United Award Changes?

Why the question mark? Well, United has announced some “new changes” that aren’t really new. These changes have some good and some bad. Depending on your travel patterns is how your affected.

United award tickets always had some generous routing rules. With any round trip award ticket you can have 1 stopover and 2 open jaws. A stopover is basically a long layover (24+ hours). An open jaw is flying into one destination and out of another. I would say open jaws are pretty common in area like Europe. You may fly into Paris, do the European thing, take some trains around, and fly out of Brussels. The good news is, these rules are still allowed. They have just been re branded.

Another thing to add is that even though United always had these generous routing rules, the United website (frequently called .bomb on FlyerTalk) couldn’t handle such request. You would need to call in and be subject to a phone booing fee. Instead of fixing the underlying issue, United has decided to price everything as one way tickets, hence the “new” rules and branding.

United has re-branded the industry term of a stopover and is now calling it “Excursionist Perks”. This “new” perk has all the same basic rules.

  • You can’t have a stopover Excursionist Perk in the same region you originate from. This means you can’t book SFO-LHR and have a Excursionist Perk in NYC, nothing new there.
  • Travel must end in the same region from where you started. Basically, you need to have what United deems a round trip award, nothing new there.
  • The origin and destination of the perk must be within the same region. You can’t do an open jaw flying into Tokyo and out of London, nothing new there.
  • The free one way award, aka stopover, needs to be the same or lower than the segment preceding it. This means your stopover can’t be more expensive then your previous flight, which in most cases it wouldn’t be anyway.
  • You still only get one stopover.

To see a visual of the perk in action let’s look at a round trip flight from Chicago to Paris, but on the way to Paris we stop in London for a day or so.

United Excursionist Perk

Nothing has changed here except how the system books these flights. The system will now book three one way tickets. The booking engine will see that

  • You’re starting and ending in the same region.
  • The LHR-CDG segment would cost less miles then the previous segment, and therefore price it at 0.

However, if there were additional intra-region flights, these would be charged the normal mileage. The example United shows below is a round trip from Mexico City to Las Vegas with a stopover in NYC and SAN. The first stopover/perk would be charged as 0, but the second one would be charged the normal amount. Again, this is not new. Also, this itinerary is a stretch.

United Excursionist Perk 1

Fee Changes

United had a complicated fee structure where depending on your status, days till your flight, and if you wanted your miles back if you were canceling would determine your fee. United has simplified this. One will now pay a fee based on their status, and how many days out the original flight date was.

New United Award Fees

So what are the big differences here? Instead of 20 days or less for higher fee, it is now 60. Additionally, Platinum members now have to pay fees where previously they did not. Thats a pretty big blow for Platinum members. On the up side, Silver and Gold members have reduced redeposit fees (but higher change fees).

Survey Says

Instead of fixing the underlying software, United has decided to price everything as one way awards. This will help the average user since there is no more need to call in (in theory) and you can avoid an additional phone fee. It seems stopover and open jaw rules while re-branded remain the same. The biggest loser here are Platinum members who now have to pay fees.

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