United MileagePlus Devaluation Coming November 1, 2017

Effective November 1, 2017, many United MileagePlus Saver awards will be going up in price (listed below, prices all one-way). Recall that there is separate pricing for United-only vs. partner awards.

Business Class – United Flights

  • U.S. (premium only): 25k to 35k
  • Hawaii (premium only): 40k to 50k
  • Southern South America: 55k to 60k
  • Europe: 57.5k to 60k
  • Middle East and Central Asia: 70k to 75k
  • South Asia: 70k to 75k
  • Japan and Oceania: 65k to 70k
  • Australia/New Zealand: 70k to 80k

Business Class – Partner Flights

  • Southern South America: 55k to 60k
  • Middle East and Central Asia: 80k to 85k
  • South Asia: 80k to 90k
  • Japan and Oceania: 75k to 80k
  • Australia/New Zealand: 80k to 90k

First Class – United Flights

  • Southern South America: 70k to 80k
  • Central/Southern Africa: 85k to 90k
  • South Asia: 80k to 95k
  • North Asia: 80k to 90k
  • Japan and Oceania: 80k to 90k
  • Australia/New Zealand: 80k to 100k

First Class – Partner Flights

  • Southern South America: 70k to 80k
  • South Asia: 130k to 140k

Many Saver prices for flights that do not originate in the United States are increasing as well, but there are too many to list. The new award chart can be viewed here.

Short-Haul Economy Saver Awards

Nonstop partner flights of 800 miles or less will cost 8,000 miles in Economy class in all regions outside of the U.S.

Intra-island flights within Hawaii will be increasing from 6,000 miles to 7,000 miles one-way.

No-Show Fee

$125. Don’t no-show on awards.

Everyday Awards

Standard awards are becoming Everyday awards, with different pricing, but… who cares? Book Saver awards.

[PSA] Don’t Use American Airlines’ Homepage to Search for Awards — Use Advanced Search Instead

HT: Milecards

This was reported by Milecards a little while ago, but I haven’t seen any coverage on other blogs. It looks like there is a bug with American Airlines’ homepage whereby if you start an award search there, you will potentially see less availability than if you started from the Advanced Search page. This is particularly common if you are looking for Alaska availability.

In the image at the top of this post, the search on the left was started from the homepage, while the search on the right was started from the Advanced Search page. As you can see, there is no MileSAAver availability on the left, while there are six dates with availability on the right.

Long story short, start all of your American Airlines award searches from the Advanced Search page.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Award Redemption Changes (Singapore Airlines and SilkAir Operated Flights Only)

Yesterday, Singapore Airlines announced a series of award redemption changes for Singapore Airlines and SilkAir operated flights, effective March 23, 2017:

  • There will be a new award chart (link).
  • The 15% award mileage discount is being eliminated.
  • Fuel surcharges will no longer be assessed.

Note that no changes are being made to partner (i.e. Star Alliance) awards.

Quick Summary

Awards on Singapore Airlines and/or SilkAir will now cost more in miles, but less in cash due to the removal of fuel surcharges. For most cases in Business, First, or Suites Classes, the cash savings does not make up for the extra cost in miles, and this is a devaluation. On the other hand, in Economy or Premium Economy Classes, the new changes might work in your favor.

Some routes will cost fewer miles as a partner award rather than a Singapore Airlines / SilkAir award, so if you’ve found availability on Singapore Airlines / SilkAir, you may be able to save miles by adding a flight from a partner that does not assess fuel surcharges (e.g. a domestic positioning flight with United Airlines).

More Miles vs. Less Cash

With the increase in the number of miles to book an award and the removal of fuel surcharges, you may or may not come out ahead depending on your booking class, destination, and how you value the miles. The tables below show the old and new mileage costs and well as current fuel surcharges for one-way flights from the USA to Singapore.

People flying to Singapore in Economy or Premium Economy Classes will save $220 at the cost of between 8,125 and 10,500 miles (depending on whether you fly from the East or West coast as well as class of service). I think most people would happily make this trade. On the other hand, those flying in Business, First, or Suites Classes would probably rather pay the $230 or $240 fuel surcharge to save between 19,750 and 26,625 miles.

