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New Award Fee Is a Minus for United’s Mileage Plus

New Award Fee Is a Minus for United’s Mileage Plus

Yesterday, members of United’s Mileage Plus program received an email with the subject line "Important changes to Mileage Plus award fees."

That’s almost never good.

And it wasn’t in this case.

For mileage Plus members, the following changes will take effect on June 15:

  • 1. A $75 "close-in booking fee" will be reinstated for awards booked within 21 days of travel. Premier and Silver elite members will be charged $50; Gold and Premier Executive members will pay $25; and 1K, Global Services, Platinum, and Presidential Platinum members can continue to book fee-free.
  • 2. The fee to change award bookings (origin, destination, or connection city) will decrease from $150 to $75 for non-elites, $50 for Premier and Silver Elite members, and $25 for Premier Executive and Gold members. There will be no change fee for 1K, Global Services, Platinum, and Presidential Platinum members.
  • 3. The fee to cancel an award and redeposit the miles will decrease for elites, from $150 to $125 for Premier and Silver members, and $100 for Premier Executive and Gold members. The fee will continue to be waived for 1K, Global Services, Platinum, and Presidential Platinum members.

Bottom Line: a Minus for Mileage Plus

In their email announcement, United explains away the changes as a necessary byproduct of the United-Continental merger: "We’re revising certain Mileage Plus and OnePass award fees to make them consistent across both programs."

Consistency, however, is hardly a component of consumer value, and the net effect of the changes is a significant devaluation of a Mileage Plus mile, and thus of the program itself.

When United discontinued its award booking rush fees in July 2009, the company enthused as follows: "Being the first airline to eliminate the last-minute booking fee will make it easier for our members to use their miles, and it is one of the many steps we are taking to make Mileage Plus the most rewarding loyalty program for them."

By the airline’s own logic, reinstating the fee will make it harder for Mileage Plus members to use their miles, and make the program a less rewarding one.

Reader Reality Check

Which of the upcoming changes has the most impact on your participation in United’s program?

How does this change affect your perception of Mileage Plus?

Other Posts of Interest

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  • j mat dee

    Typical of UA – give with one hand, and take back lots more with the other. If I were not 1K I would be really “ticked.” So I am just ticked, not really ticked! Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze — get more for doing less: United’s motto. Even their own employees agree that United is money hungry.

  • m

    Wow, I flew United last summer and kind of like the LAX terminal setting. I came back and attempted but was denied to get a United credit card. Thank goodness. The denial allowed me not to stick with the United. Now I have an AA credit card; hope AA is better.

  • Jim G

    The close in award fees combined with the limited mileage credit on discounted fares was what drove me away from the AA program. I’m typically either 1K or GS on UA, so it won’t directly affect me, but for my family and employees that I’ve encouraged to fly UA, it’s a fairly significant negative. With even loyalty challenged programs like Qantas improving, it’s tough to see how this improves UA’s position in the market.

  • Nancy Engelsberg (NEJE)

    Speaking of money hungry: I just began flying UA, coming from Delta which followed TWA. Never before have I been on a 4 hour trip — or even a 1 and 1/2 hour trip where the airline offered not so much as a pretzel, for Heaven’s sakes!

  • don

    This is why monopolies are bad for the public
    with these mergers United and others can control the market
    just wait till the merger is finalized
    You ain’t seen nothing yet many more fees coming!

  • David C

    For my travels, United is consistently $50-100 less expensive than their competitors. With those savings, I could buy 100 bags of pretzels and not gripe about it.

  • DaveS

    And they’ve been on a campaign that they’re the airline that really wants you to use your miles. I suppose that push is over.

  • Jen

    It’s all one big ridiculous scam!!!!!

  • Chris D.

    I am tired of getting screwed by UA and other frequent flyer programs. The United $75 fee for travel within 21 days is robbery. These are e-tickets so there is zero cost to them. It’s basically some United analyst that has thought up yet another way to screw their mleage plus members. I’m switching from using a United Visa to Costco’s Amex which grants up to 4% cash back.

  • LMD

    The change fees for rebooking or canceling an award ticket infuriates me. $150 to change or cancel an award ticket and redeposit points? And who is this person doing my transaction for a “close in booking fee?” It’s all automated online… there is no travel agent or airline rep being paid to perform my transaction. Close in book fee is a SCAM!!!

  • AJ

    United the Unfriendly skies. United has totally screwed up what was Continental. Airline now is now almost always the most expensive option. Service sucks. They took all the newer Continental planes and moved them out of Newark.

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