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A first look at the new for award travel – the good and bad

by on Thu February 12, 2015 • No Comment


United’s current website has some bipolar tendencies.

It’s incredibly functional, with the most transparency of any U.S. airline website, including:

  • Full views of fare booking code inventory via ‘Expert’ mode
  • The ability to restrict searches to specific booking codes
  • Easy online same day changes
  • Online upgrade request functionality
  • Almost complete partner award searches

But its interface is stuck in the early 2000s. It’s ugly.

And airfare searches lack a lot of filtering and discovery tools we’re used to on other sites. So using a lot of the transparency features takes a lot of digging and clicking.

A new website has been in the works for several years now, so we were excited to see that a Beta version of it is now available to invited MileagePlus members that allows live booking.

Here’s a look at how it is shaping up for MileagePlus award travel and upgrade searches…

The good

The award calendar and easy column layout are intact, and you can now filter Kayak style


Expert Mode is still alive and well


Dreaded mixed cabin awards are clearer


You can search for Global Premier upgradeable fares and compare them to Economy class fares side by side


Upgrade copays with miles are now displayed upfront and in the total


There are also other cool adds, like being able to select airports you don’t like connecting through in your profile and the opportunity to change the background image of the home page.

The bad

  • The back button on your browser works for award searches, but it defaults to your very first search. So if you changed dates while on the results page, move forward to book, then go back to change again, you’ll get your first, not your latest query.
  • The award calendar availability bug is still alive. Some days which display white on the calendar (which means no ‘Saver’ awards are available) actually do have Saver awards when you look at the detailed results. So you still need to click through each day if you’re on the hunt for scarce Saver space.
  • Text gets small – really small – for some things. But if that’s the tradeoff for having lots of transparency, we’re cool with it.
  • We don’t know when it will really launch for everyone. United is taking things very cautiously here.
  • You can’t see the aircraft type by default – you need to click on ‘Details’ to see it.

And of course there are other production bugs that we won’t mention here, that’s a natural part of the Beta process.

What’s not there

  • Signs of changing the award tier structure. They’re behind Delta on that front (which is a good thing)
  • The ability to compare miles and cash on the same page

Overall, United is doing what we want. The mandate was don’t mess up what’s working, especially for power users, and make it modern.

The Beta version is keeping the transparency intact, adding a cleaner interface, and making the power user tools easier to access. It’s not the most concise layout, there is a lot of detail, but United is really taking care to make sure the heaviest users of the site are happy.

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