Bad United MileagePlus Changes Coming in October

United has been known to be one of the most generous airlines regarding their stopover and open jaw policies on award tickets. That’s all coming to an end on October 6th. If you want to read what United has to say about this, click here. If not, I’ll give a brief summary below.

What You Can Do Today

Stopovers

A stopover is defined as a connection in a city lasting for more than 24 hours for international destinations and more than 4 hours for domestic destinations. United currently has one of the most generous stopover policies.

You could fly to Europe, enjoy a stopover, fly to Asia, enjoy your destination, then fly home. This could all be done in one round trip award ticket, essentially allowing you to visit two places on the same ticket. You could also fly to somewhere else in the US, see a friend, then fly to Europe, enjoy your vacation, and head back home. This also could be done in a single round trip award ticket.

Chicago - Germany (stopover) - Thailand (distination) - Chicago
Chicago – Germany (stopover) – Thailand (destination) – Chicago
Chicago - Boston (stopover) - Sweden (destination) - Chicago
Chicago – Boston (stopover) – Sweden (destination) – Chicago

Open Jaws

An open jaw can be defined in two ways. The first is returning to a different location than you started on an award ticket. You then have to find other means to get home. For example, you could fly from Chicago to London and then fly from London to Boston. This would make Boston the “open jaw” requiring you to find a way home from Boston to Chicago.

Chicago - London (destination) - Boston (open jaw)
Chicago – London (destination) – Boston (open jaw)

The other definition is flying home from a different place than where you flew into. For example, you could fly to Rome and then fly home from Paris. Once again, you would be responsible for the travel between Rome and Paris.

Chicago - Italy (destination & open jaw) then France - Chicago
Chicago – Italy (destination & open jaw) then France – Chicago

In addition to stop overs, United also has been very flexible with open jaws. You can pretty much do them however you like on round trip award tickets. Let’s look at my first example above and combine both a stop over and an open jaw into one award ticket. We could fly to Europe, have a stopover, fly to our destination in Asia, then instead of flying home we could fly from Asia to Australia. This would create an “open jaw” between Australia and the US in which you would be responsible for figuring out how to get home.

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All of the examples above will come to an end on October 6th. 

Excursionist Perk

This is what United is calling the “enhancement” to their MileagePlus program. It is not an enhancement whatsoever. Compared to their current policies, it is worse in every way. It does not add anything new that is currently impossible to do today. United claims that it is introducing this perk because many members were confused about how to use a stopover. I agree that’s probably true, but I do not agree that it is the reason for doing this. Here are the new “benefits” of the perk:

  • The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates. (For example, if your journey begins in North America, you will only receive the Excursionist Perk if travel is within a region outside of North America.)
  • Travel must end in the same MileagePlus defined region where travel originates.
  • The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk is within a single MileagePlus defined region.
  • The cabin of service and award type of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.
  • If two or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit, only the first occurrence will be free.

Translation

Your stopover now needs to be in the same MileagePlus region as the destination of your award ticket. After you have reached your stopover and destination, you must return to the same region in which your travel originated.

Conclusion

It probably won’t affect the majority of people who book Unite MileagePlus award, but starting October 6th, you will lose a ton of flexibility with how you can book stopovers and open jaws. If you have a complex award you have been looking to book, I would do so in the next week. It probably wont be possible after that.

Have you booked any awards with United recently to avoid these negative changes? Let me know below!

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