Loyalty and award programs are a big component of the travel industry. Airlines have used them in various ways to create competitive advantages and incentive passenger behavior. There have been several approaches taken by the industry for redeeming award points including; distance based redemptions, fixed award charts, and dynamic pricing.
The use of dynamic pricing was first brought mainstream to award flights by Delta Air Lines in early 2015. This allowed them to adjust the pricing of awards on their flights whenever to align with demand of a ticket. This move was seen by many frequent fliers to be a negative change and possibly a worrying trend for award travel. Now, United Airlines has announced that for flights on or after November 15th, 2019 there will be no award chart pricing.
With this new change, pricing will not be determined by the cash ticket price or a fixed amount, but instead on a variety of unpublished factors. To find the actual price of an award ticket, you will have to price out the exact dates and flights for a planned trip. This can be beneficial or negative depending on how future award pricing turns out. Some short haul routes or times of the year with slow demand may see pricing decrease, while popular high demand routes could see a major increase in pricing.
The full extent of the changes to the MileagePlus program include more than the removal of the award chart. A positive move will be the elimination of close-in award fees that United currently charges for booking last minute award flights. Award pricing for partner flights will remain standardized, however the chart of these prices will not be publicly available from United. Without having an award chart to reference, there will no longer be a minimum or maximum mileage price for United award flights.
Technically United first started with dynamic pricing with the introduction of Every Day Awards, however now all awards will be variably priced. Award programs having increasing become more complex over the last decade with the addition of restrictions, limitations, and changing requirements. This change by United is another example of the unknown that can happen with award programs which are relatively unregulated.
What are your thoughts about United Airlines removing award charts? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.