United pulls its Star Alliance partner award chart as it transitions to dynamic pricing

Apr 29, 2020

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United’s been busy making adjustments to its MileagePlus loyalty programme.

It started with great news when the carrier announced that it was extending all currently valid Premier status until 31 January 2022. Additionally, UA lowered the Premier qualifying thresholds for the rest of the year and removed award change and redeposit fees for modifications made 30 or more days before departure.

And that’s when the good news stopped.

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Last night, we were the first to report that the carrier will be capping how many Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) you can earn through Star Alliance partner tickets. This will make it much harder to earn status with the airline going forward.

And now, just a day later, the Chicago-based carrier is making some negative changes to how you redeem your miles. Specifically, the carrier is removing its Star Alliance partner award chart in a move that will usher in dynamic pricing for all award tickets.

Related: United Airlines makes it harder to qualify for status with partner flights

On 15 November 2019, United started pricing awards for flights on its own metal dynamically, and it’s now setting the stage to do the same for flights operated by its partner airlines.

As of today, the Star Alliance award chart is extinct — it’s already removed from the carrier’s website. There was no advance warning like there was when United made the same move for its own flights.

By removing the award charts, there’s no telling how much an award will cost. United can change the price as it sees fit, and you’ll have no idea if you’re getting a good deal.

For the moment, the few partner awards we checked are still pricing at the lowest “saver” level from the now-extinct award charts. But it’s anyone’s guess when we’ll start seeing the dynamic pricing applied to Star Alliance award tickets. Since these changes go into effect immediately, I’d make any speculative bookings you were considering now. 

In explaining these changes, a United spokesperson offered the following statement to TPG:

“We announced in April of last year that all award pricing will be dynamic beginning November 2019. This change is consistent with other major carriers and allows us to align information regarding all MileagePlus award flights, whether it is for travel on United or one of our partner airlines.”

Back when United announced that it was removing award charts for its own flights, we asked what does it mean for partner awards. At the time, the airline told TPG that they are, “looking more broadly at what best and the most effective way to move forward there”.  Clearly, they’ve decided that’s what’s “best” is to remove all award charts to “better align” the programme.

Aside from the devastating news itself, the airline couldn’t have chosen a worse time to make these changes. For one, it’s not providing any advance notice. Devaluations are never a good thing, but I don’t mind them as much when there’s ample notice. And secondly, as airlines look to recover from the coronavirus, they’re going to need to do whatever they can to get passengers back on their planes.

Since United’s bleeding cash, I’d expect them to make their loyalty programme more rewarding during this crisis, not less. After all, loyalty programmes are large and important revenue streams for airlines.

But alas, here we are. Rest in peace, United’s partner award charts.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy. 

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