Best Ways To Use Your United Miles

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On Friday morning United announced a devaluation to their award chart, impacting all travel booked using United miles on or after February 1, 2014.

The new award chart was especially damaging to Star Alliance awards, given that United went from having a single award chart for travel on United or Star Alliance partners to having separate award charts depending on whether it’s a Star Alliance award or not.

Anyway, the next three months are a great time to burn United miles, and you certainly want to get the best value from the United miles you have currently, so I figured I’d go over what I consider to be some of the best redemption values on the United award chart.

United MileagePlus award chart

United’s current Star Alliance award chart offers partner awards for the same rate as United saver awards:

United-Star-Alliance-Awards

United MileagePlus award stopover rules

On a roundtrip long-haul international award between regions, United allows one stopover in addition to your destination.

  • A stopover is when you stop at a city for more than 24 hours.
  • For example, if you’re flying Los Angeles > Tokyo > Hong Kong and stop in Tokyo for 23 hours it wouldn’t count as a stopover.
  • If, on the other hand, you stopped for 25 hours, it would be considered a stopover.

You can stopover for as long as you’d like, provided travel on the ticket is complete within a year from the date the ticket is issued. United doesn’t allow stopovers of more than 24 hours on one-way awards.

United MileagePlus award open jaw rules

United allows two opens jaws on long-haul international awards.

  • An open jaw is when you fly into one city and out of another.
  • For example, flying Los Angeles > Hong Kong and then returning Seoul > San Francisco would be considered a double open jaw (since you have an open jaw between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the US, and an open jaw between Hong Kong and Seoul in Asia).

United MileagePlus fuel surcharges

United doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for travel on any of their partner airlines, which is a big selling point of their program. That means when you book an award ticket you just pay the taxes and fees on the ticket.

United MileagePlus ticketing/change fees

United charges the following fees on award tickets for non-elite members (fees for elite members are listed here):

  • $25 phone ticketing fee
  • $75 close-in ticketing fee for tickets booked less than 21 days before departure
  • $75 fee for making changes to an itinerary more than 21 days before departure, with the exception of changing origin or destination, which triggers the $100 fee
  • $100 fee for making changes within 21 days of departure, or making changes to the origin or destination more than 21 days before departure
  • $200 fee for canceling an award and having the miles redeposited

Avoiding United’s phone ticketing fee

While United’s website is good for booking partner awards in theory, the website tends to bring up error messages if you try to book anything complicated. If you book by phone you’re charged a $25 phone ticketing fee. The easy way around that is to book a similar award online, and then call within 24 hours to change it to what you want. Award changes are free within 24 hours of ticketing, and you shouldn’t be charged the phone ticketing fee.

United MileagePlus routing rules

So this is where it gets a bit tricky. It’s both a blessing and a curse that United’s computers price award tickets, since it somewhat takes out the need to play “agent roulette.” The agents simply enter the flights you want and the computer decides how much the award costs.

The downside is that United doesn’t actually publish routing rules for award tickets, so you can never be sure whether something will price or not.

Lately I’ve noticed a major change in that United has greatly restricted the number of segments you can fly on an award ticket. United seems to limit the number of segments per direction to four, while in other regions they limit it to five. But if you’re looking to fly more than four segments in one direction, don’t count on the ticket pricing.

Generally speaking, though, you can:

  • Route from the US to Asia via Europe
  • Route from the US to Australia via Asia
  • Route from the US to India and many places in the Middle East via Europe OR Asia

Best values on the United MileagePlus award chart

So here’s the deal — United’s current award chart is really, really fair all around. There aren’t really many “sweet spots” as all regions are rather inexpensive, and priced rationally. It’s not like the US Airways award chart where there’s an “amazing” 90,000 mile business class option to North Asia that knocks everything else out of the park.

That being said, I certainly have some favorite uses of United miles, including:

  • 50,000 MileagePlus miles for one-way business class from the US to Europe
  • 60,000 MileagePlus miles for one-way business class from the US to all of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia (and you can route via Europe to all regions)
  • 67,500 MileagePlus miles for one-way first class to Japan (and you can route via Europe and even have a stopover in Europe if you do a roundtrip)
  • 70,000 MileagePlus miles for one-way first class to North or South Asia (again, you can route via Europe and even have a stopover there if you book a roundtrip)

Star Alliance routes with readily available first class award space

It’s first class redemptions that are getting hit hardest with the new award rates, and I know a lot of people are hoping to make one last “aspirational” redemption before the new rates kick in. So I figured I’d post a reminder of which Star Alliance first class products are generally available using United miles:

Asiana first class is really readily available out of Frankfurt, and somewhat available out of Los Angeles. Unfortunately their flight out of New York featuring the new first class suite has virtually no first class award space. Nonetheless, I’ve really enjoyed my flights in Asiana’s first class, and both the food and service are top-notch.

