When the United devaluation hit…
Well, actually I was on my way to Paris and didn’t know. But I logged on and read a comment that said my post was especially useful info since the United devaluation was announced (referring to my post on United Stopover and Routing Rules).
Crap. The first things I saw were terrible huge increases on premium cabin.
And then I realized, “I haven’t flown even in Business class in well over a year.”
The economy award chart is not that bad. The biggest and absolutely worst change possible was the increase of SE Asia. This is terrible. As you may know in my post on United Stopovers the biggest secrets and tricks are based on SE Asia. This, is a huge bummer. Now SE Asia is the same price as Australia, India and South Africa. Dumb-founding.
That was especially bad for me, but still some of the tricks can survive in north Asia. I also think it’s time I shared some tricks with my loyal readers soon… However, right now, I’m just going to talk about the good things left in the award chart. And I’ll even show good news in Business Class.
One thing that I think will be more detrimental than United would have imagined, is the fact that they now have two grossly different priced award charts – kind of bad and very bad. (A United chart and a Star Alliance chart.)
This is seriously confusing for the average person. “If you fly on this airline it’s this price, and this airline this price”… people will zone out and fly AA.
Anyways, the deal is that if you fly only on United you get one award chart. And if you fly on Star Alliance you get another, higher price. So unfortunately I’ll have to talk about both.
This United-only chart has way cheaper prices for premium cabin… because no one wants to spend more miles on United’s First Class. And economy prices are the same for both award charts. So when it comes to flying economy, it’s the same same.
Which regions stay the same: Domestic, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, Northern & Southern South America, Europe, Northern & Southern Africa, Oceania, Australia & New Zealand.
Which regions went up a little (prices in one-ways):
- Hawaii went from 20k to 22.5k
- The Middle East & Central Asia went from 40k to 42.5k
- North Asia & Japan went from 32.5k to 35k
Which region went up a lot:
Southeast Asia went from 32.5k to 40k.
This last one is the biggest to me. Southeast Asia is a very powerful zone and by raising the price here, they basically raise prices elsewhere. Basically, this ruins a trick talked about in The United Stopovers & Routing Rules post from Hawaii.
That aside, since we fly in economy mostly, the changes aren’t too bad. But let’s go over what the changes are, and the things these changes change. (“Huh?”)
South East Asia – this is the big change.
However, SE Asia is still less of a powerful zone than Oceania. This means, SE Asia + Oceania, under the new award chart will be 35,000 miles each way. This will save 5,000 miles each way, and you’ll see Oceania. Unfortunately, new restrictions could make this quite difficult.
This is true with the other areas in east Asia, but the price will come out the same.
The Middle East used to be tricked by routing through SE Asia, but understand the same trick can be done by flying to North Asia or Japan.
The Middle East + North Asia/Japan will be 35,000 miles under the new award chart, each way. Better than 42,500 each way.
I showed a trick of Africa and SE Asia and I know people booked it, but this will still be available, just not via SE Asia (as it’s now the same price as Africa) but anywhere else in Asia, like Japan. This picture shows current prices, soon it will be 70k instead of 65k, due to the increase of the price in Japan.
It will be interesting to price SE Asia against Japan and North Asia and see what happens. I have a feeling SE Asia will be the more powerful zone.
(On a side note: Notice that in the pic above, there are 4 connection and 5 segments on the way from DC to NRT. Thus, I don’t think the 3 connection rule is well understood yet.)
United-Only Award Chart
Again, this is stupid that there are two charts, but it’s true that United’s First Class is much less desirable than many of their partners. Thus, this award chart has cheaper premium cabins.
What business class awards stay the same: Domestic, Hawaii, Mexico, Caribbean, Northern South America,
What business class awards do change (prices are for oneways):
- Southern South America goes from 50k to 55k
- Europe goes from 50k to 57.5k
- Africa, Central Asia, The Middle East, North Asia, South Asia all go from 60k to 70k.
- Japan and Oceania both go from 60k to 65k
- Australia/New Zealand goes from 67.5k to 70k
Honestly, most of the time, United First Class is only 10,000 more. Given that the award price goes up so much for business class, the 10k upgrade to First Class is much more tempting.
But here is the thing. You really can’t add stopovers on this award chart. There’s nothing to trick here. Right? You can’t do Africa to Tokyo to lower the price because United doesn’t fly that route. So really we’re looking at what routes can have a stopover and be flown on United.
Notice that Copa is part of Mileage plus, so this would include routes through Panama. But even that doesn’t matter because there is one region that has a difference between United and partners.
So really we’re looking at a stopover in Hawaii on the way to Guam or Micronesia. Lot of options to there… not.
Star Alliance Partners
This is where the butchering was done. If you care about premium cabin at all, you should probably consider flying AA or crediting your miles elsewhere, it’s that terrible.
What Business Class stays the same:
Domestic, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, Northern South America.
Small changes to business class (each way): Southern South America goes from 50k to 55k.
The slaughtering of award price changes for business class (each way):
- Europe goes from 50k to 70k.
- Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, and North Asia all go from 60k to 80k.
- Japan and Oceania go from 60k to 75k
- and Australia/New Zealand goes from 67.5k to 80k
All terrible. And it’s worse for first class.
First Class prices that stay the same: Domestic, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, and Northern South America.
First Class prices that change a little (each way): Southern South America goes from 67.5k to 70k.
The terrible slaughter of First Class awards (each way):
- Europe goes from 67.5k to 110k
- Africa goes from 75k to 130k
- Middle East goes from 75k to 140k
- Central Asia goes from 80k to 140k
- Southeast Asia goes from 70k to 130k
- North Asia goes from 70k to 120k
- Japan goes from 67.5 to 110k
- Oceania goes from 75k to 110k
- Australia/New Zealand goes from 80k to 130k
While my first thought is why would anyone pay for this when AA’s chart is so reasonable. And many partners like ANA and US Airways have such reasonable prices. Well, US Airways is almost out the door…
Still, what can we do to make this better?
