We all knew that the United MileagePlus award chart was ripe for a substantial devaluation, but even the most cynical among us probably could not have expected this kind of wholesale massacre. The biggest and most painful change comes in the form of a complete separation between award redemptions on United metal and partner airlines. Starting on February 1, 2014, there will be an updated award chart specifically for partner airlines that makes redeeming virtually any business or first class award a hard pill to swallow.
There are so many massive increases across the board that it is probably easier just to look at the old and new award charts directly. In addition, I've compiled a side-by-side table that compares the current redemption requirements with the new cost using only United Airlines and using partner airlines. Note that this table is only for routes to and from the Mainland U.S., Alaska, and Canada.
One of the worst offenders I found is going to South Asia in first class, which jumps from 70K miles one-way to an unbelievable 130K miles (an 85.7% increase)! Yes, it will now cost 260K miles to fly round-trip on partner airlines to Singapore, Thailand, and even Hong Kong. To get to the Middle East, India or the Maldives in first class on a partner airline will now cost you a whopping 280K miles. Even first class to Japan will now cost 220K miles round-trip on partner airlines. To say this is shocking would be putting it mildly. And I haven't even begun to go through the massive increases between other regions!
Take a look at the current award chart, the new award chart effective February 1, 2014, and the table of changes I've compiled for award flights to and from the Mainland U.S., Alaska, and Canada. Routes where mileage requirements have increased are highlighted in red.
My only recommendation now is to burn as many United miles as you can before the new award chart comes into effect. You can still book award travel all the way through to January 2015 using the old mileage requirements, so don't delay! If you have any aspirational awards in business or first class on any partner airline, now is the time to plan those trips, because come February 1, 2014, it will cost you a hell of a lot more to realize those travel dreams.