United MileagePlus Changing Stopovers and Fees on October 6, 2016

united mileageplus program updates

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Quick Summary

  • Current stopover policy is being removed and replaced with the “Excursionist Perk”
  • Change/Cancellation fee structure is changing, mostly for the worse
  • Round the World awards are being discontinued

My Take

Here are the official rules for applying the Excursionist Perk:

  • The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates.
  • 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.

Essentially, this means that your stopover/open-jaw must occur entirely in the same region as your destination. This removes a couple popular methods of leveraging the current stopover and open-jaw rules:

  1. Stopovers/open-jaws in a separate region on your way to/from your destination. Many awards will route you through a different region on your way to or from your destination. A couple years ago, for example, I routed through Bangkok on my way home from Auckland and had a stopover in Bangkok. Under these new rules, this will not be allowed because Bangkok and Auckland are in separate regions.
  2. “Free one-way” awards. Imagine a straightforward routing where I just want to fly from San Francisco to London and back. I could potentially add a stopover/open-jaw by tacking on another flight at the end from San Francisco to Honolulu sometime in the future. This is my “free one-way” award. Because of the first rule, these awards will no longer be bookable.

For changes and cancellations, some fees are going up, and others are going down, so it’s easier to just look at the new chart:

united mileageplus program updates fees

Other key takeaways are that the penalty ($50) for close-in changes/cancellations will now kick in within 60 days of departure, as opposed to within 20 days, which is the current policy. Also, you cannot makes changes fewer than 24 hours before departure for flights on partner airlines. Overall, the new rules make award travel more restrictive and penalize the customer more if plans have to change for any reason.

Lastly, nobody really cares about Round the World awards, so no big loss here. Overall, these are a ton of negative changes though, and we should all be fairly disappointed.

One thought on “United MileagePlus Changing Stopovers and Fees on October 6, 2016

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