United has announced that Mileage Plus members may now redeem awards on a one-way basis rather than the previous round-trip requirement. Best of all, there is no premium for a one-way redemption - it is a simple 50% of the miles required for a round-trip award. This new structure matches that of American, Alaska and British Airways, among others.
For members, it greatly simplifies award redemption. Now consumers can make an informed choice about to earn vs. burn based on the price in miles or money based on each direction of their travels. In addition, given the scarcity of frequent-flyer award seats these days, consumers can redeem the higher peak level one direction while taking advantage of the lower off-peak award in the other direction - previously, the higher mileage level applied round trip, even if the low mileage level was actually available.
One possible downside for consumers is that if they are booking these awards separately on the phone, they may get nailed with more phone booking fees - one for each direction of the trip.
And, alas, the new structure only works for United/United Express flights - no one-ways on Star Alliance partners. At least yet anyway - one Star carrier, BMI does allow one-way awards on all Star Alliance partners - we only hope United will do the same in time. And American and BA already allow one-ways on their partners.
United also announced that users can now combine "miles and money" if they are short on miles. While I like the flexibility this offers, I've never found combining miles and money to be in anyone's interest except the airlines....
Overall, however, greater flexibility is always a plus. Or a Mileage Plus in this case.