Finding The (Small) Silver Lining in United’s Award Chart Devaluation

by on February 3, 2014 · 18 comments

in Maximize Monday, United

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Back in November, United announced it would be devaluing its award chart and charging a lot more miles for various awards starting February 1. We all got a two-day last-minute reprieve late Friday night, but the new, higher award levels should now be live. Though a lot of awards have gone up drastically in price – especially premium cabin award tickets on partner airlines, there are still a few decent redemptions on the United award chart that could hold great value for certain flyers, as Australian Business Traveller pointed out this weekend.

So today I wanted to take a look at a few more award chart sweet spots I found by combing through the old and new charts and where you might still be able to find some decent redemptions.

North America

In terms of North America awards within the continental US and Canada – there have been no mileage level changes, so you can continuing flying United and its partners at the same levels of 12,500, 25,000 and 35,000 each way in economy, business and first class, so  if you’re primarily interested in domestic redemptions, you’re in luck.

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.09.03 PMNorth America to Hawaii

The other good news if you’re in North America is that if you want a business or first class ticket to Hawaii, you’ll still be paying the same amount in miles – 40,000 in business and 50,000 in first each way, though coach redemptions have gone up 2,500 miles in each direction.

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.10.22 PMLikewise, both United and partners awards from North America to Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean are all remaining the same.

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.11.39 PMThere are various other regions where either economy or first class redemptions are remaining the same on United itself, but nothing I would call over-the-top amazing.


However – and this is why the Australian Business Traveller article was so interesting – there are actually a few spots where the new award chart is significantly lower! It pointed out the benefit to Australian flyers of flying to South Asia including Singapore and Thailand.

Before the award chart change it would have cost 30,000, 45,000 or 60,000 miles each way between Australia and South Asia per the chart below:

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.13.04 PM

Old Australia-South Asia awards.

However, now those same awards will cost the following amounts:

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 7.26.51 AM

These redemptions are now almost half the price as previously! That means you could fly Sydney to Bangkok in Thai’s first class for just 40,000 miles each way, a pretty great deal given how much award availability there is on this route.

There's plenty of award availability on applicable routes (note, mileage levels are the old ones).

There’s plenty of award availability on applicable routes (note, mileage levels are the old ones).

There are a couple other bright spots I was able to pinpoint as well. Speaking of Australia, awards to North Asia will also be cheaper:

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.23.42 PMAt 20,000, 40,000, or 50,000 in economy, business or first class each way as opposed to their former levels of 35,000/50,000/65,000, which is a pretty decent discount of 10-15,000 miles in each class in each direction.

Awards from Australia to the Middle East are also going down

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.41.00 PMCompared to 45,000/67,500/87,500 now.

From the Middle East, it’ll cost you the following amounts to get to South and North Asia:

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.47.11 PMWhereas previously, it would have cost you:

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.48.11 PMSo you’re doing a little bit better in coach and business class, though first class has skyrocketed. It’ll also be marginally cheaper to get between Japan and the Middle East in economy and business.

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.55.30 PMAlthough most awards to/from Europe are going up, those to Central Asia in economy and business are actually going down by 5,000 miles in each direction to the 25,000 and 45,000 miles respectively:

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 6.12.45 PMAnd to Oceania from Europe, you’ll only be charged the following amounts:

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 6.19.53 PMSaving you 10,000 miles each way in business and economy compared to the old values:

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 6.18.54 PMSo while I don’t want to sugarcoat the devaluation – it was a massive amount of bad news and most awards are a lot more expensive – especially on the partner award chart from which I culled these numbers, there are at least a couple of interesting routes to explore and if you’re an Australia-based member of Mileage Plus, you have some great new options to fly for less.

This is far from an exhaustive roundup, and there are several more coach redemptions that did go down between regions, so if you find any additional ones that I missed or think I should include, please comment with them below and I can add them in!

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  • Justin

    So where are we valuing MileagePlus miles now? I’m hearing 1.5-1.8 cents per mile. I’m debating whether to come over to American/US since getting the 100k bonus on the Citi Exec and just getting the buy/gift email about the 100 percent bonus for Dividend Miles (50k + 50k = $1750.)

  • John

    When will the new award prices take affect because it still shows the old pricing as of this morning?

  • tigermark82

    Finding availability to Hawaii in Business/First is nearly impossible. I’ve searched every route the UA flies to HNL and couldn’t find a single seat.

  • Jeremy

    Thanks Brian – I have been looking for a Europe-focussed analysis of the devaluation (and one which talks about economy redemptions) for some time. The central asia (including sri lanka and maldives) 25k seems very good value indeed. turkish airlines availability on both of those routes is wide open (though still pricing at the old rates).

    thanks again! any european FTs with thoughts on ex-London united options id be interested to read your thoughts.


  • Justin

    Question Regarding:

    Although most awards to/from Europe are going up, those to Central Asia in economy and business are actually going down by 5,000 miles in each direction to the 25,000 and 45,000 miles respectively

    Is this the price from Europe to Central Asia (ie Maldives per Jeremy comment) or North America to Central Asia?

  • Scott

    I just tried a search for award flights from NYC to London on 6/4/2014 and it didn’t pull up anything—is it going to take some time for their search to work? Is anyone else experiencing problems?

  • thepointsguy

    I think they’re updating their technology to load the new award chart, unfortunately

  • thepointsguy

    I think the switchover is happening as we speak (type)

  • Sherman

    I was going to ask you to post something like this! Asia-Australia is a huge change and those flights on average have much better service than US flights. Even their Business class is similar to US first class.

  • longhaul99

    Middle East to S Asia is going UP for business class, not down. Either way, a much better option is using Aadvantage which is 30K business each way with such carriers as Qatar, Etihad and CX.

  • Milohoss

    Have you guys been following the PQD Bomb on Ultimate Rewards on Flyer Talk?

    Looks like something much worse than the general devaluation (at least for those of us who use points for tickets)

  • dee seiffer

    Yes. I was looking for award flights for December and nothing is coming up.

  • Ben

    Same…I tried multiple flights to various places and nothing came back…system is updating it seems…

  • Janelle

    Yeah… I was trying to book and award to Paris in September and did not get any results…kept changing dates and nothing :(

  • E

    Isn’t to aus 40k in F?

  • bman

    You HAVE to check this out – >

  • EricSan

    I redeemed an award business round-trip from BKK-MEL last year for 90,000 miles, called United customer service today and asked if they can adjust redemption miles for me to the new rate of 60k miles. They gladly helped and I received 30,000 miles back and $2 refunded for the tax difference.

  • Betty Tenmatay Lopez

    I was able to book a flight Toronto to Singapore via Oslo(stop over) round trip economy before devaluation it was 65000, now its 80,000 going to Asia from Toronto.

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