United-MileagePlus-Awards1
Asiana first class award space out of Frankfurt

United-MileagePlus-Awards2
Asiana first class award space out of Los Angeles

Air China first class is incredibly easy to come by. A majority of their flights have first class award space, and it’s actually quite a nice first class product. I know I enjoyed my recent flight on them in business class.

United-MileagePlus-Awards3
Air China first class award space out of Los Angeles

United-MileagePlus-Awards4
Air China first class award space out of Houston

Thai Airways first class is also readily available. The only catch is that they don’t fly a first class product on their route to the US, so realistically you can only fly it within Asia, between Europe and Asia, or between Australia and Asia. Nonetheless as part of a larger award that could be a nice option.

United-MileagePlus-Awards5
Thai Airways first class award space out of Frankfurt

ANA first class award space is really tough to come by using United miles, as they seem to release less and less first class award space every year. Historically they’ve always released a fair bit of award space for travel in the January through March timeframe, though for next year I’m not even seeing much of that. Space is nearly impossible to come by out of Los Angeles and San Francisco, though there’s generally a bit more space out of New York and Chicago (both routes on which they have twice daily service), as well as out of Washington.

Looking at award space in the new year I do see a fair bit of space on the Chicago to Tokyo route, but that’s the extent of it.

United-MileagePlus-Awards6
ANA first class award space out of Chicago

Lufthansa first class is only made available to members of Star Alliance partner programs at most 15 days in advance. I recently explained how to maximize your chances of scoring award space using miles within that timeframe.

So while you can’t plan Lufthansa first class awards far in advance nowadays, the space is pretty readily available within the week or so prior to departure if you’re flexible with dates and routes. For example, between Detroit and Frankfurt there’s only one day next week without first class award space.

United-MileagePlus-Awards7
Lufthansa first class award space out of Detroit

To top off an account for an award…

As I’ve mentioned before, we have three months till the new redemption rates go into effect, so the best we can do is take advantage of the old rates while they’re still available.

But if you apply for any Chase Ultimate Rewards cards now you should still be able to have the bonus post well before the change in redemption rates, which should allow you to book travel through December of next year. Here are a few of the best cards:

I know some people are saying it’s silly to sign up for a Chase card now, but at the end of the day this United devaluation will decrease the value of Ultimate Rewards points. 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points by January are potentially worth much more than 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after January, and I personally would rather maximize my points and travel as much as I can in the meantime.

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Comments

  1. Ben, thanks for the tips. Is the routing below valid

    outbound ORD-IAH-IST (Stopover 2 days) – ATH (Destination) return FCO-FRA-ORD

    We would pay for our own way from ATH to FCO.

    I have two separate one ways ORD-IAH-IST-ATH (no stopover) and FCO-FRA-ORD. I would like to combine the two and with a stopover in IST if possible

  2. @ David — Yep, totally legal. Just keep in mind you can’t merge two separate reservations, but rather you’d have to cancel one of the one ways and hope the space goes back into inventory. Then you’d add those segments to the other reservation.

  3. Another great post. Might I suggest a post on the top 5 or top 10 redemptions to consider before the award chart changes?

  4. Thank you for the great post, Lucky. I have two questions:

    1) My understanding is that only the date/time can be changed without mile increase after Feb 1. What if that requires a route change?

    2) Can I route from Asia to US via Europe?

  5. Ben,

    Under your award chart best values, those are some amazingly low mileage redemptions! Are you looking far in advance? Because I’ve never seen awards that low, and I’m a 1K. Search tips please?

    Thanks for this very helpful post!

  6. @ Heta — I could be wrong, but my understanding is that as long as the award type doesn’t change there would be no mileage increase. I’ll double check on that, though.

    And yes, you can route from Asia to the US via Europe.

