United Airlines hikes MileagePlus frequent flyer reward rates

By Chris C., July 1 2017
United Airlines hikes MileagePlus frequent flyer reward rates

  • United Airlines MileagePlus devaluation slams Aussie flights to Asia
  • Popular first class redemptions rocket from 40,000 miles to 65,000 miles
  • Many business class reward flights up from 30,000 miles to 50,000 miles

Using your MileagePlus miles to book flights with United and its Star Alliance partners like Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Air China and Air Canada is about to get more expensive, following United's decision to increase redemption rates from 1 November 2017.

The move will also make the prospect of buying United miles to book low-cost business class flights less economical.

Most affected are the stellar reward flights between Australia and South Asia which can currently be had for 30,000 miles one-way in business class or 40,000 miles one way in first class, to countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and more.

That includes connecting flights such as Sydney-Bangkok-Hong Kong with Star Alliance member Thai Airways, requiring the same number of points as booking only the Sydney-Bangkok leg.

For new bookings made from November 1 2017, that climbs to 50,000 miles for one-way business class and 65,000 miles for one-way first class (with or without connections) – meaning you’ll need over 60% more points to book the same flights come November.

Flights from Australia to Japan – such as ANA’s Sydney-Tokyo route – similarly climb from 40,000 to 50,000 miles in business class, and from Australia to Central Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and more), you’ll need 70,000 miles to fly business class from November: up from 60,000 miles now.

Also being increased are flights from Australia to North Asia (China, South Korea, Taiwan and Mongolia), bumping up from 40,000 to 55,000 miles in business class and from 50,000 to 75,000 miles in first class, one way.

Europe-bound flyers will see a small increase on business class rewards – nudged from 85,000 to 90,000 miles in each direction – and no change to first class reward flights, remaining at 115,000 miles each way.

The lowest-cost Saver rewards are also increasing when using your United miles to book flights with United Airlines, with one-way business class journeys to North America rising from 70,000 to 80,000 miles.

As the ‘North America’ region in MileagePlus includes both the US east and west coasts, you’ll get the best value from your miles by flying United from Sydney or Melbourne to places like New York, Boston or Miami, as these journeys require the same number of miles as the shorter trek to Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Taking a similar journey with Star Alliance member Air Canada from Australia to Vancouver or anywhere else in Canada or the US mainland will command 90,000 miles from November, up from 80,000 miles at present.

These new rates apply only to new bookings made on and from November 1 2017 – so if you’ve been planning a trip and secure your reward flights before that date, even for travel after that date, you can still book at the current, lower rates.

Existing bookings are unaffected, although changing an existing booking after November 1 will require the itinerary to be ‘re-priced’, which means if you booked at the more generous rates, you’ll need to cough up more miles to cover the spread between the old and new rates to change your ticket.

For more information on this and other changes coming to the MileagePlus scheme, head to the United website, or review the full revised United award charts here [PDF, 520kB].

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2017

Total posts 51

was going to convert some SPG points to the Marriott Stay + UA miles (for China / Japan) but after the devaluation, it is no longer a very attractive option. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 156

A 66% increase in SE Asia business rewards cost? In one hit? Thats outrageous. I'll be trying to use my points prior to November 1st.

Asiana Airlines - Asiana Club

09 Feb 2017

Total posts 41

Those 75% discounts on buying miles were too good to be true, and a catch HAD to be on its way ...


Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 172

This has been coming for a while.  The reward cost the SE Asia was crazy low. 

25 Feb 2017

Total posts 25

The 40,000 Points for First Class on Thai to Bangkok was probably the Best deal in The World of Points from any Airline since BMI Diamond Club.

21 Sep 2011

Total posts 71

Let's face it. This site may have contributed to this as more and more people become aware of this shortcut. Ausbt has become mainstream now. If I were TG's Aussie manager and I read this and I would be calling UA so fast. 

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 61

Thanks for the update. I'd better start planning a trip now. 

24 Apr 2014

Total posts 272

Have upgrade award rates changed too?

04 Jul 2017

Total posts 1

we have flown with Thai many times to Asia business / first  courtesy of United points sales.  Haven't managed to score Singapore airlines when we have wanted to fly . But has been a very cheap way for the family to fly up the front . After November will just have to keep an eye out for point sales 

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