As the title says, United has changed its award fees, not for the better. This is really horrible, after what happen with PQD’s (Premier Qualifying Dollars) being implemented for US residents (luckily we Canadians are not affected by this).
United previously allowed changes for free more than 21 days out as long as the origin and destination stayed the same. This was one of the reasons why I love US currencies so much – because of general lack of fuel surcharges as well as the flexibility. Sure, their change fees are higher if you change destination/origin. But there were also “sweet” spots where you could maximize your redemption – which is what I love. Now they aren’t there any more!
Change fees for non-Premier members are now $75 for any changes more than 21 days before travel. This is a $75 increase from $0.
Changes less than 21 days before travel are now $100. This is a $25 increase from $75.
Cancelling and redepositing the miles are now going to be $200 instead of $150. I think that is now the highest fee in the whole airline industry for cancelling an award (excluding non-refundable redemptions).
These changes are effective June 19th, 2013.
I am really praying that American will not match this as that will essentially destroy a lot of the flexibility that US mileage currencies will have, but reasonably I am going to say the AA will match given all the devaluations that have been happening in the industry this year including minimum spend for elite status and change fees. However, the fees get a bit closer to Aeroplan’s $90 change fee.
But the change fees are really annoying and really makes me question going after US Credit cards especially with this change. My favourite currency was United simply because they beat out American in route frequency (as Star Alliance) and award routing flexibility with no weird rules like having a stopover only at international gateway cities and having the overwater carrier publish a fare between the origin and destination, and Aeroplan because of their lack of fuel surcharges and the lower award redemption levels.
They just happened to be the currency which is near impossible to accumulate in Canada with credit cards, so the only route to get lots of them (without flying) was through United Chase Credit cards, and Ultimate Rewards Credit Cards (which is transferrable 1:1 to UA Mileage Plus). Now that there are going to be fees for changes, I am a bit hesistant over working my butt off to get a credit card (by heading down to the US to chat with the bank manager, etc.). Now I might as well just buy Lifemiles and cancel for $50 when I need a change.
Strangely if you look at this from the flip side, it just means that mileage running as a Canadian for United 1k is becoming a better proposition everyday, as now the elite ranks are going to be at least slightly thinned, and now the lack of charges for changes as a Premier member are going to be relatively better than being non-elite. But nonetheless this is not a change that is good for the consumer. We will see in the future whether it pays off for United financially.