  7. @ Ally — Those are the normal “saver” level redemptions. Keep in mind they’re one way. What city pairs are you mostly searching, because you shouldn’t have any trouble finding awards at those rates?

  8. I’m planning a trip LAX-TPE sometime next year but don’t know exact dates. If I book now on a dummy date next Aug at the current levels and change the dates later (paying $75 fee), how much further out could I book? Could I move the trip another full year or is there some time limit with date changes?

  9. @ Brian — All travel has to be complete within a year of the date the ticket was originally issued. So if you issued the ticket today all travel would have to be complete by November 4, 2014.

  10. Lucky,
    Is it possible to have an open jaw and stopover from US to Asia via Europe?

    I am thinking NYC (either JFK or EWR) to LHR (stopover) then SIN. Return trip will be HKG-NYC or HKG-TPE-NYC.

  11. lucky, could you explain the “number of segments” restriction? I’m looking to book a south Asia award with a stopover in Europe. Could you maybe give me some example routings i can maybe book?

  12. @ AT — So what I was trying to explain is that you can typically do four segments per direction.

    Without knowing where in the US you are, this means you can do something like JFK-FRA-ZRH-NRT-BKK, for example. If you added another segment, however, it might not price.

    Let me know if that doesn’t make sense or you have any other questions.

  13. Can one do a stopover AND two open jaws on same ticket, or is it a stopover and 1 open jaw? For example, is this bookable:
    LIH-SFO-ORD(stopover)-FRA-CDG open jaw SZG-FRA-ORD (open jaw) CLE-LAX-LIH.

    Its 4 segments in each direction, but with a stopover and an open jaw with ORD. First United Agent said only one open jaw and one stopover allowed.

  14. thanks lucky, that helps!

    I’m based in SEA and I’m thinking of going to DPS. What routing would you do for this? Coming back, I’m thinking DPS-TPE-LAX-SEA.

  15. @ HanaleiRadio — You are allowed two stopovers and an open jaw. The catch is that the open jaw has to be at your turnaround point (in this case either Hawaii or Europe). You can’t have an open jaw “mid-itinerary,” unfortunately.

  16. @ AT — Lots of great options. I think the best would be:
    — ANA 787 business class Seattle to Tokyo, Thai A380 business class Tokyo to Bangkok, then Thai to Bangkok.
    — EVA routing you suggested, either via LAX or SFO.

  17. Lucky,

    I’ve been trying to price a one way award from us to Japan via Europe when there was space but the website was giving me an error. Specifically it was the IAD-FRA flight on the 747-8, FRA-PEK on the a380 continuing to NRT on NH’s 787. If I called, they should be able to book it for 67.5k or in violation of the routing rules.

  18. One thing that has largely gone unnoticed in this latest award chart realignment (I intentionally don’t use the word “devaluation”) is the 20-25% reduction in miles required for some routes from Central Asia and Central/South Africa. Also, the North Africa and Central/South Africa zones have been aligned into a single price for intra-Africa travel.

    Granted, this is scant consolation to most North American collectors aspiring to First Class partner awards. However, it is an extremely positive change for those of us that live in Sub-Saharan Africa!

  19. Best value on the award chart is Japan to Oceania for 10k in Economy / 20k in business / 35k in First (30k in First with the “devaluation”) each way. You can route via Asia… I did KIX – HKG – BKK – SYD – AKL – NOU in NH C / TG F / NZ C / NZ Y for only 35,000 per ticket. Japan to Australia/New Zealand would have been / will be way more.

  20. Is the 4 segment limit per direction overall or per part of the itinerary? Eg if I go S Asia -> N America with an OJ in Europe do I need to keep 4 or less segments for the entire thing, or just 4 segments S Asia -> Europe and 4 Europe -> N America

  21. If I’d like to cancel a United award ticket and have my miles redeposited to my account, can I use the Mercedes Amex card and get the $200 back(as non-elite)?

  22. Hi Ben, thanks for the great advice. I have been trying to route NYC-CDG-TYO-NYC for a few days and keep getting error messages…this routing should work, right? Thanks.

  23. @ Tocqueville,
    I’ve been looking at this (Japan-Oceania)and I don’t quite get where you got the 30k in First number. (post devaluation?)What I see post Feb 1 is 12.5k, 30k, 40k
    You were able to route from KIX to NOU via North/South Asia AND Australia for 35k with combination of Y, C and F? I’m still learning this new region and any clarification is helpful. Thanks.