Los Angeles / San Francisco to Singapore

Class Current Mileage New Mileage Mileage Increase Fuel Surcharge
Economy 29,750 38,000 8,250 $220
Premium Economy 55,250 65,000 9,750 $220
Business 68,000 88,000 20,000 $230
First / Suites 91,375 118,000 26,625 $240

Houston / New York to Singapore

Class Current Mileage New Mileage Mileage Increase Fuel Surcharge
Economy 31,875 40,000 8,125 $220
Premium Economy 59,500 70,000 10,500 $220
Business 72,250 92,000 19,750 $230
First / Suites 93,500 120,000 26,500 $240

There are some destinations such as Hong Kong and Tokyo that currently have very low fuel surcharges and are basically seeing a mileage increase with little to no cash savings.

Partner Awards Might Be Cheaper

One quirk of the new award chart is that select routes will now cost fewer miles when booked as a partner award rather than an award exclusively on Singapore Airlines / SilkAir. So if you are planning to book a Singapore Airlines / SilkAir flight to one of the destinations below, you could check to see if you can convert this to a partner award by tacking on a partner flight that does not incur any fuel surcharges, such as a domestic positioning flight on United Airlines.

Below I’ve listed all routes that originate from the USA that cost fewer miles when booked as a partner award, in round-trip pricing. Some of these differences are extreme. If you’re flying from the USA West Coast to the Middle East in Singapore Airlines First Class, you can save 136,000 miles (!) by adding a short partner flight. Of course, a long itinerary like this would really only make sense if you were planning to visit Singapore in addition to the Middle East; otherwise, it would make more sense to fly another airline (i.e. a route that doesn’t connect in Singapore).

Destination Class Singapore / SilkAir Cost
(E): USA East Coast & Houston
(W): USA West Coast
Partner Cost
Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, & Laos First / Suites 240,000 (E) / 236,000 (W) 225,000
South China, Hong Kong, & Taiwan Economy 96,000 (E) 90,000
Business 200,000 (E) 175,000
First / Suites 270,000 (E) 200,000
North China Economy 110,000 (E) 90,000
Business 220,000 (E) 175,000
First / Suites 290,000 (E) 200,000
India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, & Bangladesh Economy 110,000 (E) 105,000
Business 220,000 (E) / 196,000 (W) 195,000
First / Suites 290,000 (E) / 276,000 (W) 265,000
Japan & South Korea Economy 116,000 (E) 90,000
Business 230,000 (E) 175,000
First / Suites 300,000 (E) 200,000
Australia (Perth & Darwin) Business 220,000 (E) / 204,000 (W) 195,000
First / Suites 290,000 (E) / 296,000 (W) 255,000
Australia (excl. Perth & Darwin) & New Zealand Economy 120,000 (E) 110,000
Business 236,000 (E) / 220,000 (W) 195,000
First / Suites 304,000 (E) / 308,000 (W) 255,000
North Africa, Middle East, & Turkey Economy 104,000 (W) 75,000
Business 204,000 (W) 115,000
First / Suites 286,000 (W) 150,000
Central & South Africa Economy 104,000 (W) 90,000
Business 204,000 (W) 145,000
First / Suites 286,000 (W) 220,000

Hotel Point Transfers to Southwest Count Towards Companion Pass Again, But Only Through March 31st

Via The Points Guy, Southwest is backtracking on their change that removed the ability to earn the Companion Pass with hotel point transfers, but only through March 31st.

Primarily, this means that you can once again use Marriott Hotel + Air packages to earn the Companion Pass (requiring 270,000 Marriott Rewards points or 90,000 SPG Starpoints). So if you had been eyeing one of these packages, you now have about three months.

Hotel Point Transfers to Southwest No Longer Count Towards Companion Pass

This has been fairly widely reported already, but Southwest updated their Companion Pass terms and conditions on 1/1/17 to include the following:

Points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club will no longer count toward qualification for a Companion Pass.

Most importantly, they are eliminating the ability to use Marriott Hotel + Air packages to earn the Companion Pass, which could have been done with 270,000 Marriott Rewards points or 90,000 SPG Starpoints. The other options they are eliminating are more useful just for topping off your account. This is a big loss if you were planning to redeem Marriott or SPG points for this in 2017.

Major United Devaluation + 25% Transfer Bonus

Back in August, I posted about some negative changes that United was making to stopovers on award flights, effective October 6th of this year. That date has come and gone, and in short, stopovers are no longer allowed unless they occur in the same region as your destination. This has certainly been bad news, but otherwise things have mostly been business as usual, or so we thought.