Well let me order things by the most powerful zone. If you’re not familiar with the concept, see my post on the most powerful zones. One may also need to know the United Stopover and Routing Rules to know which regions can’t be combined as well. But I’ll only post things I’ve proven as legal routes in the aforementioned post.
The concept here is that if you see a zone higher on the list than your desired destination (from North America) with a cheaper price, you should route through both and get the price of the one higher up on the list. Make sense? If you route through a location higher on the list than your desired destination, the ticket will price as the location higher on the list regardless of a greater or lesser price.
- Central Asia – 140k
- Oceania – 110k
- Australia & New Zealand – 130k
- SE Asia/North Asia/Japan – 130k/120k/110k
- Africa/Middle East – 130k/140k
- Europe – 110k
- Southern South America – 70k
- Northern South America – 40k
- Caribbean/Central America/Mexico – 40k
So I note that Oceania is 20k cheaper than Australia and SE Asia. By routing through Oceania before or after going to your desired region in Australia or Asia, you’ll save 20k each way.
The other thing I’ll note is that Japan is 110k. This means that on a route to the Middle East or Africa, create a stopover in Japan and save yourself 20k to 30k each direction.
- Central Asia – 80k
- Oceania – 75k
- Australia & New Zealand – 80k
- SE Asia/North Asia/Japan – 80k/80k/75k
- Africa/Middle East – 80k/80k
- Europe – 70k
- Southern South America – 55k
- Northern South America – 35k
- Caribbean/Central America/Mexico – 30k
Same concepts, except this time the savings is so little. 75k to go to Oceania instead of 80k in SE Asia or Australia. And 75k instead of 80k to go to Africa or the Middle East if you add Japan.
- Central Asia – 42.5k
- Oceania – 35k
- Australia & New Zealand – 40k
- SE Asia/North Asia/Japan – 40k/35k/35k
- Africa/Middle East – 40k/42.5k
- Europe – 30k
- Southern South America – 30k
- Northern South America – 20k
- Caribbean/Central America/Mexico – 17.5k
Once again, Oceania continues to save miles over Australia/New Zealand and now SE Asia. It’s a 5k savings each direction. Not a ton but it’s a 12.5% savings.
Another biggie remains routing through Japan and Africa or the Middle East. With Africa and Japan you can save 15k or 17.6% savings from Africa only, sans Japan. Slightly less savings with Middle East.
After Feb 1st I’ll be able to update this info and we’ll be able to tell which is more powerful between SE Asia, North Asia and Japan. Same with Africa and the Middle East.
Interestingly enough starting from Hawaii remains a great option, for those on the west coast with Avios or if you live in Japan, or whatever. If you want to fly First Class and do a lot of flying this could save 60,000 miles round-trip. Start in Hawaii, stopover in Australia and then continue on to Bangkok or something. Then fly back to Hawaii.
I mean think about this.
Let’s say you even pay the full freaking price of the current 45k round-trip on United in economy. Hopefully you can use Avios, like I said, but just for the simple math let’s say you pay 40k.
Then you fly to Australia and Bangkok for 160k all in first class. That’s 205k instead of 260k. Not that either is a great price.
But you can do even better. Let’s say you have Avios and live in Seattle, fly round-trip for 25k Avios. So now your total price is down to 185k. Grant it this is assuming the flight to Hawaii is in econ.
If it were me I would do business on the return from Bangkok home. I mean, the first class flight to Australia would have to route through Asia anyways, so that’s most of the flying. But you could open-jaw and fly Japan to Hawaii for 50k. This would include Hawaii, Australia, Thailand and Japan for much cheaper than flying round-trip to one. Well… maybe that’s too much.
I just want to note that one of the only positive changes on the entire chart is Hawaii to Australia/New Zealand. It went from 62.5k to 60k each way. Nothing much especially seeing as SE Asia is a more powerful zone.
To me the changes address two serious issues, premium award availability (although for them, the real issue could just be an issue of how much they have to pay their partners) and loop holes regarding price… although I’m not sure if it’s intentional.
SE Asia seems like a convenient zone to jack up the price on to screw up some of my tricks. But like I say, they leave similar things wide open – like Japan and Africa.
Also, some of the tricks like the Caribbean Hopper will remain unchanged. And another route, the Latin Hopper. The Pacific Hopper (which most find out of reach) will remain 12.5k each way in economy. Business will go from 20k to 30k, and First 35k to 40k, each way.
Anyway, the point is that while some things are jacked, others are still wide open. It will take more work than before to find the deals, but they are there.
If you want to save on premium cabin, well… then it’s a ton of work. Starting from Hawaii is hardly a punishment but it may be a lot to add to the trip planning.
This is running a little bit longer than I expected, so I’ll have to save some of it for another time.
Other good-news moves are kind of random. SE Asia to Australia is now 17.5k instead of 30k. But, SE Asia to Oceania went from 15k to 22.5k. So no more throwaways to Fiji.
Even the premium options on these connections have gone up a fair amount. On the other hand some have gone slightly down like North Asia to Oceania in business is now 30k instead of 32.5k. SE Asia to Australia is now 30k in Biz instead of 45k, and First is now 40k instead of 60k.
These changes will be more important than you think. 1) It’s not just that some have gone down, it’s that everything else has gone up so much for premium that the good deals are now great deals. and 2) We’re going to talk about how flying these segments at the end of a ticket can change everything… stay tuned. I’m not sure how I’ll be giving this content out, but after the deval… it’s time.