United Air Lines abolishes award charts.

Given I’m UK based, I don’t tend to cover the three major US frequent flier programmes, however I think they’re still relevant to a lot of readers.

Where they go, the rest of the world tends to follow. The undisputed leader in the US in that regards is Delta. They were the first airline to introduce the concept of status renewal being linked to revenue (i.e. hard dollars spent with them). They were also the first to remove award charts for redeeming flights, and go to a variable model where you pay what the website tells you it costs. Delta’s goal, which they’ve stated publicly, is to make one of their SkyMiles worth around 1¢ when you want to redeem them. Whether that’s for flights by themselves, for part cash and miles, or redeeming for other items. They’ve been broadly successful at this.

Well, yesterday, United Air Lines became the second of the big three to announce the same change.

For travel from 16th November 2019, there will be no more award charts. That encompasses the peak pre-Thanksgiving peak travel season.

Firstly, linked to this is that miles accrued when flying on United will post to your United Mileage Plus account in real-time.

Secondly, award redemptions on Star Alliance partners will not change. Yet. United have explained that there are currently no plans to change the award chart for partner redemptions.

Thirdly, for flights booked within 21 days of departure, they won’t charge the $75 ‘close in’ departure fee.

So what is changing?

When redeeming for one-way US domestic awards on United, they will start at just 5,000 miles, as opposed to 10,000 or 12,500 as today. In fact this change has actually already been rolled out and has been live since Monday. However these flights are typically the cheapest anyway, so may not be that good value with which to redeem your miles for.

However at the other end of the scale, there won’t be an upper limit to what they will charge. United say:

Award prices will now fluctuate based on a variety of factors. Some air awards will be available for less than what’s listed in our chart, which you may have already noticed. After November 15, award prices may also be higher, especially if you’re traveling at popular times. Use our flexible award calendar to get a monthly view of the award prices for a specific destination.

The full FAQ on the change is available on their website here.

Thoughts

This was inevitable. Where Delta leads, United and American will follow. I think the next logical question is when will American roll out the same system?

The interesting question will be for the major European frequent flier programmes. Lufthansa Miles and More and Air France Flying Blue have both dipped their toes into revenue based earnings.

The British Airways Executive Club has been rumoured to be due for a major overhaul for some time now. This was apparently linked to major back-end IT project. For the past few months, it’s all gone rather quiet. My only thoughts on this are that I’ll be surprised if the Executive Club looks the same at the end of 2019 as it did at the start.

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