United Airlines taketh away, then United Airlines giveth back a little bit.
Just 24 hours after the Chicago-based airline angered flyers with a massive (and unannounced) devaluation by suddenly charging far more miles to book flights to Europe, United has softened the blow. Award rates to fly business class overseas on partner airlines like Turkish Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, or Lufthansa are still up from where they were less than a week ago … just not as bad.
As of Thursday morning, business class awards to Europe on partner carriers are now pricing at a flat 88,000 miles each way, whether you fly Turkish Airlines business class to Istanbul (IST) or SWISS business class to Zurich (ZRH) or Geneva (GVA). That sure beats the nearly 100,000-miles (or more) United was charging yesterday. Plus, it seems United has even done away with a pesky, 4,000-ish-mile surcharge when booking one of these flights within a month of departure.
Turkish business class awards that previously cost 77,000 miles jumped to 102,400 miles but have now dropped to 88,000 miles each way.
Swiss business class redemptions have also settled in at 88,000 United MileagePlus miles each way after jumping north of 97,000 miles earlier this week, too. And while there was previously a bit of variance in award rates depending on which partner airline you were booking with your United miles, that's gone, too. It's now 88,000 miles each way across the board on every Star Alliance airline and even one-off partners like Aer Lingus.
Sadly, there's no relief if you're set on flying United Polaris business class: United is still charging at least 80,000 miles for the lowest-priced “saver” awards across the pond. Same goes for economy, where award rates are still up 33% when flying partner airlines and United, too – though award rates when flying United economy can be all over the map, with much lower pricing on flights back to the states.
Whether this new award pricing will hold or change again tomorrow is anyone's guess.
Welcome to the wild, unpredictable world of dynamic award pricing. Much like Delta with SkyMiles and even American AAdvantage miles, United holds all the cards to change award pricing as it sees fit. The next increase (or decrease) could be just around the corner.
But good news is good news! If this holds, what was initially looking like a nasty 33% increase to fly to Europe with any airline is now in the neighborhood of 15% to 20% – at least if you're booking business class on a partner airline.
So far, we've still only seen United mess with award rates on transatlantic routes to Europe – not other destinations like South America, Asia, Australia, or even spots like Tahiti (PPT). But it's likely only a matter of time before United raises award rates across the globe.
Maybe United woke up filled with regret for doing its loyal flyers dirty?
Just a day after drastically raising award rates when flying to Europe by 33%, United has rolled back some of those increases when booking business class on partner airlines. A hike is still a hike … but we'll take a smaller hike any day.
But what will tomorrow bring? Stay tuned for the next episode of “As the United Globe Turns.”