Major United Mileage Plus Devaluation: 33%-46% increase in award prices to/from Europe

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In this morning’s post about overvaluing flexibility, I called out what appeared to be a major devaluation on United Mileage Plus awards. One Mile at a Time has since reported on the extent of the devaluation, but I think there are a couple of nuances to add to what Ben reported. First, while SWISS business class awards appear to start at 97,100 miles one-way, most partner awards now cost 102,400 miles each way and as he reported the close-in booking surcharge increased substantially — though if there is one less negative piece, it is that the close-in booking surcharge no longer applies to all itineraries within 30 days of departure but rather appears to apply to a closer window (perhaps within 2-3 weeks of departure?). Economy class awards increase by an even-more-brutal 46% on partner awards.

Update: In the 24hrs following publication, United walked this devaluation back a bit, with partner awards pricing at 40K miles one-way in economy class or 88K miles one-way in business class to and from Europe rather than 42.9K and 102.4K. That certainly makes the devaluation less devastating, but United has nonetheless given us a clear indication as to where they would prefer to price these awards. With no award chart, it is likely only a matter of time until prices creep back up to those shown in this post. We’re leaving the rest of the post as it was when initially published, but note that for the time being prices have decreased a bit from where they were at the time of publication of this post.

a man taking a selfie in an airport

Business class to Europe now far more expensive (and set for dynamic)

In this morning’s post, I noted the cost of business class on United metal ringing in at 80,000 miles one-way as in this February 2024 example from Brussels to Newark.

a screenshot of a website

That is an increase from the previous rate of 60,000 miles as shown in this 2023 example I used in a post a couple of months ago:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

An increase of 33% is a massive devaluation (and as noted in my post this morning, it makes the expected value of booking with United Mileage Plus miles to be a losing proposition unless you’re going to cancel a large majority of your award tickets since you could likely book for far fewer miles with partner airlines).

Speaking of partner airlines, that’s where this latest devaluation really ratchets things up a notch. Ben at One Mile at a Time notes that transatlantic partner business class awards start at 97,100 miles one-way and increase to 107,100 miles within 30 days of departure. The key words there are start at. While SWISS appears to be 97,100 miles each way, most partner award flights cost more. An example from this morning’s post was an award from Munich to New York JFK that costs 102,400 miles one-way — and this was not within 30 days of departure.

a screenshot of a screen

In fact, most partner awards to Europe that I’ve searched are ringing in at 102,400 miles. As one of many additional examples, see this itinerary in February 2024 on TAP Air Portugal pricing at 102,400 miles in business class between Washington DC and Lisbon.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

As you can see, economy class awards are even more brutal at 43,900 miles each way on partners. Those awards were previously 30,000 miles one-way, so that’s an increase of 46%!

Interestingly, I think the close-in redemption rates are working a bit differently than in the past. Ben at One Mile at a Time cites an example between the US and Zurich where redemptions far in advance cost 97,100 miles one-way on partner SWISS or 107,100 miles close-in, which led Ben to say that there is now a 10,000-mile surcharge for booking within 30 days of departure. In actuality, I think the close-in window isn’t quite 30 days and the surcharge isn’t 10K miles but rather close-in partner bookings seem to all cost 107,100 miles.

For instance, take this Lufthansa itinerary within 8 days of departure — see that it costs 107,100 miles in business class.

a screenshot of a website

However, on June 8th, the rate drops to 102,400 miles.

a screenshot of a computer

The close-in booking cutoff appears to be less than 30 days in advance (maybe the cutoff for the higher close-in fee is within 2 weeks of departure?). As shown above, flights on other partner airlines continue to cost 102,400 miles one-way in business class even many months prior to departure.

SWISS in the only partner I’ve seen so far that is charging 97,100 miles for partner awards. As in the example above, most partner awards have priced at 102,400 miles when booked at least a few weeks from departure. Those within a week or two of departure are pricing at 107,100 miles one-way in business class. Note that the close-in booking surcharge was 3,000 miles previously — the new increase appears to be 4,700 miles close-in on most itineraries (raising the redemption from 102.4K to 107.1K) on most partner awards, which is a 56.67% increase in that surcharge. It’s just worse than that on SWISS since that close-in fee appears to be 10K miles on those awards, an increase of more than 300%.

Bottom line

United Mileage Plus has implemented a major devaluation for awards to and from Europe. I wouldn’t be surprised if we also see devaluations to other regions. Unfortunately, when United dumped its partner award chart, this was bound to happen — and the fact that they are pricing some partner awards differently than others is an ominous sign for the future of dynamic pricing. While it is possible that we’ll find routes pricing below expectations, at this point everything I’ve seen has increased substantially, with awards on both United and partners increasing by 33%. That’s really disappointing. This devaluation certainly increases the appeal of partner redemptions — even those that are less flexible.