Apparently, devaluing stopovers wasn’t enough, and United has now decided that if you wish to actually pay the prices they publish on their award chart, you can only select from the flight options they display for you — no longer are you able to piece together your own itinerary using multi-city search without paying extra. This occurs because each segment in a multi-city search will now price as an individual award, which can increase the price of your ticket dramatically.

Why does this matter? Well, United’s search engine isn’t all that fantastic, and it will often leave out many valid routings, even if they still have seats available. I am also unsure how this will work for awards with their partners Shenzen and Singapore Airlines, since their flights don’t show up in United’s search results at all. All in all, this is terrible news, and unannounced changes always leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

Typically, this next part would be deserving of its own post, but given the devaluation above, I don’t really care now… United is now offering a 25% bonus when you transfer hotel points to United MileagePlus, with a limit of 20,000 bonus miles. The promotion ends on November 30, 2016, and here is the link you need to go to if you wish to register and to take advantage. The most interesting way to do this (if you have either 270,000 Marriott Rewards points or 90,000 SPG Starpoints) is to redeem for a Hotel + Air package with Marriott. Via the Hotel + Air package, your 270,000 Marriott Rewards points would become 120,000 miles * 10% (bonus for Marriott -> United transfers) + 20,000 miles (limit of this promotion) = 152,000 MileagePlus miles. On the other hand, you could also redeem your Marriott Rewards points for 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points and the Companion Pass, as detailed here. Personally, I’d go with Southwest.

Upgrades to American Express Platinum & Business Platinum Cards (5x Points on Airfare + 50% Back in Points)

amex-platinum

One more catch-up post from my vacation.

American Express has announced two new enhancements to their Platinum card lineup, one for their personal card and the other for their business card.

Link to Press Release

American Express Platinum Card (Personal)

Effective October 6, the Platinum Card will now earn 5x Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel.

This is a pretty straightforward benefit, though one key takeaway is that purchases through United’s MileagePlus X app will likely qualify for 5x points. I’ll try out a test purchase and report back later.

American Express Business Platinum Card

Also effective October 6, Business Platinum cardholders will now earn 50% points back when using Membership Rewards Pay with Points through American Express Travel to book a flight with their selected airline. They will also receive the benefit when booking a first or business class ticket with any airline.

This benefit should be very lucrative for many people, as Membership Rewards points are now effectively worth 2 cents per point when redeemed for travel. There are, of course, the following caveats:

  • The flight must be with the same airline you choose for the annual $200 airline fee credit or in business/first class, in which case it can be with any airline.
  • If the flight is with Southwest or Spirit Airlines, you must call (800) 553-9497 to activate this benefit.
  • The flight cannot be part of a travel package or booked with the American Express U.S. Representative Travel Network.

It was also announced that Business Platinum cardholders will now earn 1.5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on any purchase of $5,000 or more, though I don’t find this new perk as exciting as the other two above.

Redeeming 90,000 SPG Starpoints for a Companion Pass, 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points, and a 7-Night Stay in a Marriott Hotel (Categories 1-5)

marriott-spg

I’ve been on vacation for the past few weeks, so this post is a little late; however, the optimal time to do all of this will be in early 2017, so no harm done.

A few weeks back, Marriott and Starwood began allowing rewards members to link their accounts together and to transfer points between the two programs at a ratio of 3 Marriott Rewards points per 1 SPG Starpoint. This opened up the opportunity to purchase a Marriott Hotel + Air Package 3 (Category 1-5) with 90,000 SPG Starpoints instead of the normal cost of 270,000 Marriott Rewards points.

The Hotel + Air packages, in exchange for 270,000 Marriott Rewards points, provide you with a 7-night stay at any Category 1-5 Marriott hotel and 120,000 airline miles of your choice. Package 3 specifically designates the selection of 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. While you could choose another of Marriott’s partner airlines, the main point of this post is to highlight that transfers from Marriott do count toward the 110,000 miles you need to earn to be awarded a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, so simply purchasing this package is enough. Do keep in mind that because the companion pass is valid through December 31st of the year after you earn it, the ideal time for this redemption is on or after January 1, 2017, which gives you an expiration date of December 31, 2018.

In any case, I merely wanted to point out that this option exists and is worth considering for folks who travel a lot domestically. If you’d like to book a Marriott Hotel + Air package, the number to call is (800) 321-7396.