Those fucking motherfuckers.
It was inevitable. United would look at Delta and say, “why do we have to give away such low priced awards when they don’t have to?” Without understanding that Delta does not beat passengers and kill dogs.
Delta’s value add is their supposedly greater reliability and their better treatment of passengers, especially elites. I’ve talked to many flyers, and Delta flyers really like Delta, more than United or American flyers like their airlines. They have the touch, it seems.
They also have things that I like, and can’t get, on United, like credit cards that let you earn status qualifying miles by spending, access to their lounges with an Amex Platinum card, greater likelihood of free upgrades if you’re an elite, at-seat screens on most aircraft, free alcohol in their Economy Plus equivalent on all flights. And I can use my Amex Business Platinum Gogo passes on their wifi.
The reason I always hate on Delta in here is because you need about a billion fucking SkyMiles to fly anywhere. The award prices more or less track the cash prices (though they have frequent “flash sales” where you can do better). But Delta’s not getting loyalty through free travel. They’re getting loyalty by offering a better experience.
United, alas, doesn’t have that to offer. What they did have to offer was fantastic free travel. MileagePlus awards kicked ass. There was a nice, clear award chart, unrelated to the cash prices, with saver level prices and standard level prices, and as such you could still get somewhere on an award ticket even when the cash price was obscene. To me, that was more important than Delta’s reported niceties.
Because all good things must come to an end, United has torched their award chart, and sprinkled its ashes all over the new chartless dynamic pricing for all flights after November 15. Yes, this means some flights are as low as 5,000 points, but those are cash cheapies. Let’s wait and see how much business class to Europe will cost! Ho ho. If it’s anything like Delta, which it probably will be because why else would they bother, it’ll cost 2-10 times as much as it does now. There’s no ceiling, so bombs away!
Oh well. It was fun while it lasted, and the bloggerentsia seem to think they’ll cook the frog slowly, meaning prices might not be that outrageous in 2020.
Moral of the story: If you’ve got Chase Ultimate Rewards points or (especially) United miles, and you’ve been saving them for biz class travel, start booking trips now. They’re gonna be worth a lot less in a year or two. (They’re already worth less now than they were a year ago, because United makes available business class saver level awards on their own planes approximately never.)
Even if United matches Delta on the award pricing front, I’ll still probably stick with United, but I’ll be a lot less enthusiastic about them. Delta doesn’t fly to Santa Barbara, where I need to often go. American does go there, but on awful 737’s through awful Phoenix. Delta’s route network seems smaller, and I simply am told “no flights” on many of my international searches, with no partner options. I prefer flying from Newark over JFK. I know United’s ins and outs. Etc.
And, as for American: their (still semi-dynamic) award chart is suddenly looking a lot better, but I (along with everyone else) can’t imagine they won’t soon follow suit and get rid of it. And even if they don’t, there’s no way to quickly rack up AAdvantage miles by spending on credit cards, in the way that you can with United or Delta by accumulating Ultimate Rewards points or Membership Rewards points.
In the short term, nothing is changing for me. I’ve still got six months of flights I can book before the new pricing kicks in, and there have been no reports of any flights after November 15 having awful award prices yet.
But if things do get bad, and United miles indeed become reduced to around a cent per mile, or worse (as on Delta), I’ll have to do this differently. Some of what I want to use my United miles for is partner travel. So if a partner releases saver award space, I ought to be able to book it with a reasonable number of United miles (and that’s still the best play with Delta SkyMiles). But with no visible award chart, nothing will prevent United from jacking partner flight award prices to the moon.
As for United flights themselves, if United miles become worth much less, what I may end up doing is looking more closely at points that can be transferred to their Star Alliance partners. With Amex Membership Rewards, which I rack up pretty quickly between my Amex Gold and my Amex Blue Business Plus cards, that’s Air Canada AeroPlan, And while I previously never had any interest in Citi
FuckYou ThankYou points, those can be transferred to Avianca LifeMiles, which reportedly do well when used for booking award tickets on United. With either of those frequent flyer programs, if United releases saver level space, I may be able to get those seats for dramatically less than for what United themselves are offering with their own miles. Again, we don’t really know yet. But if things get bad enough, might even ditch my Chase cards! Mon dieu! We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For the moment, nothing changes.
With this sad but inevitable development, I’m gonna retire this blog. It has been moribund anyway, and, as now, I might still post once in a while when the mood strikes me. Otherwise, I’ll be commenting on other blogs, mostly at One Mile At A Time.
I’ve said what I wanted to say. Though I never had a wide readership, I had an appreciative one, and that kept me writing. Even if I am a cranky jackass, I really am grateful for all the positive comments and kind words you fuckers have shared with me.
As for all the copious spare time I’ll now have on my hands, I’m writing angsty, electronic-flavored songs instead. (That’s just what comes out! I can’t help it.) I’m @ivanxnyc. My tunes are at: YouTube, SoundCloud, Instagram, Twitter, FaceBook. If you’re into this sort of thing, and my feelings won’t be hurt if you’re not, follow me, peeps.
Thanks for reading, and may all your flights have lie-flat seats.