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Late last week, United Airlines introduced a series of “changes” (read: devaluations) to their MileagePlus program, one of which was the introduction of something called the United Excursionist Perk. These MileagePlus changes including the United Excursionist Perk will take place on October 6, 2016
Why did they do this? According to the United MileagePlus miles updates FAQ,
Many members found the stopover policy to be confusing. Our goal is to keep the benefit while making the process of booking your multi-city trip easier, so we are introducing the Excursionist Perk, which is a free one-way award within select multi-city itineraries.
I think that’s code for “It was too easy to hack our existing stopover rules, and we didn’t want to let people do things with stopovers that we didn’t like, so we took away functionality and made up a term called United Excursionist Perk to make things even more confusing 😀 “. I also enjoyed the FAQ of “Will these changes apply to me?” with the answer “Yes, these changes will apply to all MileagePlus members worldwide.”
The United Excursionist Perk
The major takeaway for me at least was the introduction of a new “benefit”, akin to a stopover, called the United Excursionist Perk. United’s current rules allow 1 stopover and 2 open jaws on a roundtrip ticket. This will be changing on October 6, 2016 with the introduction of the United Excursionist Perk. The United Excursionist Perk is basically a stopover with some additional restrictions
Why did United take a fairly well-known aviation term and call it something different (and more confusing?) I am not sure but I can only imagine that it involved “branding” and high-priced consultants 😀
Here are the 4 rules of the United Excursionist Perk, from United’s FAQ on the changes
- 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.
So basically a United Excursionist Perk is a stopover but limited to a one-way in the region of your destination. United is changing its routing rules to price everything as a series of one-ways, and the United Excursionist Perk lets you get one of those one-ways for free.
Here is an example of a stopover that is currently allowed and will STILL be allowed as a United Excursionist Perk after October 6th. JFK (origin) to LHR (stopover for any amount of time) to FCO (destination), then back directly to New York
But here is what you can NOT do
- Have your stopover in London and move your destination from Rome to Delhi – your stopover I mean Excursionist Perk and your destination have to be in the same region
- Similarly, you couldn’t start in LAX and stopover in JFK, because the United Excursionist Perk can not be in the region of your origin
- Add a stopover in Paris as well (you only get one United Excursionist Perk for free – the second one you’d have to pay for at the regular intra-Europe price; 10k miles I believe)
- End your journey in the Caribbean instead of JFK (origin and return must be in the same region)
- You also couldn’t have your JFK-LHR flight in economy and your LHR-FCO section in business class.
The wording that they have on open-jaws is a little confusing, but I believe you could open jaw both on the destination (so leave Europe from say, Madrid) as well as the origin (say return to Chicago instead of New York). The open jaws would have to be in the same region.
Other MileagePlus changes besides the United Excursionist Perk
In addition to introducing the United Excursionist Perk, there are a few other changes, also taking place on October 6th
- Removing the Round the World awards. This was a lesser known award type that was not always particularly useful (you could usually book awards just as good using the regular award chart (SEE ALSO: Finally got that RTW ticket booked – 159,500 miles and $148.86)
- There will be a change in the fee structure for changes and cancellations
The change / cancellation date was moved from 21 days to 60 days. Some of those fees went up and some went down. You’ll notice that Premier Platinum members now WILL get charged a fee to change or cancel awards within 60 days of the award date (compared to now, when no such fee is charged). You’ll also be charged fees in your local currency now, which is I guess something?
Note that this fee is DIFFERENT than the $75 fee that United charges for close-in bookings, though there is a way