5
25
35
12.5
25
35
Hawaii 20
40
50
22.5
40
50
22.5
40
50
Mexico 17.5
30
40
17.5
30
40
17.5
30
40
Central America 17.5
30
40
17.5
30
40
17.5
30
40
Caribbean 17.5
30
40
17.5
30
40
17.5
30
40
Northern South America 20
35
45
20
35
45
25
35
45
Southern South America 30
50
67.5
30
55
70
30
55
70
Europe 30
50
67.5
30
57.5
80
30
70
110
Northern Africa 40
60
70
40
70
85
40
80
130
Central/Southern Africa 40
60
75
40
70
85
40
80
130
Middle East 40
60
75
42.5
70
90
42.5
80
140
Central Asia 40
60
80
42.5
70
90
42.5
80
140
South Asia 32.5
60
70
40
70
80
40
80
130
North Asia 32.5
60
70
35
70
80
35
80
120
Japan 32.5
60
67.5
35
65
80
35
75
110
Oceania 35
60
75
35
65
80
35
75
110
Australia/New Zealand 40
67.5
80
40
70
80
40
80
130

As you can see, some redemptions on United itself aren’t changing and many of the devaluations occurring are on business and first class redemptions. Domestic redemptions on United will remain 25/50/70 for economy, business and first.

However, a lot of other popular redemptions will change. Awards to Hawaii will now cost 45,000 miles in coach instead of 40,000 miles roundtrip. 5,000 miles isn’t much, but that’s still a 12.5% increase.

For Southern South America, you’ll now be paying 10,000 more miles roundtrip in business class and 5,000 more miles roundtrip in first; and business and first class redemptions from North America to Europe are going up dramatically. They are currently 50,000 miles each way in business and 67,500 miles each way in first. After the devaluation, they will be 57,500 miles in business (115,000 miles roundtrip) and 80,000 miles in first (160,000). That represents a 15% increase for business class redemptions and an 18.5% increase in first class.

Using United miles to Asia has been a great option since the airline has its own extensive list of routes to major destinations there. Here’s how much it’ll currently cost you to fly to various parts using United miles roundtrip.

Japan: 65/120/135
North Asia and South Asia: 65/120/140
Central Asia: 80/120/160

Post-devaluation, here’s what it’ll cost you.

Japan: 70/130/160
North Asia: 70/140/160
South Asia: 80/140/160
Central Asia: 85/140/180

The jump from 135,000 miles to 160,000 miles for first class to Japan and the fact that all these business class awards are now going to cost 140,000 miles roundtrip is going to make redeeming miles a much more expensive proposition for a lot of flyers.

But it’s the partner awards that are going to be the most painful.

United now has a Star Alliance partner chart that's distinct from its own.

United now has a Star Alliance partner chart that’s distinct from its own.

It’s pretty much all bad news here once you get out of North/Central America and the Caribbean.

Economy awards to Europe will remain 60,000 miles roundtrip, but business class awards are increasing 40% to 140,000 miles, and first class awards are up to 220,000 miles – up 85,000 miles or 63%! I

To get to either Northern or Southern Africa, you’ll be paying 80/160/260, instead of 80/120/150 for economy, business and first. That’s right – a first class ticket will now be 110,000 miles more expensive – that’s a 73% jump.

The largest bump, first class redemptions to the Middle East will now be 280,000 miles roundtrip! That’s up from 150,000 miles – an 87% jump. The increases to Asia are as follows:

Japan: +5,000 in economy, +30,000 in business, +85,000 in first
North Asia: +5,000 in economy, +40,000 in business and +100,000 in first
South Asia: +15,000 in economy, +40,000 miles in business and +120,000 miles in first
Central Asia: +5,000 in economy, +40,000 miles in business and +120,000 miles in first

Finally, getting to Oceania and Australia/New Zealand is also getting a lot more expensive. Though economy award remain the same for both, to get to Oceania, you’ll be paying 150,000 miles instead of 120,000 miles in business, and a whopping 220,000 miles instead of 150,000 miles in first class – an increase of 70,000 miles. While getting to Australia/New Zealand in business class on a partner will be will be up 25,000 miles to 160,000, and first class awards will require 260,000 miles roundtrip – an increase of 100,000 miles.

Overall, it’s a lot of disappointing news and we’ll all be using a lot more miles come February to book awards, whether it’s on United or one of its partners. That’s why it’s imperative that if you have awards in mind, or even think you might want to go somewhere, you book them today!

