Welp, United is ditching award charts in November 2019 (as reported by Gary, Ben, and plenty of others).  Ted Striker, from Airplane!, sums it up well:

Obviously there’s quite a bit of customer consternation out there, which is understandable: customers earned miles when a redemption chart clearly represented their value.  Customers who wanted to put in the effort could find some incredible values on unforgettable flights.  Availability was the variable.

Delta, now United, have done away with award charts, making the value of one of their miles as unpredictable (and seemingly nonsensical) as airfares themselves.  Now, not only is availability a concern but price as well.

I know, you all expect me to lose it.  Here’s why I’m not going to.

Airlines are making historic profits right now and have been for the past 4-5 years.  When airlines are doing well those profits can cover a lot of moves like this, which may infuriate customers and bloggers but probably change few flying habits.  It’s a bet by the airlines that their big spenders will keep flying the same airline anyway.

So why am I not going to lose it?  Miles and points geeks should’ve seen this coming years ago.  When an airline makes a move like this it gives other airlines an excuse to do the same (e.g. Delta four years ago and now United).  I’m honestly surprised it took this long.  I doubt this is the last airline who will make this move too.

Here’s what every #loyaltygeek should have been doing (and, if they’re not, should start doing)

  1. Earn and burn – Use. your. miles.  Hoarding miles is like depositing money at a bank and letting the bank determine the value of that money (I’m like 99% certain that’s a Gary Leff quote but can’t find where he said it and he couldn’t recall either).  Have a bunch of miles?  Use them.  Saving a huge balance of miles for a dream vacation 5 years from now just isn’t realistic anymore, sadly.
  2. Diversify your points – I rarely talk about credit cards on this blog, but I will now.  Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points and Amex’s Membership Rewards points can be transferred to a variety of partners, which can insulate you from moves like this.  It’s smart to have the credit card of the airline you fly the most but the variable partner programs like Chase and Amex will continue to increase in their importance now.
  3. Expect more of this – The economy is growing and corporate American is doing well (this is an apolitical statement).  Expect more moves like this and be pleasantly surprised if they don’t happen.

If you’re earning and burning and diversifying your points, moves like United’s today won’t impact you as much.  No use complaining about it though, let’s just be smart and work around it as best we can.


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