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Loyalty programs were meant to entice customers to stay loyal to a brand. However, as industry trends changed, these programs morphed into spending programs. Simply put, brands thought that the best way to gauge loyalty was by determining the magnitude of purchase instead of its frequency. When the markets were humming along, we saw may travel loyalty programs lose value. United recently obliterated award charts in November 2019. United has now chosen to put the final nail in the loyalty program coffin. It has now removed partner award charts from its MileagePlus program.

United MileagePlus Partner Award Chart

Doctor of Credit posted this update about United MileagePlus removing award charts from their website:

United claimed that partner awards would remain the same price and the partner award chart remained on the United site. Today the partner award chart has been removed from the United site.

Pricing Implications

Previously, we saw United apply ‘dynamic’ pricing to awards for flights on United. Now, this applies to all of their Star Alliance partners. Frequent flyers prefer award charts as it gives them a sense of predictability with regards to a floor and ceiling price. With dynamic pricing, United can charge as many miles as they want to, based on their calculations of demand and supply.

In basic pricing theory terms, dynamic pricing denies the customer the ability to get a true measure of value v/s price. With lack of any reference point, the customer is subject to the whims and fancies of the price the business charges, which in this case is United.

Timing is Key

What’s even more surprising is the timing. United has chosen to make this move at a time when the travel industry is reeling and when airlines have just received taxpayer funded bailouts. In addition to this, United has already drawn customer ire due to the way they’ve handled refunds. The icing on the cake is that fact that customers already see United as one of the least customer friendly airlines, as pointed out by Nomadic Matt. As evidenced in these reports and many more, United hasn’t covered itself in glory with its own actions.

Miles from Blighty – United cancels most flights to/from Europe and denies refunds

View from the Wing – FAA Administrator Joked With United During David Dao Crisis in Released Emails

The Pundit’s Mantra

As far as flexible points currencies go, I’ll call this a minor devaluation for Chase Ultimate Rewards as well. After I stopped flying United back in 2014, I still transferred my Ultimate Rewards points frequently to United MileagePlus. I used United miles to fly their Star Alliance partners frequently in premium cabins to South East Asia and India. Now that United has effectively killed any remaining value out of it, I’ll primarily be using my Chase points to transfer to World of Hyatt.

Also, I’ll be focusing more on racking up Membership Rewards points. Amex Membership Rewards points have a wider array of airline transfer partners. For example, I recently transferred my Membership Rewards points to Avianca LifeMiles to book a Star Alliance award during my trip to Colombia.

Some people may find value in dynamic pricing on short haul flights. Just like Delta, expect United also to launch their own version of ‘flash sales’ soon. However, in all likelihood, this doesn’t bode well for premium cabin redemptions as their prices will likely increase.

How does this most recent change affect your loyalty to United? Let us know in the comments section.


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Hat Tip to Doctor of Credit


The information on this blog is meant for information purposes only and doesn't constitute personal finance advice. Please consult a licensed professional for advice pertaining to your situation.