MileagePlus Unpublished Hotel Awards enables members to use their miles to book hotels through the Hotwire partnership at discounted rates, United Airlines says.
Actually, in an email to members, United says “you’ll have the opportunity to save valuable miles by booking four-star hotels for fewer miles,” but then it hedges and adds, “rates can be discounted.”
With Hotwire, you know the star-rating, the hotel neighborhood and the amount of miles to make the booking up-front, but you learn the name of the hotel only once the prepaid and nonrefundable booking is complete.
The program gives members the choice of using their miles to book published hotels or unpublished rates, with the latter through Hotwire.
MileagePlus today was offering four-star hotels at “unpublished rates,” for a May 18 stay, ¬†near Chicago O’Hare for ¬†15,000 miles ¬†or members could opt for published rates and book the four-star Westin Michigan Avenue for 30,200 miles or the four-star Hotel 71 for 39,450 miles, although both of these properties are downtown.
Offers for unpublished rates ranged from three- to 4.5-star hotels.
Mileage guru Randy Petersen, who founded FlyerTalk, the frequent flyer forum, calls the MileagePlus-Hotwire program “quite unique,” adding that it shows “miles are becoming more currency-like.”
The Hotwire-MileagePlus collaboration means that loyalty program members will also be able to redeem miles through bookings at hotels that are not partners with MileagePlus, United Airlines spokesperson Rahsaan Johnson confirms.
The hotel choices are a function of the Hotwire hotel booking engine, Johnson adds.
Petersen says it would be “a huge shift in strategy” if the MileagePlus-Hotwire program began including non-partner hotels.
Johnson of United says the airline is seeking to “build the greatest universe of options” for MileagePlus members.
The program has been getting creative in recent months, he explains, such as adapting a Continental auction program now called Headliners, which enables MileagePlus members to bid on things such as two nights at a Denver hotel coupled with a visit to a United training facility in the city where they can try out a flight simulator.
Meanwhile, on a FlyerTalk thread about the new program, some people were downplaying its significance.
One FlyerTalk member, for example, termed the program “totally worthless,” saying better redemption values can be found elsewhere.
The Hotwire functionality in MileagePlus is powered by Switchfly.
“It works just like the hotel redemption for miles Switchfly (then ezRez) launched with MileagePlus in 2009, only with opaque rates provided exclusively by Hotwire,” a Switchfly spokesperson says. “MileagePlus sets the points-to-cash ratio but does not limit hotel inventory to United partners. ¬†Members can book any hotel available through the Switchfly system.”