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We recently wrote a post explaining the newest change to United’s routing rules. That post covers the basics. However, the new system seems to be more troublesome than expected. In addition to removing the Stopover Policy, United also appears to have removed the ability to book specific layovers on a multi-city itinerary. This was not part of the public announcement, and it is a big loss for people who use layovers to visit extra cities. I’ll try to explain this sneaky United devaluation.
To illustrate this concept, I’ll use an example from an itinerary I booked today. As part of our round-the-world trip next year, I wanted to book a segment between Male, Maldives (MLE) and Athens, Greece (ATH). I searched MLE – ATH and found a few interesting options at the saver level (25,000 miles). One option included layovers in Istanbul, Turkey (IST) and Cairo, Egypt (CAI). Each layover was just over an hour, but I wanted to extend them to actually visit the cities. For a legal routing, layovers must be under 24 hours.
I went to the multi-city search option and searched each individual leg: MLE-IST; IST-CAI; CAI-ATH. This search yielded layovers of 13.5 hours in Istanbul and 20 hours in Cairo. Great! We can take a tour of Istanbul and visit the Pyramids in Cairo… all for the price of 25,000 per person…
NOT SO FAST… That’s how the OLD RULES worked. When I selected the final leg of the search, United’s website churned out a price of 75,000 per person! What the whaaaaat?! The pricing engine was literally charging 25,000 per leg of the itinerary, even though the stops in IST and CAI were legal layovers. I decided to call United to fix the issue.
Convo with Agent #1
When I reached a customer service agent, I asked him to search the itinerary for me. He input my requested flights for each segment and returned a price of 75,000 per person. Bad news. I tried to say that my routing only contained layovers (<24 hours), but they were being priced like stopovers (>24 hours). The agent apologized and said that the system sets the price per segment, and he could not change it. I declined to book… time to HUCA (Hang-Up-Call-Again).
Convo with Agent #2
Agent number two was a very cheery lady. She took down my flights, entered the search, and said “Hmm, seems to say 75,000 per person.” She realized the problem quickly and offered to try a few things. I waited on hold for literally 45 minutes before she returned. She said that she was able to do a manual override and apply the old rules… causing the itinerary to price at 25,000 per person with the long layovers! I was very curious about the manual override, so I asked her how she did it. She was a bit vague, but since the rule change was only a couple days ago, agents are able to override the new rules… if they know how. This likely will not last.
The new system prices segments individually for stopovers AND layovers.
Instead of pricing my trip as MLE – ATH, with layovers in IST and CAI for 25,000 per person, the automated system saw three separate trips at 25,000 EACH.
You can no longer use a multi-city search to add layovers.
The multi-city search will no longer recognize the difference between a layover and a stopover. Everything is now segment-based. The only options you have for connections are the ones that show up when you search origin to destination, in our case searching MLE – ATH. No adjustments are permitted to the length of the layovers.
Agents may be able to manually override… for now.
If you find a good agent, they may be able to work some magic for you. Be sure to emphasize that your routing includes layovers and not stopovers. In the end, though, you will be subject to their willingness to try. Expect to be on hold for a long time, while they attempt to hammer out the issue.
This is NOT a bug… This is the new normal.
Some people have speculated that this is a bug in the new United booking system. My interaction with both agents seems to suggest otherwise. They were both clear that itineraries will price per segment under the new rules.
I’ve tried to be upbeat about this change from United. However, today was truly frustrating. Removing the ability to build layovers into a routing constitutes a significant, unannounced devaluation. Hopefully this will get enough complaints from MileagePlus members that United reverses course, but I doubt it. What do you think of the United changes?