Updated January 9th, 2020
Though United the airline has a bad reputation, we believe they operate one of the most useful loyalty programs in the world, MileagePlus. Outstanding availability, regular “saver” awards, the ability to book partner awards online and a huge network all contribute to United MileagePlus’ above-average valuation. This month, we’re assigning an ACRV of 1.43¢ to each MileagePlus mile. Sadly, this represents an 11% decline in value since we last evaluated
|Current||Previous Period||$ Change||% Change|
|Intra-US Non-Zero Average||0.91¢||1.07¢||-0.16¢||-15%|
|International Non-Zero Average||2.91¢||3.28¢||-0.37¢||-11%|
Like competitor Alaska, United has a nasty habit of offering “mixed-cabin” award bookings. In other word’s, they’ll advertise a premium cabin award, so long as a single leg of the journey is up-front. From what we’ve seen, most of the time it’s the shorter of the two. In the above example, a flight between Newark(EWR) and Los Angeles(LAX) is presented at the Business Saver level. But when we look closer, we see that the 5-hour flight between Newark and San Diego is in economy, while the 27-minute flight between San Diego and Los Angeles is in first. For shame!
Our personal standard for evaluating whether a mixed-cabin flight is indeed a premium-cabin journey comes down to flight time. Although some editorial liberty is taken here, we like to see more than 60% of a given journey’s flight time be in the advertised cabin. The more, the better.
The chart above represents an almost best-case scenario. Great all around award availability paired with the opportunity for some absolutely phenomenal redemption values. Our best for the month comes from a business-class seat from Dallas(DFW) to London(LHR). It was offered for 63,000 miles plus $5.60 in fees. The lowest priced cash alternative was a whopping $6,191, providing a redemption value of 9.82¢! Not the highest we’ve ever seen, but it’s up there. Certainly a redemption to brag about.
United, along with transfer partner Southwest, are probably the two most practical options for a US based traveler looking to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards for air travel. Though we consider Southwest the better economy booking option, United is obviously the better choice for premium and international travel.