Awards To Book

Last week, I posted a list of the Top 12 Awards to Book Before the United Devaluation. While I don’t usually suggest speculatively booking awards, given some of these mileage increases and the fact that United does not re-price awards if you keep the same routing and just change dates so that you can change the dates on awards for free and maintain the pre-devaluation award levels, if you have the miles and an idea of routes you want to fly, you might want to get some things booked even if you’ll change them later.

Among the top ones I would book are:

My seat, 84C.

Snag that Lufthansa First Class seat now!

Lufthansa First Class: This has to be one of the nicest commercial first class products in the sky. Right now, it’ll cost you just 67,500 miles each way from the US to Europe, but after February 1, each way will cost you 110,000 miles!

South African Airways business class JFK-Johannesburg-Capetown-Johannesburg-IAD-JFK for only 110,000 Dividend Miles + modest taxes/fees

South African Airways business class.

South African Airways Business Class:  South African Airways business class is a little outdated, but it’s still the best way to get from the US to South Africa, in my opinion with flights from JFK and IAD to Johannesburg. This redemption is 60,000 miles each way currently, but come February 1, it’ll cost you 80,000 miles – that’s 40,000 more miles roundtrip.

EVA Royal Laurel Class to Taipei and Beyond:  I really loved my experience in EVA’s Royal Laurel business class. You can still book an award to North Asia in business class for just 60,000 miles each way, but toorrow this partner award will require 80,000 miles each way – a 33% jump!

ANA First Sqaure

Get your ticket in ANA first class before tomorrow!

ANA First Class Square Suites: Some of ANA’s 777-300′s feature its new first class suites, which are spacious square pods with large entertainment monitors, plenty of storage and all the plugs you could want. Right now an award from New York to Tokyo will require 67,500 miles each way, but after February 1, it’ll be 110,000 miles – nearly double!

US Airways Awards: If you want to book US Airways awards using your United miles, you better do so now because on March 31st they leave Star Alliance and will no longer be bookable. Business class awards to Europe in US Airways’ flagship Envoy seats is a good use of miles since there is availability from non-United hubs to plenty of destinations throughout Europe. Now that award will cost you 50,000 miles each way, but next month, it’ll shoot up to 70,000 miles each way!

There are plenty of others to choose from as well, especially if there is an airline – like Singapore or Turkish – or a region, like the Middle East or Australia that you want to get to using your miles, so get your plans in order and start booking.

Transfer Partners

So your head is probably spinning with possible award bookings, and chances are you don’t have all the miles in your account to book them all. Don’t panic – there are still a couple ways to top up your account quickly.  If you are a Chase credit cardholder of one of the products that accrues Ultimate Rewards points like the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold and Ink Plus, you can make instant transfers into United MileagePlus accounts at a 1:1 ratio, so that’s the best, cheapest way to top up your account for last-minute bookings.

The quickest way to top up your account is with Ultimate Rewards points.

The quickest way to top up your account is with Ultimate Rewards points.

You can also just buy United miles for about 3.7 cents each up to 150,000 miles, or you can transfer up to 25,000 miles per recipient’s account per calendar year at a cost of 1.5 cents per  mile plus a $30 processing charge. Both are expensive options, but might do in a pinch if you just need a little top-off for your account.

Hopefully many of you have already booked your awards, but if not, then make today count! There are bound to be long hold times on the phone with United MileagePlus agents, so book what you can online, and report back on the awards you’re able to score in the comments below. Good luck!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Ven

    Meh. Just book more economy tickets on United, outside of south asia those are not changing much. First class is awesome, but don’t see the benefit beyond the “Gotta do it at least once” thing. I could be in the minority, I travel for the experience of the destination and don’t really care how I get there.

  • Jeff

    If we’re waiting for points to post, any idea if putting awards on hold will lock in current rates?

  • Matt

    Please remind your readers that not only is the MileagePlus program being devalued, but so too are all of the Chase credit card products you’re still pitching so feverishly.

  • Eric

    Booked 2 one way tickets to Paris for 30k each. Than the return flight was 55k each way in coach. Instead if I fly AerLingus through Dublin its 50k in Business! Thanks for the heads up and can’t wait to experience business class for the first time :) Now trying to stock pile Chase points to transfer to Hyatt to stay at the Vendome.

  • Tessa

    Hi. United is still saying that if you change dates after feb 1st that you’ll have to pay a change fee and the difference in points. Can you please confirm where you got the info that says there will be no charge. TIA!

  • Jim

    That flat screen TV is looking better now on the awards Merchandise!

  • John Civitello

    thank you. this post had me all worried.. i dont see the point in flying first class to a vacation on points. if you cant survive 8 hours in economy/coach while headed to europe give me a break. first world problems much? everytime i fly to europe from IAH the plane is half empty and i can usually snag a whole row of seats to myself anyway.

