Starting November 15, 2019, United Airlines is getting rid of its award chart and moving to a dynamic pricing model. The carrier is switching to a system that prices award seats based on demand and cash price, rather than specific tiers. The pricing strategy will allow United to increase award prices up when demand is high for a particular flight and ease off on costs when there are more seats available. There was already a hint when United started releasing lower award fares on some cheap routes, roughly at a cent a point.
While this will open up some cheap award seats, most people will probably be disappointed with the news. Many miles and points enthusiast try to get maximum value by using their miles for awards seats that would be expensive if paid in cash. With tiered pricing, for example, a traveler can expect to pay roughly 25,000 miles for a standard, domestic, round-trip, economy ticket irrespective of demand. Within that bracket you would look for the best possible value.
United is also taking down its published award chart on November 15, similar to what Delta Air Lines has been doing for a while now. Awards on partner carriers in the Star Alliance such as Lufthansa and Air Canada will remain on a tiered system for now, though Luc Bondar, head of MileagePlus, confirmed that the airline is also exploring the use of dynamic pricing on those fares.
The lack of award charts makes it easier for airlines to devalue their currency without much backlash from loyalty program members. Since there’s no set prices, it’s difficult to keep track of what exactly each route should cost. But at least you have some time to adjust to the new reality.
As of now, MileagePlus will remain on its current tiered system with the addition of lower-priced awards that we’ve been seeing over the last few weeks. On November 15, United will switch to full dynamic pricing. Additionally, at that time the airline will take away the close-in booking fees that many MileagePlus members have complained about.