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Prices for United Awards Will Increase, Decrease on June 15

Prices for United Awards Will Increase, Decrease on June 15

Ninety-nine times out of 100, a change to a loyalty program’s award chart is a change for the worse.

So when it was announced on United’s website that "updates are coming to the United Mileage Plus award charts," there was legitimate cause for concern. In the past, "updates" has been code for downgrades: higher prices, more restrictions.

This update proves to be the exception to the rule. While there are changes for the worse, there are improvements as well.

Here’s a summary of the changes that take effect for bookings made on or after June 15:

  • New: Domestic award flights 700 miles or shorter can be booked for 10,000 miles each way.
  • Price Decreases: First- and business-class awards to North Asia or South Asia and Central or Southern Africa will be 5,000 miles cheaper, as will business-class awards to Europe and Japan and coach awards to Central and South Africa.
  • Price Increases: Awards to the Middle East in business will increase by 5,000 miles, as will coach awards from North America to Europe and Southern South America.

    Domestic upgrades from the cheapest coach fares increase from 15,000 miles plus a $50 co-pay each way to 20,000 miles plus a $75 co-pay.

    For Europe flights, upgrades from full coach increase from 10,000 to 15,000 miles, and the cash co-pay for upgrades from discounted coach increase from $500 to $550.

    For Asia flights, the price to upgrade from full coach to business will increase from 12,500 miles to 20,000 (from Y fares) or 30,000 miles (from B fares). Upgrades from discounted coach will increase from 25,000 miles plus a $500 co-pay to 30,000 miles plus a $600 co-pay.

The Net Effect

The higher co-pays for upgrades are a definitive negative. But that’s offset by the new short-haul awards, and the lower prices for some international first- and business-class awards.

Bottom line: The overall effect of the changes for most Mileage Plus members will be neutral or even slightly positive.

United’s communication of the changes bears mention as well.

By announcing the upcoming changes three months in advance, United has given Mileage Plus members plenty of time to review them and book awards that will increase in price before June 15, or wait until the changes take effect to book awards that will decrease in price.

On the other hand, United could have done a much better job of communicating the changes in a way that allows for easy before-and-after comparisons. Leaving it to Mileage Plus members (or commentators like myself) to compare the old and new award charts and ferret out the changes is inconsiderate at best. And given the generally benign effect of the changes, such obfuscation is as unnecessary as it is unhelpful.

Reader Reality Check

How will the upcoming changes to Mileage Plus affect you?

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  • pua kealoha

    Seven hundred miles is paltry … who cares about that ‘benefit?’ For those of us who do travel to Europe or South America, the changes hurt ….

  • J Maxwell

    You neglected to mention the dramatic increases in “Code 17” (Round-the-World) fares. Although not unexpected, these changes are not at all favorable to me. I’ve been saving miles for a couple of years for a 220,000 mile RTW fare in Business Class. On June 15, that fare increases to 300,000 miles, and in First Class to a whopping 400,000 miles needed for redemption. Well, at least I know that I have through June 14 to try to schedule it. Perhaps I’ll just go to Japan three times in coach – after downloading and scrutinizing the fare tables, that fare seems to be the same, at 65,000 miles.

  • don

    United and Continental combined could be the most compelling airline and program to participate in.Unfortunately unless stinginess with seats at the saver level don’t improve vastly I will never return to the airline again as a paying revenue customer.
    I was once a loyal 100k plus(1k) customer.Though I would like to return it will take United playing fairer.We already have one Delta where there is no hope.For today I continue to fly American as a top tier Emerald One World member.On my off days being I find little value as a Mileage Plus non elite member I enjoy flying Virgin America.Though their program is awful I enjoy the flying experience better with stunning new aircraft and their responsive customer service so there is a trade off.United has an opportunity of a lifetime.My guess is they will limit seats,return to Starnet blocking and gouge passengers trying to use their size to control the market…….I hope I am wrong
    I would love to fly with them again and be loyal but it looks doubtful.Fingers crossed for a miracle

  • Marty Magee

    Who needs an upgrade on 700 mile flights.
    I will be looking to find a new partner other then United. I fly a lot to Vegas, LA & Seattle from Chicago. $75 buys a lot of food & beverages.
    Not a good move by UA.

  • caryn cross


  • J Maxwell

    @Caryn: As stated on, simply call the Continental Reward Desk at 800.344.1411 to reserve your Round-The-World flights. Have your planned dates, route, and destination cities planned out in advance, WITH plenty of alternatives! There is a $25 fee because of the complexity of the routing.

    Note that there is a six-stopover limit on a Code 17, and all travel must be completed within 30 days. Also all flights MUST be East-to-West or vice versa. It could be the trip of a lifetime – have fun!

  • Disco

    I just subscribed the the Crier, and apparently just in time! I too have been saving for years for a United RTW ticket,and now find that the fare will jump. I’ve got 175,000 miles and might be able to get to 220,000 by June. But reading the Star Alliance RTW rules has my head spinning (including a reference to having up to 1 year to travel- counter to JMaxwell’s note) Is there a way to find a consultant or other helpful resource that can help me figure out how to book the best itinerary given the short time to compile miles and book?

  • Tim Winship

    Disco – If you’re willing to pay a fee for award booking assistance, try Brett Snyder at

  • Ido

    The truth of the matter is that it is all about gifts in the end of the day, and nothing comes free, especially in the world of traveling and flights. It is all moved by the prices of gasoline in the end of the day, and as my grandpa used to say “when talking gifts, you never look the horse inside the…”
    So just keep traveling an dtake it easy. A mile here and a mile there, I mean, come on, when you search the internet for prices you can come up with amazing deals, especially for last minute holidays, and i’m sure 90% of us don’t even bother with the points we collect anyway.
    Enjoy and happy travels
    Ido at