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

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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!

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