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United Airlines Awards Now Start at 5,000 Miles

United Airlines Awards Now Start at 5,000 Miles
Anya Kartashova

In an unexpected move, United Airlines has lowered the cost of some domestic awards from 12,500 MileagePlus miles to as low as 5,000 miles per way.

New Domestic Award Pricing

Take a look at the 30-day calendar for the Los Angeles-Las Vegas route in July. Many dates have these low Saver fares: some available to co-branded credit cardholders only and many available to all MileagePlus members.

Other 5,000-mile routes include but are not limited to:

  • Denver – Seattle
  • Newark – Fort Lauderdale
  • Chicago – Minneapolis
  • Houston – Atlanta
  • San Francisco – Las Vegas

Not all dates display these low redemption rates, so make sure to play with the calendar if your travel dates are flexible. Still, you can find some city pairs for 6,000 miles, 9,000 miles and 10,000 miles each way.

Now that some awards price out lower than the standard 25,000 miles per round-trip journey, it’s become easier for those accumulating United miles the hard way, butt in seat, to redeem them. Flyers who buy the least expensive tickets earn the fewest miles on their paid ticket. Lower redemption rates mean the opportunity to earn the miles for a free domestic flight quicker.

Is There A Catch?

As airlines compete for loyal customers while making “improvements” to their award charts, we as program members have to be vigilant. What seems like an enhancement can turn out to be a loss in the long run. Airlines aren’t in the business of making you happy; they’re in the business of making money.

FlyerTalk forum members are concerned that United’s move toward low mileage fares is a sign of bad things to come. You might remember that Delta Air Lines implemented a similar award pricing scheme a few years back and introduced dynamic pricing. Delta awards now price out based on demand and real-time cash costs, which means the redemption rates can change at any moment. As a result, many redemption rates have inflated.

From a consumer’s perspective, it’s not a welcome change. If the rates can decrease at any moment, it means they also can increase without notice. Not knowing what a certain award will cost until you search for flights instead of relying on the same standard redemption rate is inconvenient at least and can be detrimental to the program as a whole. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Perhaps, United simply made a move to incentivize loyalty.

What are your thoughts on the new United award pricing? Do you think there’s a catch?

[Image Source: iStock]

View Comments (1)

1 Comment

  1. htb

    March 28, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    Domestic awards have already started at 5000 miles. In Japan.
    I think that calling flights inside the US in the context of an international frequent flyer forum “domestic” and expecting that the context would be clear, to be a rather unhappychoice of words.

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