As if yesterday's move of adding minimum-spend requirements to attain elite status was not bad enough, United today (with no advance notice) has updated its award fee chart and General Members will be hit hard.
- No more free routing changes outside of 21 days. Now $75.
- Changes within 21 days now $100.
- Cancellation and redeposit now $200 for General Members.
- Premier Members not affected.
- Affects only tickets booked on or after June 19, 2013.
Here's the new fee schedule. I've highlighted the changes in red below.
Why the change now?
Many asked yesterday how United would make elite status more valuable in exchange for adding minimum revenue requirements. Today we get a taste of Untied's answer: make MileagePlus less valuable for General Members!
So I suppose you can say that elite status will be more valuable on United when it comes to booking award travel, but none of us should be comforted by the addition of more consumer fees: especially in light of the fact that an award routing change more than 21-days out (and even close-in) is cost-neutral to United when done online. In fact, I would think that United would welcome online changes as travel approaches, because usually people change to more direct flights, meaning that United theoretically saves on money it must shell out to partners for award seats.
What is next?
While I do not believe that United will embrace a revenue-based redemption model, I would look for an inflated award chart and the introduction of fuel surcharges in the next 18 months. Those changes would certainly affect more than just General Members...
United MileagePlus still is the most valuable U.S. mileage currency overall, but the ability to change routing outside of 21 days (now only available with American Airlines and not for long I suspect) was a great benefit that will be missed by many of my Chase-card-holding clients, no doubt.
I wonder if UA cleared this with Chase? Poor form that more notice was not given...
(HT: Hack my Trip)