Flying the Friendly Skies Will Cost More United Miles

Those friendly skies United has been spending millions to tout? Not so friendly, it turns out, for members of the airline's loyalty program.

In a significant devaluation of its MileagePlus program, United today announced on FlyerTalk a wide range of price increases for award flights set to take effect on February 1, 2014. The biggest hit is to award flights on United's many airline partners, which are now priced separately. But there are plenty of increases to award flights on United as well, especially premium-class overseas flights.

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Examples of price changes to award flights from/to North America:

  • Business class to Europe will increase from 100,000 miles to 115,000 miles on United, and to 140,000 miles on partners.
  • First class to Europe will increase from 135,000 miles to 160,000 miles on United, and to 220,000 miles on partners.
  • Business class to Japan will increase from 120,000 miles to 130,000 miles on United, and to 150,000 miles on partners.
  • First class to Japan will increase from 135,000 miles to 160,000 miles on United, and to 220,000 miles on partners.
  • Business class to North Asia will increase from 120,000 miles to 140,000 miles on United, and to 160,000 miles on partners.
  • First class to North Asia will increase from 140,000 miles to 160,000 miles on United, and to 240,000 miles on partners.

And so on. It's a long list, without so much as a single positive change on it.

What to Do?

First, have a look at the current and upcoming award charts to see whether flights you plan to redeem for are affected by the upcoming changes. It's possible that the new prices don't apply to your situation.

If the changes will affect you, book your award trips before the new prices take effect on February 1.

And by all means, reassess your loyalty to United. Do you really want a long-term relationship with a company that oozes "friendly" even as it picks your pocket?

More generally, such changes are always a vivid reminder that the verbiage included in loyalty programs' terms and conditions should be taken seriously. When they say "we reserve the right to make changes to the program at any time, for any reason," it's more than a hypothetical possibility. Devaluations are the rule, not the exception.

Reader Reality Check

Disappointment? Shock? Outrage? Meh? What's your reaction to the upcoming MileagePlus changes?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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