United MileagePlus Program Changes 2016
United has announced several changes to the MileagePlus program that will go into effect for award tickets booked on or after October 6, 2016. Specifically, they are, “enhancing the way you book multi-city MileagePlus® award travel online” which means the elimination and replacement of the stopover benefit and round the world tickets. They are also implementing a, “streamlined fee structure that is easier to understand.” Let’s take a look.
Stopovers Out, Excursionist Perk In
As part of these changes, United is eliminating stopovers on awards and is replacing that benefit with something called the Excursionist Perk. (What a name.) Here is how this new perk is described:
The Excursionist Perk is a free one-way award within select multi-city itineraries. Members who book an itinerary with three or more one-way awards will be eligible to receive one of those one-way awards for free, if it meets all of these conditions:
- The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates. (For example, if your journey begins in North America, you will only receive the Excursionist Perk if travel is within a region outside of North America.)
- Travel must end in the same MileagePlus defined region where travel originates.
- The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk is within a single MileagePlus defined region.
- The cabin of service and award type of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.
- If two or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit, only the first occurrence will be free.
As you can see, this new perk has a lot more rules and exclusions than the current stopover policy. It also bars the free flight from being in the region of origin. No free one-ways tagged on to the end of an itinerary for example.
New Ways to Search
As part of these enhancements, United is touting their website’s search function which is supposedly going to be able to piece together more complicated itineraries. Of course many/most multi-segment itineraries will be more expensive than before, but at least you will have search filters like connection city, aircraft amenities, etc.
Goodbye Round the World
These enhancements to the search functionality also mean that round the world tickets have been eliminated. Officially their stance is you can now piece together one-way tickets to make your own ticket and thus the pricing is easier to see and understand. They also claim, “In many cases, the total price to create a customized itinerary will now be less and won’t require you to stick to the routing rules that came with Round the World awards.” Of course in many cases prices will go up quite a lot.
All awards booked on or after October 6, 2016 will also be subject to a new fee structure for cancellation and changes. Previously the window to cancel/change for a reduced fee closed 21 days before travel, but that has now changed to 61 days. Fee amounts have changed as well.
In most cases the cost to change tickets has increased for all members. Platinum elites now have close-in change fees when they didn’t have before. Cancellation fees have gone down in some cases though, but for the most part this is a negative.
Overall these changes are a huge net negative for MileagePlus members and other than a promised enhanced search process, the company mostly seems to be taking away. The Wandering Aramean has a more detailed breakdown of the impact of these changes and a comparison of the old fees to the new. You can also find FAQs regarding all of these changes on the United website.