  24. Hey Lucky,
    So i’m thinking of doing: SIN-Delhi-FRA-ORD and the united site is pricing me at 130,000 points for one way in First. Is this right? I was assuming it would be 70,000. Is the fact I’m going through India screwing it up? Thanks!

  25. Thanks for this post, but could you possibly put up a post about the top 10 “aspirational” redemptions prior to the devaluation?

    I’m thinking of going somewhere in southeast asia in first to burn up my miles, but that’s a pretty general thought. I’m looking for some way to narrow it down then I’ll start looking for availability.

    Thanks!

  26. @Hela – you are exactly right, my mistake. I mis-read the “new” chart by one column. 12.5k, 30k, 40k it is so it has been devalued as well 🙁 (though 40k still not too bad). And yes routing was:
    KIX – HKG in NH C (23 hour layover)
    HKG – BKK – SYD in TG F (2 hour connection)
    SYD – AKL in NZ C (20 hour layover)
    AKL – NOU in NY Y

  27. @Ben I’ve been following the recent development on segment restrictions but I still have a couple questions I was hoping you might have some info on:

    1. Could you elaborate on which regions seem to be allowing 5 segments per direction and which regions are only allowing 4 per direction?

    2. If we had an itinerary to a region that only allows 4 segments per direction (so 8 segments total) do you think it would be possible to get an agent/supervisor to manually override the computers if we wanted to do 6 segments outbound and 2 segments inbound or 3 segments outbound and 5 segments inbound (basically wondering whether we can convince them to price something where we are over the per-direction limit but still within the limits per-trip limit?

  28. Hi Lucky – Do you know the timeframe when I should look to start seeing Thai’s award ticket… started to look @ (sept-oct 14) timeframe to see the NRT-BKK A380 F award to get a feel of a Dec redemption… but so far not seeing/ feeling any…

    TIA

  29. @ HoKo — To be honest the changes are pretty recent so I’m not positive which regions allow four and which allow five.

    Generally speaking it’s tough to get an agent to override the computer’s pricing without a compelling reason. I suppose in theory anything is possible, but it seems unlikely.

  30. @ Steve — Thai releases a ton of first class award space in advance, even on the A380 to FRA and CDG. For whatever reason they don’t seem to be releasing much space in advance on the NRT route. 🙁

  31. Funny (and good) how segment rule does not apply to US – Europe routes. Booked ATL-IAH-IST-BCN-GVA-LIS-FRA-MSQ with several 23 hour stops along the way as a one-way business class ticket for 50k

  32. Somebody should do an analysis of United vs. US Airways vs. Avianca LifeMiles. In particular, the redemption charts.

    Does the United devaluation make accruing LifeMiles more justifiable?

    We all know that US Airways/American is the next likely to devalue their charts, but how bad would the devaluation have to be to make LifeMiles the next power program in Star Alliance (United values just went down, US Airways will leave Star…at that point are LifeMiles more valuable than United miles? Should we be buying them up at 1.5 cpm during the promos? What are the sweet spots on their chart?

  33. @ Cody — The issue with accruing Lifemiles is that regardless of what their rates are now, they’ve made drastic changes without any advance notice whatsoever, so it’s an extremely unstable currency to collect. While they’re a good currency to earn and burn, I wouldn’t suggest ever having them as a primary Star Alliance program.

  34. Lucky- Question about the Ultimate Rewards and MileageExplorer signup bonuses. Do they give you the miles as soon as you hit the spending thresholds or only after three months?

  35. Great post, I learned a lot!

    One note about ANA out of Chicago, NH11 is the new first class.
    NH1011 is older and doesn’t have full flat business, I think.

  36. Ben, I’m looking to book a trip BOS-DEL-BOS (with connections I’m sure) departing December 28, 2014 and returning January 13, 2015 using united miles. My plan is to book a round trip first class trip on or after January 14, 2014 (get it ticketed) and pick a dummy return date since the schedule won’t be open for the return until about February 13 (after the devaluation). Then change the return once the schedule opens. Will I be hit with additional mile fees since it will have been booked prior to Feb 1 and I’ll just be changing a date? Not sure if I’m explaining myself well but from what I’m reading it seems possible with just a $75 fee…

  37. ben – i have a question similar to heta’s. i’m thinking of booking a first class reward that departs after the devaluation date with one segment in lufthansa business (another segment is in first). if first class availability on lufthansa opens up 15 days before departure, will i be able to change that segment from business to first without a miles increase?

