United Is Switching up Its Frequent Flier Awards Program

Following in the footsteps of Delta, United is introducing dynamic pricing for its awards seats later this year. Here’s what the means for you.

United Is Switching up Its Frequent Flier Awards Program

Booking United flights with awards miles is about to change.

Photo by Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock

United Airlines is about to change the way its MileagePlus members book award flights through its frequent flier program—and it could be good news or bad depending on the way you travel.

Starting on November 15, United Airlines will do away with its award chart listing the set amount of miles needed to book flights in favor of a dynamic model for pricing. By switching its program to one based on demand, United will be able to lower award prices when there are plenty of seats open on a flight. But that also means you will start to see higher award prices if you’re traveling during popular times like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

“Demand or dynamic pricing can work for the traveler, if they do not mind traveling off peak days or times or even take connections,” says Mimi McGuire, the director of airline relations at Valerie Wilson Travel. “It can make it tough to plan when you first thought it would only be 150,000 points and now it is 250,000 because you want the new nonstop flight from Newark to Naples.”

United won’t implement the higher award prices until November 15, but the airline has already introduced the lower pricing model and has started calling out some of those deals on its Twitter feed.

Our MileagePlus team is sharing some of the best routes to find our new, lower awards pricing. First up: L.A. - Las Vegas *The fares below reflect a General member using the United MileagePlus Explorer Card. Remember to sign in for the best pricing and availability. pic.twitter.com/me2uX3E4qB — United Airlines (@united) April 5, 2019

While this new model definitely favors travelers with flexible schedules, if you’re beholden to a certain schedule—like your kids’ school calendar—it’s possible that you’ll need to use more miles than you’re used to when booking through MileagePlus going forward.

United isn’t the first major U.S. carrier to implement this model. Delta made the switch to demand-based pricing for award flights via its SkyMiles frequent flyer program back in 2015. American Airlines will be the only one of the big three airlines in the United States with a tiered award system after United makes these changes in November.

The airline will also remove the $75 close-in fee as of November 15, so anyone booking last-minute award travel won’t need to pay extra.

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Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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