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United/Continental mileage program changes take effect June 15

Members of United’s MileagePlus and Continental’s OnePass programs will have to start poring over complex charts on both carriers’ web sites to examine details of new award schedules that start June 15. The two airlines said the changes are being made to the frequent flyer award schedules “to make them consistent across both programs.” But a detailed examination of the old vs. new award charts shows that both airlines will impose some significant increases in costs for members. For example, in both programs, the mileage cost of a basic domestic upgrade for persons ticketed on a Y fare increases from 10,000 miles to 15,000 miles roundtrip. For persons traveling on other economy fare types, the upgrade cost goes from a standard 30,000 miles (plus a possible co-pay, although elites are exempt from that) to 30,000, 35,000 or 40,000 miles, depending on fare category. To Europe, an upgrade from a Y fare on both airlines rises from 20,000 miles roundtrip to 30,000 miles.

There are also some higher mileage prices for award tickets. In Continental’s OnePass program, for instance, the rate for an economy class SaverPass from the U.S. to Europe will rise from 55,000 to 60,000 miles roundtrip (although a business class SaverPass drops from 105,000 to 100,000 roundtrip). The less restrictive EasyPass award to Europe goes from 100,000 to 110,000 miles roundtrip for an economy class seat but stays at 250,000 miles for a business class award. SaverPass costs to Hawaii are unchanged, but EasyPass awards go from 70,000 to 80,000 roundtrip in economy, and from 150,000 to 160,000 in business class.

In other changes, Continental’s OnePass wil be introducing one-way award travel at half the price of a roundtrip, a feature that Mileage Plus already offers; and MIleagePlus will begin to offer lower-priced (10,000 miles) domestic awards for trips less than 700 miles each way, something that Continental’s plan already has (although it is for trips of under 750 miles, a limit that will be changed to 700 miles). In a brief summary of the changes, Continental advised that “many OnePass Upgrade Reward and Star Alliance Upgrade Award amounts will increase.” United said that “some” Mileage Plus and Star Upgrade Award amounts will go up. For details from United’s perspective, go to http://www.united.com/page/article/1,,53714,00.html, or for Continental, go to www.onepass.com; click on OnePass News and Offers and then OnePass Reward Chart Updates.

Meanwhile, Continental said it is raising fees on June 15 for some OnePass members when they cancel an award ticket and redeposit the miles in their accounts. The fee will be $150 for general members, $125 for Silver elites and $100 for Golds; there will be no fee for Platinum elites. There will be no charge if members change just the date or time of the award travel but not the origin or destination. And United on June 15 will reinstate fees for short-notice award travel bookings – i.e., within 21 days of departure. The fee will be $75 for general members of Mileage Plus, $50 for Premiers and $25 for Premier Executives; there will be no fee for Global Services or 1K members.

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