  38. The frequent flyer community ought to publicly complain to Chase big time. With the modifications to the Rapid Rewards program and now the Mileage Plus program, the value of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and miles from some Chase airline-affiliated credit cards has changed. I’m surprised the airlines can get away with it and it doesn’t affect their relationship with their customers or the banks at all.

  39. Lucky,
    Is this a valid routing LAX-SYD(stop)-BOM(Dest)-LAX,as the website errors out and at most I can only do LAX-SYD-BKK-LAX. Even then it prices it at 135k in Biz (miles required for Aus/NZ r/t) and not 120k as expected (LAX-BKK r/t). Any tricks to make sure it’s treated as LAX-BKK(or BOM) roundtrip with a SYD stopover ? Thanks !

  40. @ jeff — I wish I knew for sure. All we’ve heard from United at this point is the following: “Our existing change process will apply. Changes to awards that require a change in date do not result in a change to the award price. Any other change will require an add/collect in miles and fees for changes or cancellations will still apply as per our existing policies.”

    In theory what you’re trying to do shouldn’t require a difference in miles, though I’m not positive how that would work under the new system unfortunately.

  41. @ Neel — If you go via Australia it’ll be charged at that rate and not the Asia rate, for what it’s worth. Unfortunately you wouldn’t be able to route via India enroute to/from Australia.

  42. i dont understand the following:

    on a mileage flight if departure and destination are same but you change the city connecting at after Feb 1st -does this change
    number of miles to new requirements?

    similarly,as stopovers on openjaw roundtrips will be bannedafter feb 1st,if you change the connecting city will this invalidate the openjaw roundtrip or push it to higher mileage requirements?
    thanks

  43. On the recent LH F glitch, I wasn’t able to book anything on a round-trip PNR (it just errored out). So, I booked the LH F flight on a one-way–which removed my ability to do a free stopover.

    Is it possible for a UA phone agent to reissue a one-way itinerary into a round-trip itinerary without messing up the flights on the original one-way itinerary? (I ask because no phone agents could see the O space, even though the website showed it and let me book.)

  44. @ aw — Based on what United has said, yes, that would cause the price to be recalculated. Can’t guarantee that will be the case in practice, but that’s what they’ve said.

  45. @ jackal — Yes, you can absolutely add a return to a one-way without causing any problems. The only thing you can’t do is merge two one-ways you have booked onto a single record.

  46. My wife and I are looking to do the US to Asia via Europe thing. We each have enough miles on our own for each of us (that is, we both have 120k+). Is there a way to book such that we can be on the same PNR, in case of delays, etc. and to actually sit together?

  47. Is there any reason that I couldn’t book the outbound for both of us and have her book the return for both of us? Two one ways, but flying “together” each way?

  48. @ Brendan — You could, but the downside is that you wouldn’t get a stopover then. Also, if you had to cancel the tickets you’d pay double the change fees, since they’re technically different tickets. I’d say the cons outweigh the pros.

  49. I can’t wrap my head around the Open JAW rules.

    Is this a valid itinerary for United?
    PHL – ATH (on USAir)Stopover for several days
    ATH – ROM Destination/Open Jaw #1
    FLR – PAR Open Jaw #2
    LON – PHL

  50. @ Chip — It’s not. The open jaw has to be at your turnaround point, meaning you can have one at your origin and one at your destination. You can’t have two open jaws mid-itinerary.

  51. @lucky – thanks, that makes sense. So, I would assume I could book the following.
    PHL – ATH (on USAir)Stopover for several days
    ATH – ROM Destination/Open Jaw
    LON – PHL

    However, I notice there is an issue with the Open JAW having to be the shortest leg of the flight. How is that distance calculated? If, from ATH – ROM I fly through another city (BRU), I see the mileage from ATH-BRU-ROM is 1307. Is that the mileage that counts, or do they break it down to each flight segment?

  52. @ Chip — That should work. It doesn’t have to be the shortest segment, but rather just the shortest distance of the three (meaning the distance between Rome and London has to be shorter than the distance between Philadelphia and Rome and London and Philadelphia, which it is).