  • thepointsguy

    Yes, if you follow the link in the text you’re referring to, you’ll see the FT thread where UA Insider said the following: “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.”

  • pcg

    You should consider getting the Chase Hyatt card, as it comes with two free nights st any property worldwide… including the Park Hyatt Vendome, which is where *I* burned my free nights last year. :-)

  • Justin

    Europe on partners to me is the biggest kick in my tail since we’ve been flying over there more in Biz/First but we have enough options other than SA to Europe. We’re booked one way on a SA Envoy saver to Glasgow in August and I’m more concerned about what happens after US leaves than about this devaluation if I need to make changes.

  • EMS1022

    Brian – I have been loading up on UR points, but is this a bad move now? Living in the NYC area, should I focus on accumulating different points. AA? Delta? What do you think? Thanks!

  • pcg

    Clearly you don’t travel with children. The experience of business class is better when you’re traveling alone, but a godsend when traveling with two kids under six, or a lap infant, or the whole array of four kids. United has made that so, so much harder with this devaluation…which is why yesterday I booked six business class seats in US Envoy LAX-PHL-MAD for August. :-)

  • shay peleg

    You get food you can eat + 2-3 suitcases + Style +lounge if you need it with an small increase of miles with most normal programs

  • Gus

    Does the following make any value sense? IAD-PEK Global First PEK-BKK Thai First Class stopover then BKK-SYD Thai First Class SYD-AKL Air New Zealand Business then AKL-NRT Air New Zealand Business NRT-HNL Global First then add HNL-BWI in US Airways First Class for 160k each person? Thanks

  • Paul Goecke

    Just burned 1 million miles over the last month. Tokyo, Paris, Barcelona and Octoberfest. I will never again fly United Airlines. I hope they ready this.

  • Paul Goecke

    I can never find available dates at the Vendome.

  • cms1980

    Eric – FWIW, I was there over new years for a week. it was a glorious property. if there is any way (if you are not already) see about becoming diamond for their included breakfast. it is 50 euro pp. excellent service, smallish hotel, beautiful to look at, and heated bathroom floors! worth the stockpile in my opinion.

  • Eric

    I don’t travel enough yet (I have a 6 month old baby so I am anchored in NY for the foreseeable future) to earn Diamond. However, I am thinking of whether to do a all points suite or a cash + points standard room because I can aim to earn elite status through that stay (going for a week). I am thinking of switching my hotel spend to the Hyatt properties, but I am SPG Gold through the Amex Platinum (although after the recent devaluation, I am reconsidering the need for Amex Plat)

  • cms1980

    when i was there, the rooms were over 1k a nite before tax. i was in a park suite king. while it was nice and rather large, i cant say it was OMG SO BIG! the bathroom was large, but again – im not sure i would say its TOTALLY worth it. if you can swing the C & P, then you have a valid reason for doing so. i might just investigate the size of the suite vs reg room before committing. just something to consider.
    im also spg gold, but continue to earn that bc of the breadth of properties as well as transfer opps. maybe dump the amex plat and get the amex spg to continue. hyatt is amazing, no doubt, but there are sadly more spg’s around.

  • Curtis

    We are burning 980k miles due to this devaluation. Lots of RTW trips thanks to stops allowed in Europe to/from Asia. Thank you for pushing us to go ahead and get this stuff booked and those miles off of your books, United! We will certainly not focus on United again due to this crazy increase.

  • Watson

    Thanks for the warning. Just booked my trip to China for school this summer, only 60k business class one way. Hoping to fly home via another carriers points as well. Happy to get rid of my points since I am done with United after a recent customer service issue.

  • Eric

    I agree—the rep on the phone offered me 30k for a park suite (I thought that the 30k was for standard) but I am waiting for me and my wife’s annual dividend bonus on the freedom & sapphire cards before consolidating and than making the reservation (fingers crossed there will still be availability in October) As for SPG, I know that there are more, and I think this year I will re-evaluate my credit needs, but the SPG amex is most certainly on my radar. Thanks for the heads up on the suite at the Vendome. It’s my a belated 1 year anniversary / honeymoon trip so I have the urge to splurge a bit.

  • cms1980

    great!! enjoy the trip! and splurge you will – the hotel is nestled amongst some pretty amazing jewelry stores…..!

  • Rob Brown

    Scored two tickets from FRA to JFK in first on Lufthansa! Rebooking using the reservation later this summer or fall.

  • http://nerdnewsandreviews.com Wade

    It will not, to the best of my knowledge, because you still complete a full booking after the computer systems have switched to the new rates.