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[…] my airline points down to. Yes, it has been a goal because, as we have seen this past week with the massive 33-50% cut in United points value, points should be burned not saved as they always drop in value. But now, with many sailings booked […]

[…] my airline points down to. Yes, it has been a goal because, as we have seen this past week with the massive 33-50% cut in United points value, points should be burned not saved as they always drop in value. But now, with many sailings booked […]

Brett

The devaluation extended to Africa as well. One-way UA biz class between EWR-CPT or JNB was 250k (ridiculously high already) and then jumped overnight to 395k! UA is becoming the Hilton of airlines.

Brett

Could the big sign-up bonuses and extra point promotions we all love be the trigger for these devaluations? If the banks are buying most of the points and want to offer these promotions, they negotiate lower priced points, thus driving the airlines (or hotels) to increase the number of points needed to cover the cost of the seat or room.

Tim

Looks like AA might be joining the devaluation party. Business class one way tickets to Tokyo on JAL have suddenly all increased from 60,000 miles to 80,000 miles, a 33% increase. Didn’t take them long to match United’s devaluation.

Greg The Frequent Miler

It still prices at 60K for me. I looked at ORD-TYO and SFO-TYO, both show 60K

Tim

I don’t see it anymore either, glad to be wrong!!

Dan

I will dump my UA cards. I think the only way to stop this is to punish back these companies.

flybyFIRE

This also appears to hold true for award tickets from Asia to Europe. I’m seeing everything at 49.5k miles for one-way economy.

miafll

Very ironically on our IAH-FLL flight day before yesterday, the purser was hawking the UA CCs during the last 30 min of the flight. She was also standing by the exit holding those applications forms. The pitch was, “our flight was chosen as promotion flight that would let you get extra 5000 miles on top of the 60,000 miles sign up bonus when you apply use the code (the crew got commission on that I am sure). That means you will earn 2 round trip domestic tickets and you also can fly free forever when you earn the miles thru spending on the cards…”

Still try to fool the mass…

LSP

I don’t know how to quantify this, but I think the big question is how frequently UA is/will provide saver availability to its partners. Those partners (Aeroplan and Lifemiles) have easier to obtain miles (transfer partners of Amex, Capital One, etc.) than UA (only a transfer partner of Chase, and most are probably transferring to Hyatt) anyway.

Anp

United has removed most of Polaris award availability to London and Tokyo from partner programs (Aeroplan, Lifemiles, etc.). There was a ton of Polaris award availability last week, now it’s all gone!

[…] its award ticket prices in a “disappointing“, “heartbreaking“, “major” way yesterday. Yes, it sucks, and yes you should be unhappy about the situation. But, events […]

Seth

It looks like UA devalued saver award redemptions to Hawaii as well. Economy saver awards are now 25k, up from 22.5k. Not sure how much first/business class redemptions have increased because I (unsurprisingly) can’t find any first class saver availability to Hawaii.

Frank

I hate to say this here but I think all these blogs about how to get outsized value made easy are a likely culprit. But then the banks may step up with better bonuses and the devaluations will be less painful.

Logic over emotion

Ah, have you seen cach prices for flights or are aware of this thing called inflation? Your expectation is that award points on flights will forever same or the root cause in rise is bloggers posts?
Brilliant!…

Todd

Throughout my life i have been pretty good at recognizing “warning shots across my bow” and this article triggered that feeling. I have a sizable stash of AA miles and am increasingly worried that one of these days i will wake up to read an FM post about a huge AA devaluation which renders AA miles almost worthless. Is there any logic in hoping/assuming AA won’t fall into the increasingly popular loyalty program graveyard? Are my fears irrational? In light of the fact that AA is more or less the “last man standing”, perhaps this is worthy of a post all it’s own?

anonymous

Nope, and nope.

(But yes to your last question.)

miafll

AA has already stealthily devalued its miles by seldom offers award space on its own metals on TATL flights. BA is often your only option which costs A LOT OF SURCHARGE and AA shares the spoils with BA thru their JT Ventures.

You will pay $800 out of pocket on a 55K AA miles business class award from LHR to US on BA flight… That was up from $600 last year, and it was already very high.

Surprised you have not noticed this.

Todd

As of today, AA still offers tremendous value but the list is shrinking. I have been traveling half of the time for the past year and a half and i am doing my best to burn up my AA miles. My problem is that i still have a few million of them from the simplymiles promo and i worry that they will become air pesos before i am able to successfully burn them all. I am seeking alternate uses for them but dont even know where to begin….

Oliver

In addition to the impact on the value of United miles, it impacts Chase. United added value to Chase as a unique partner. Chase is now overly dependant on Hyatt.

PS United’s free cancellations are nice but can not make up for the award prices.

PS Update redemption value of United miles?

[…] Frequent Miler has some great insight […]

Landon

Want to voice my appreciation for FM, which helped me burn all but a few hundred of my United miles during the biz class sale last month. If not for you, I’d be sitting on those miles and crying into my beer.

Last edited 10 months ago by Landon
Justin

Same, I had ~120,500ish before the March window Polaris fare. Booked a one way to CDG for 60k each, now only have ~500 miles, which will sit there, likely for eternity at this point…