  53. What a great post! Thanks Lucky.

    Could I do something like:

    LAX-FRA UA F
    FRA-CDG LH J – stop for four days
    CDG-to HKG somehow in LH F

    For 75K UA Miles

  54. Hi Lucky,

    In your open-jaw example above, you used HKG and ICN, which are in different regions. Do they work because the mileage requirement for North and South Asia are the same from N. America? Thanks.

  55. Hi Lucky,

    I am a little confused. In your post, you said long-haul inter. flights allows two open jaws and one stopover. But in your response #20, you said one open jaw and two stopovers. Is it correct? I may have missed something.

    I kept getting error for the following flights:
    outbound: ORD-PVG (stopover)-SYD(open-jaw at destination)
    inbound: AKL-LAX(stopover)-ORD

    What is the issue here? Thanks.

  56. “67,500 MileagePlus miles for one-way first class to Japan (and you can route via Europe and even have a stopover in Europe if you do a roundtrip)”

    Can you have a stopover in MiddleEast (or Asia?) on a roundtrip to Japan?

  57. Hi Lucky,

    So I’m planning on using my United miles from Asia to the US in a few weeks and had a quick question. My flight looks like HKG-BKK-DXB-AUH-FRA-DTW. The thing is, I’m planning on using ground transportation between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. will they allow this? Thanks

  58. i want to use united miles to do a round trip within EU. would i have stopover or open jaw?

    how many hours is it for layover? how many layovers could i have?

    Thanks!!

  59. @ jenny — You can do an open jaw, which is basically the same as two one-ways in this instance. You’re not allowed a stopover on an award within a region, though you’re allowed as many stopovers of up to 24 hours as you’d like.

  60. Lucky, you mentioned that you can go USA-Japan via Europe for the USA-Japan mileage, is it possible to go USA-Europe via Japan, one-way using United miles and just get charged for USA-Europe one-way mileage? Thanks!

  61. Can I use the openjaws as one ways?

    For example
    Houston – Las Vegas
    Houston – Toronto
    Houston – Singapore – Hong Kong – Houston.

    Can the first two be valid openjaws?

  62. I booked a one-way ticket BKK-BOS when LH released all those F seats for the MUCYYZ flight. Per your reply in post#61, I should be able to change my ticket to a roundtrip ticket and keep the LH/TG flights that I have – is the fee for this change just $100, since I won’t be redepositing my miles?

    Is this allowed:
    bos-nrt (stopover)
    nrt-bkk (destination)
    bkk-fra (open jaw)
    muc-bos (open jaw)

  63. @ mangoceviche — Yes, you could make the change for $100, though you couldn’t do the open jaw in Europe. The open jaw has to be at the turnaround point, so has to be either North America or Asia.

  64. Lucky,

    I’m trying to book my first United redemption applying the rules you outlined. I found three Saver level Business class awards on United’s website but I can’t string them together online. Can you verify that these “should” be allowed? If so, should I just call United? Thanks!

    6/17 JFK-MUC-TLV LH411/LH688 (stopover)
    6/24 TLV-ATH-JTR A3929/A3354 (destination)
    6/29 ATH-FRA-JFK LH1285/LH400 (open jaw/return)

  65. Thanks for a really useful article.

    Can I safely assume changing class of service on a first class award is allowed without triggering a re-price on the number of miles needed? I.e.:
    (a) If a segment booked into first class is date changed, it’s OK to book it into business class if that’s all that’s available. Don’t suppose it would wait list on first class :(.

    (b) If first class opens up on a segment originally booked in business class then you can upgrade, presumably still having to pay a change fee?

  66. @ Manar — I don’t think it’s necessarily safe to assume, though my guess is that in practice that would work just fine without causing a reprice.

  67. Hi Lucky,
    I live in SF and want to book a ticket to Southeast asia. can I route through middle east?

    Departing: SFO stopover in AUH or DXB to Singapore (destination)

    Return: PNH (23 hour layover in HKG) to SFO

    Alternatively, if that does not work, can I route through Europe to Asia if I am coming from the West Coast. I know there are total mile restrictions for the routes. Thanks for any insight!!!

  68. @ CaliBruin — You can definitely route through Europe. I don’t believe you’ll be able to get away with the Middle East, though United’s computers are pretty funny with how they price things sometimes, so you never know…

  69. Great article. It is surely coming handy now that everyone wants to burn those united miles. I have been trying to price one of the two itineraries below online using ‘multiple destinations’ option and united website errors out all the time.

