An update: Delta has just announced that they will be raising award price to Hawaii from 40000 to 45000 miles roundtrip in economy, effective today for travel after February 1st. Not a huge development, because their low level awards are almost impossible to redeem. But it is a preview of things to come from other airlines. I had no knowledge of this development at the time of publishing my original post.
By now you probably have heard about the huge increase in award ticket prices on United, effective January 31st. Basically the worst changes were in premium redemptions.Those I could care less about. But the economy was not spared at all. Instead of 25000 miles to fly to Alaska from the lower 48, it will be 35000 miles soon. Ouch! And the ticket to Hawaii will cost 45000 miles instead of 40000 miles currently.
It really came as no surprise. There has not been any significant devaluation in quite a few years. The good news is that it will still cost 25000 miles to fly within the lower 48 and to Canada. So there is a lot of value to be had in Mileage Plus for a regular family even after the increase. Not to mention they will still allow one way awards.
People in this hobby are livid about the whole thing. My reaction when I found out about it? The same as it always is when such things happen. I go about my normal daily business. No sense to stress about something you can’t control. Oh, and it also helps that I don’t currently have any United miles!
Well, you ask, why would I be upset then? It has no bearing on my life whatsoever. Quite the opposite. It affects everyone in this hobby regardless of their possession of Stardust (a new term for United miles coined by Frequent Miler in this post, if you want to read it).
Why is that? Because its only a matter of time when the rest of the airlines will follow suit. Delta is already pretty bad in a sense that its practically impossible to redeem their domestic awards at the low level. That leaves US Airways and American airlines. Fortunately right now they are quite busy with the whole merger debacle. Though it doesn’t mean some sort of adjustment won’t come soon.
Airlines are copycats. I repeat, its only a matter of time till United increase will be matched by others. Southwest has already announced their devaluation, so they probably will not have any surprises any time soon. Plus their award scheme is quite different. So, what practical steps can a normal family take right now?
1) Redeem your United miles now if you have plans to go to Alaska or Hawaii. Why the rush? Because everyone will be doing it to beat the increase. So lock in your dates if you see availability.
2) Consider getting Chase United targeted offer (pays me no commission) from my “Best deals” page. Especially if United has a hub in your city. Then meet your spending requirements and do what I described in my previous point. You have close to 3 months till the increase, so if you are short on United miles to get to Hawaii or Alaska, this might be your time to take the plunge. You can book your award tickets 11 months in advance.
3) Consider planning a trip to those destinations with your AAdvantage, US Airways or Delta miles (though good luck with the last one). As I said, its only a matter of time till they increase award prices as well. Also, since currently US Airways are partners with United, you can mix and match your awards by using Dividend miles for 1 or 2 tickets.
4) Don’t hoard miles in any program. Use them or lose them… to inflation. Also think twice before using miles earning credit cards for anything, other than minimum spending requirements. I have stressed that point before and will stress it again. If you insist on collecting miles through everyday spending, earn SPG , Ultimate rewards or Membership rewards instead. Those transfer to several partners, so you have a degree of protection.
5) Don’t worry about any of it and go about your normal daily routine. Things in this hobby change constantly, so adapt and don’t let it take over your life. There are plenty of good bonuses left to be had.
Be grateful for the free points you have collected so far and don’t take anything for granted. When I start losing sleep over award chart changes, thats when this hobby will officially lose its stardust. Actually I feel the same way about this blog. You know what rhymes with stardust? Adjust!
On a humorous note, I will attempt to do my own mock interview with United Airlines executive.
Miles addicts: Why did you raise your award prices so drastically?
United: Because we can! What are you going to do about it?
Miles addicts: We will stop flying United!
United: You mean you will stop signing up for huge Chase bonuses and redeem them for free tickets?
Miles addicts: Mmm, no.
P.S. Not miles related, but since its kind of a mommy blog, I feel compelled to share. My daughter was selected as a “cool cat” of her class and will get a trophy tomorrow. The teacher chose her because she is considerate, responsible and kind to other students. Even though my daughter is doing very well academically and is in a gifted class, this award means more to me as a parent. There are much more important things in life than miles and points!
Photo credit goes to girlseeksshoe.wordpress.com
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.