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A few weeks ago, I wrote about how United Airlines had instituted a huge devaluation to the value of MileagePlus miles when booking award tickets to Europe. Well, it looks like United kept increasing prices and now award tickets to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, the South Pacific, and other destinations cost way more.
As United did with flights to Europe, this is one of the worst (if not the worst) hits to both United and partner redemptions. United MileagePlus has not published award charts in some time. The airline also did not announce any of these changes and has quietly just increased prices by over 30%.
One-way partner awards between the US and Asia used to cost 38,500 miles in Economy Class and 88,000 miles in Business Class. Asia is now just one zone and no longer segmented into North and South. Now they cost 60,400 miles or more in Economy and 110,000 miles or more in Business Class. This is a sickening 57% increase in Economy and a 25% jump for Business Class. The example above shows Business Class as a discount!
South America is just as awful. A one-way Star Alliance award seat between the US and Southern South America was 33,000 miles in Economy and 66,000 miles in Business Class. These now cost at least 49,500 miles in Economy and 87,800 miles in Business Class. Another 50%+ more miles needed for Economy and 33% more for Business Class.
Award tickets to Australia jumped from 40,000 to 55,000 miles in Economy Class and from 80,000 to 100,000 in Business Class. Redemptions to Africa on partner flights increased to at least 49,500 miles in Economy and 88,000 in Business Class. Other regions are seeing similar price hikes.
What to do Now?
As we’ve seen with Delta Air Lines, United is not thinking about frequent flyers. They’re devaluing miles to the point where it doesn’t make sense to accrue them. I switched my flying to Delta this year based on service and amenities (without thinking about the value of SkyMiles). I’m glad I did, because I enjoy the in-flight experience more and Delta Sky Clubs® are much nicer than United Clubs℠.
I would recommend looking at partner airline programs like Avianca LifeMiles or Air Canada Aeroplan for redemptions and to earn flexible currencies like American Express Membership Rewards points or Chase Ultimate Rewards points. These can be transferred to other programs for redemptions at rates much less than what US carriers charge.
Anthony’s Take: It’s just gross that United has devalued MileagePlus miles so much. Planes are full and they clearly don’t care. We’ll see how things go when the craziness dies down and loads are less. Empty planes will likely lead to sales for redemptions, but on the daily this is just bad.
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