United is removing round-the-world awards, free one way awards, and Three One Ways awards on October 6, 2016. You will still be able to book simple stopover awards under the new name “Excursionist Perk.”
In addition to those negative changes, we get some positive and mixed changes. United’s multi-city award searching will get better, and award change and cancellation fees are being change in a way that’s bad for elites but good for the hoi polloi.
End of RTW, Free One Way, and Three One Ways Awards
End of RTW–Who Cares?
Round-the-world awards on United are too expensive for the five stopovers they allow, so losing them is no great loss. But if you want to book one, book it by October 5, 2016 and don’t make any changes later, which would kill the award and cause it to be re-priced as a series of one way awards according to the FAQ on united.com about the changes.
End of Free One Way and Three One Ways Awards: Boo!
A Free One Way is a standard roundtrip award to which you add an unrelated one way trip to your home airport before the main award for zero extra miles or from your home airport after the main award for zero extra miles, like:
- San Francisco to New York [free one way] months before
- New York to London roundtrip
- Houston to Buenos Aires roundtrip months before
- Houston to Vancouver [free one way]
Do read the full post on United free one ways.
Free one ways use your free stopover on roundtrip United awards at your home airport. Starting October 6, 2016, that will be against United’s award rules, so free one ways on United awards will be dead.
A Three One Ways award is three one way awards booked together as one “roundtrip award” to save miles over booking them as three one way awards. I put “roundtrip award” in quotation marks because the award is not a roundtrip. Many of the best awards all go in one direction, like:
- Los Angeles to Paris
- Paris to Bangkok
- Bangkok to Sydney
- Seoul to Tokyo
- Tokyo to Auckland
- Auckland to the Cook Islands
Do read the full post on United Three One Ways Awards.
By using a free stopover, both of those trips are cheaper booked as a single award than as three awards. Starting October 6, 2016, these types of stopovers will be against United’s award rules, so Three One Ways Awards with United miles will be dead.
In the place of these high value awards, we’ll get the lower-value Excursionist Perk.
New Excursionist Perk
The new Excursionist Perk is that United will offer a free stopover on roundtrip awards–like now. But the stopover and destination must be in the same region, and that region cannot be the region where you started, and your award must start and end in the same region.
So the Excursionist perk preserves all of the boring-est, vanilla-est stopovers while excluding the fun ones I’d write about. These will still be allowed as awards with free stopovers after October 6, 2016:
- New York to Paris to Moscow to New York
- Los Angeles to Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro to Chicago
- Dallas to Auckland to Sydney to Dallas
- San Francisco to Hong Kong to Bangkok, returning Phuket to San Francisco
All of those awards start and end in the same region (continental United States), have their stopover and destination in the same region (Europe, Southern South America, Australia & New Zealand, South Asia), and the start/end and stopover regions are different. Here’s United’s example of a valid Excursionist Perk:
The Excursionist Perk rules won’t allow a free one way because your stopover can’t be in your origin region and a free one way requires a stopover at your home airport.
The Excursionist Perk rules also won’t allow a Three One Ways award because your award must start and end in the same region and Three One Ways awards don’t do that.
I can’t help but notice that United is still going to allow free stopovers after October 6, 2016, and specifically the “normal” kind of free stopovers that I’d estimate 99% of their customers use, but that it won’t allow the “trick” kind of free stopovers that MileValue has written about first, most extensively, and most clearly. If anyone killed United stopover rules, I’d say it’s me. Sorry about that guys!
Hopefully knowing about the tricks for months or years and then having them taken away has been better than if I had never posted about them and people had never learned about them.
You still have two months to book Free One Ways and Three One Ways! Any awards booked by October 5, 2016 can follow current rules and will be valid tickets that you can fly even after October 6. However, the awards will not allow later changes, which must follow the future rules.
United Search Will Get Better
Supposedly United’s multi-city search tool will get better on October 6, 2016. This is totally unrelated to other changes in my mind, so I assume it is just a palliative throw in.
You’ll be able to pick a connection city, which I guess could be useful in some cases.
Award Change/Cancellation Fee Changes
Here’s the current United chart for award changes and cancellations.
Here’s the one taking effect October 6, 2016 and United’s FAQ.
Platinums lose their free changes and cancellations, and Gold and Silvers see their change fees go up. But General Members, the great majority of us without status because chasing status is a boondoggle, get good news.
Cancellations drop in price from $200 to $75-$125 depending on how far in advance you cancel. Changes which currently cost $75 or $100 will cost $75 or $125, not a big difference.
The changes to the award change and cancellation fees are mixed, and simplify the chart. It remains to be seen whether there will still be a fee of $75 (lowered for elites) for booking an award within 21 days of departure, and whether this trick will work to get out of that fee.
On October 6, 2016, significant changes take effect in the United MileagePlus program and on united.com:
- We lose the ability to book Free One Way and Three One Ways awards: significantly negative for advanced bookers, neutral for casual users
- We maintain the ability to book “normal” free stopovers under the new name Excursionist Perk: neutral
- We lose round-the-world awards: neutral
- We get improvements on united.com that should make award searches a little more responsive: slightly positive
- Change and cancellation fees are changing and being simplified: neutral for some, negative for some, positive for some
As you can see, for me, all the news boils down to losing Free One Way and Three One Ways awards. Book those until October 5, 2016 to enjoy flying them through Fall 2017.------------------------------------------------------------
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