United announced changes to its MileagePlus program back in November (read more here) that were supposed to take place on February 1, 2014. United already once moved the implementation of the award chart by two days this past weekend (read more here).
United spokesperson has now tried to clarify what changes are allowed on existing awards without repricing them at higher levels + what feeder flights you can take with partner airlines keeping it under United’s own metal award chart.
Updated handling for mixed UA-Partner United/partner award itineraries: As we shared with the initial announcement, the Star Alliance/Partner partner award pricing will apply to Business or First awards for itineraries that include at least one flight segment operated by a MileagePlus partner carrier in Business or First.
However, as a customer benefit we have made an exception for most itineraries which require connecting onto a MileagePlus/Star partner in First or Business for a short distance. Specifically, if a United/Copa award itinerary contains a connecting segment on a MileagePlus/Star partner that is wholly within one MileagePlus award region, then the United award price will apply.
For example: IAD-FRA in United BusinessFirst connecting to FRA-FCO in Lufthansa Business, will be priced at the United mileage award amount.
Note that this exception will not apply to a few specific regions and routings, such as intra-Africa connecting segments and certain fifth-freedom routes (e.g. BKK-KUL operated by Lufthansa)
This is quite clear. You can use partner airline connecting to United or Copa flight, as long as the partner flight is within one region. United has excluded the entire Africa and some fifth-freedom routes from this.
Change clarification for itineraries booked before February 3: Many of you have also been asking about what kinds of itinerary changes will re-trigger a re-price to the new award chart, and I can share some additional follow-up details about that. As a reminder, the existing change process will apply, and any change that requires an award to re-price will require an add/collect of the additional miles under the new award price structure. Fees for change/cancel will still apply per our existing policies. Changes that will not trigger a re-price for itineraries ticketed before February 3, 2014 include:
Date/time (cabin, region, and award type can’t change)
Carrier on one or more segments (cabin, region, and award type can’t change)
Origin/Destination within the same regions (carrier and cabin can’t change)
I think that United has worded this extremely poorly (maybe on purpose?). So, you can change date/time, carrier or even the origin/destination. The key here seems to be that, as long as the award doesn’t need to be repriced, United allows you to change pretty much anything.
If you have paid for first class award, but some of your segments are on business, you can later switch those to first without having to reprice the award.
You can ever switch from United’s first class to any of the partner ones that may become available at closer to the departure date. You can also change both the origin and destination, as long as they are within the same region, without having to reprice anything.
It is interesting that United’s spokesperson decided to clarify what changes are allowed for the award tickets issued prior to the change after the change happened, although these must have been planned well beforehand.