I had the chance to speak with Luc Bondar, the President of MileagePlus, yesterday and he shared with me several refreshingly positive improvements coming to the United Airlines MileagePlus program this summer.
United Airlines MileagePlus Summer 2021 Changes – Cheaper Awards & Upgrades, No Blackouts
Discounted Prices On European Routes
Throughout the pandemic, United MileagePlus has gained more members and seen existing members stock up on more points. With passengers flocking back to airplanes, you might think that would call for raising prices on redemptions, but United is taking a different approach on several European routes this summer according to Bondar.
Economy class awards have dropped to as low as 22,500 miles one-way, even for close-in purchases, to a number of destinations including:
Pricing is based upon demand so you will see that prices vary depending upon your chosen travel date.
One-way nonstop flights on partners within Europe are also pricing at 6,000 miles each and some U.S. domestic awards are pricing at 5,000 miles each way.
No More Blackout Dates
Until now, MileagePlus elite members and Chase co-branded credit cardholders had “last seat” access to all United flights, but general members of the MileagePlus program did not.
That now changes, with all members having access to last-seat availability on all United flights. Do note United does not publish award charts and these fares are not capped, so expect to pay huge amounts of miles if you do end up needing the last couple seats on a plane.
Still, for some people it will be better than not having points at all.
Tip: Always check the Chase travel portal before transferring Ultimate Rewards Points to United MileagePlus for an “Everyday” award. Sometimes redemptions are valued at less than one cent per miles, which makes redeeming directly with Chase a much more attractive option.
Lower Co-Pay On Upgrade Awards
For at least the summer months, United has discounted the co-pay for MileagePlus upgrade awards by 25%. You can find mileage upgrade award pricing here.
“Skip The Waitlist” With PlusPoints Expands
As the name implies, “Skip The Waitlist” allows 1K and Global Services elite members to pay more miles in order to skip bypass the upgrade waitlist and immediately confirm an upgrade. This typically costs 100 PlusPoints (versus the normal price of 40 PlusPoints) but may be worth the peace of mind for an upgrade, especially on a special vacation.
United currently does not publish what routes or destinations the feature is available on. Nor is it tied a specific fare class. But Bondar told me that “Skip The Waitlist” is expanding to more destinations including Tahiti and Europe.
You won’t know if this option is available until you book, but will be able to see if it is an option prior to ticketing your reservation.
Re-Opening Of Polaris Lounges
I asked Bondar when we might expect United’s premium Polaris Lounges to re-open and he told me that while no date has been set, he hoped “some” of the lounges would re-open “later this year.”
That’s still fairly optimistic…my prediction remains the lounges will not open until next spring.
We can’t help but wait for the other shoe to drop…I’m expecting nothing less. Not because Bondar was necessarily holding anything back, but because MileagePlus is a for-profit business after all and there are more miles than ever sitting idle in accounts thanks to pandemic-related travel restrictions.
Thus, take advantage of the current deals. Spend your miles when possible (but don’t waste them). Do keep in mind that despite this positive news, miles remain a depreciating asset and are not to be hoarded.
But in terms of traveling to Europe this summer, your United miles may now be as valuable as ever.