United Airlines has announced changes to its award chart, effective April 27, 2010. Before you make a mad dash to your computer to redeem your Mileage Plus miles before this date, however, you should know that not all of the changes are bad news–in some cases, the miles required for an award flight are even going down.
According to the United Airlines Web site, “On April 27, 2010, we’ll be making minor changes to the chart to accommodate new regions of service and bring some of our mileage requirements in line with our competition.” The changes are indeed minor and United Mileage Plus awards are now more closely aligned with those of partner airline Continental OnePass. And with TAM Airlines set to join the Star Alliance in May 2010, United Mileage Plus has adjusted the award levels to the new upcoming destinations in South America.
The biggest changes to the chart include revisions to the regions. South America and Africa are being split up into Northern South America and Southern South America and Northern Africa and Central and Southern Africa. This is good news for members traveling to countries in the new Northern South America zone (Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, Venezuela), where awards are now available for fewer miles. Under the old chart, you would need 55,000 miles, 100,000 miles or 135,000 miles for a roundtrip flight to or from the U.S. to any destination in South America in coach, business or first class, respectively. When the new chart goes into effect, those requirements will decrease to 35,000 miles, 70,000 miles or 90,000 miles for a roundtrip flight to northern cities such as Lima, Caracas or Bogota. For flights to Southern South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay), the miles needed will remain the same.
When the Africa region is divided into two categories, however, the miles needed for a flight to Northern Africa will require fewer miles but you will need to redeem more miles for flights to Central or Southern Africa. For flights to northern destinations such as Tunisia or the Seychelles you will need to redeem 75,000 miles, 115,000 miles or 145,000 miles for a roundtrip flight to or from the U.S. in coach, business or first class, respectively. And for flights to places such as South Africa or Madagascar, you will need to shell out 90,000 miles, 125,000 miles or 160,000 miles for a roundtrip flight in coach, business or first class, respectively. Under the old chart, all flights between the U.S. and Africa were available for 80,000 miles, 120,000 miles or 160,000 miles.
United has also made other small adjustments to their award chart, but you won’t find any major changes. For example, a roundtrip flight between North America and Japan in business class is now 125,000 miles (from 120,000 miles). A roundtrip flight between Hawaii and North Asia in business class is now 80,000 miles (from 70,000 miles) and a roundtrip flight between the Caribbean and Central America in coach is now 35,000 miles (from 30,000 miles).
Bottom line: You have until April 26, 2010 to book awards under the old chart so be sure to compare the two charts and see if your flights will require more or less miles after the change. You will be better off waiting for the new charts if your plans include travel to Northern South America or Northern Africa. Otherwise you will most likely get a better deal if you book before the changes are implemented. We agree with FlyerTalk member, Andimal, who said, “All things considered, this is quite benign.”