  • BartNY

    I booked a United first class award back in December JFK-SFO-NRT
    I JUST FINALLY found availability with Air Nippon (DIRECT!) but on Business???
    Do I switch to AIr Nippon business or keep United GlobalFirst on 747?!?!

  • Tessa

    Thanks. I was on the phone with united and two reps said it would require making up the points even if date only is changed ugh. Well booking anyway and hoping we can just make it work! Thanks.

  • Andrew

    Ok, so you find a LH FC award to book to get in on the lower number of miles. Since LH award availability is only 2 weeks out, how do you keep that award active for months. Do you have to keep checking a changing the award? If the date of the flight comes and you have not changed/ cancelled the award, do you lose miles?

  • NguyenVanFalk

    Super jealous and I wish you the best on what sounds like some awesome trips ahead!

  • Curtis

    Thanks! Hitting up Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, China (multiple cities), Seoul, and Palau. Quick stops in many places along the way. Got my parents to burn about 700 on trips to Taiwan & China with me, and also to Bali and all over Australia. Everything in Business/First. Might as well because I don’t plan on flying *A again for a while in these classes.

  • Curtis

    This is not necessarily true. I got word from multiple supervisors that if you were booked in an F award but only J was available for one leg (like for LH since they don’t release F until T-14), as long as nothing changes but the bump from J to F on an already paid for F award, this change should be allowed.

  • rtwin35days

    Scored with 2 first class one way tickets to Burma at the end of this year. Even included 2 stopovers ( less than 24 hours): LAX- ICN on Asiana in first. Spend the night in downtown Seoul on new years eve. Next day ICN-HKG (business), HKG-BKK(first),Spend the night in Bangkok before making final connection: BKK-RGN. 70.000 miles plus $23.40 each. Now hoping that Asiana will be flying the new A380 between LAX and ICN instead of the 747-400. Return flight will be on ANA after transferring amex points.
    Thanks Brian for all your info. Before following you and the blog I would have used these miles for an overpriced award in economy.

  • Diotallevi

    I’ve flown United first class once from NRT-IAD on a 747, and have flown ANA (All Nippon) business class several times from IAD or JFK to NRT on the old and new 777, and I personally would take any ANA business class over United first any day of the week.

  • Fernando

    Here’s to Tokyo, Bangkok, Phuket…a little bit of Seoul…and back to LA…perfect timing for our 10th year anniversary with my partner! United Global First and some Asiana Business! THX Brian!

  • mds426

    Just burned some miles for a trip through Beijing in May. 67.5K miles for Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class is a pretty good deal…until tomorrow…

  • Ven

    You can get suitcases with status/credit cards. The food is better, but it is one, maybe two meals. Nobody cares that you fly first class/business class so I don’t see where style comes in, If people do care, then you probably need new friends. A single $400 credit card fee will buy you lounge access for the year. I wouldn’t consider at least a 1.5x redemption rate a small increase in miles, especially when you are booking multiple tickets. But hey, to each his own.

  • thanh

    I would say if you and your friends are not ones who like finer things in life then most of these travel blogs are not for you lot…

  • Emilio

    First timer here, but got an award PHU-BKK-HND on X (thai and ANA flights) and then HND-PEK on I (ANA) and on to the US on O (PEK-IAH) CA Forbidden Pavilion Suite. All for 82,500 miles, most of which i got from Chase Freedom and Sapphirre Preferred signup/use. To get to Europe as i puzzle this RTW trip, i booked a 12.5k Air France promo, thanks to this very blog. I am hooked! -Emilio

  • Ven

    I prefer that after I land. The freaking bus in the sky I take to get to new destinations does not matter to me

  • Darren

    I just did a search on north asia to oceania and it gave the old pricing still. Did they not update the online award search engine with the new pricing tiers?

  • Sean Hall

    I’m fat and even I can go 8 hours without having to have top notch cuisine. I agree that anything under 8 hours is not worthy of anything other than economy. My Father used to pile 6 of us in a Caprice Classic and drive 12 hours straight. Other than the random beatings it was ok.

  • Sean Hall

    But no, I can’t eat 2-3 suitcases

  • wsu

    I am trying to book a trip to India for 4 passengers in business class. I cannot get 4 tickets directly to India, so I have to select flights separately from US to Europe, Europe to India. If I buy ticket now using lower award chart, if later I need to make a change to the date not routing, is there a fee on United. I was told by United rep that they charge $75 fee for making changes. I see it on United website as well.

  • Dick

    I drove that car for a few years out of high school. Much more comfortable than United’s economy seats.

  • augias

    I think the tickets are priced by the computer, not manually — so it doesn’t matter what they think – is that right?

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