    Are these valid within the award rules?

    1) 1 stopover and 2 open jaws
    PHL-MUC (Stopover)-(openjaw)FRA-BKK(Destination)-NRT-IAD

    2) PHL-FRA(stopver)-BKK(destination)-NRT-IAD-PHL

  70. Thanks Lucky & Vansh! Vansh when you routed through Dubai to Singapore, it was still priced at the mileage for Asia and not Middle East right? i.e. 65k points versus 80k points…

  71. @ Nick — It’s not unusual for the United website to error out for complicated awards, so once you find the space you want you’re best off calling to book. That being said, routing one above isn’t allowed. The open jaw has to be at the turnaround point, which means either in the US or Asia. You can have a stopover mid-itinerary but not an open jaw.

  72. Ahh!! Possibly, that mid-itinerary open jaw is causing the issue. Thanks a lot for your prompt response. On a side note, I managed to fly fantastic LH F last week from India, so already made good use of united miles.

    Cheers!!

  73. Ben,
    Glad I tripped over your site because you really seem to get things straight and explain them well.

    As a senior with little frequent flyer mile experience and lots of Chase Sapphire and some United MileagePlus points I am in a panic to plan an itinerary before February 1st. (Sorry if some questions are quite basic).

    Your help would be greatly appreciated.
    ——-

    1-How do I book 2 tickets with Mileageplus miles for my wife and I on SAME flight…..want to use miles from my account and miles from my wife’s account (if 2 seats are available)?

    2-Is there any advantage to a r/t MileagePlus booking besides lengthening one stopover?

    3-How do I actually book a MileagePlus trip with an extended stopover on United website (actual dates and city)?

    4-Are these r/t MileagePlus trips possible?
    NYC > ATH > NYC (4 month stopover) > LAX?

    NYC > (stopover Vienna) ATH > CDG > NYC (free one way) > LAX

    5-How do I get free one way?

    Thanks for your time and help.
    Professor K

  74. @ Professor K —

    1) You’d just search for availability for two award seats, and if you see the space you can make the booking.
    2) Only advantage to a roundtrip over a one-way is the ability to add a stopover.
    3) You would have to use the “multi-city” feature on the website. If you get an error message you may have to book by phone.
    4) The first routing is fine, but you couldn’t have a stopover in Vienna and New York on the return. It could only be one or the other.

  75. Hi
    Thanks for the info! If I book a trip with miles, but need to change the date…I know there is no fee if I do the edit online. But must the new trip still be within one year of the original booking date?

  76. I just wanted to confirm that any trip I book now (before Jan 31) will be OK with the lesser amount of miles, even if I travel after Jan 31?

    And would it be possible to just book as many flights as possible, and pay the $75 fee to change them later (after Jan 31) if I want to change the dates? Despite the miles going up after Jan 31?

  77. @ Niomi — Yes, if you lock something in now the old rates will be honored. You can change the dates and times after January 31 and the old rates will be honored, but if you change the routing, origin/destination, or airline, the new award rates would apply.

  78. Trying desperately to book something but having a bear of a time.

    Whenever I FINALLY find something that can work and I click through I’m told that it is NOT available.

    The Open Jaw stopover makes it even more daunting.

    I called directly, agreeing to choke on booking fee, and the agents are just as in the dark…..some things not on website show on their screens others don’t.

    The Super Saver chart is useless since some days have no availability yet other days do.

    Is it possible to get an updated list similar to Skyscanner that shows every possibility from one city/country to another on a particular date (better yet month)?

    Can I ask agent: “I want to fly out of NYC on June 22 what 30,000 options do you have available?

    Thanks!

  79. From Northeast Asia(China, Korea etc) to New Zealand, Australia etc after February 1st is better chart for me. However, i wondering UA MQM is more strict situation?

    What do toy think about Lucky about MQM policy after?

    Thanks!

  80. I am holding an award ticket of a combo of Thai F + LH C in the inbound after Feb 1, 2014 and later a F becomes available on that C segment, do you think United will still book it w/o any additional mileage redemption? Or, it follows the new rule?

  81. @ Sam — That’s not something I’m positive of one way or another, as I don’t think United has provided clarification on that.

  82. Concerning to “Award changes are free within 24 hours of ticketing, and you shouldn’t be charged the phone ticketing fee.”, I didn’t find it in their Award ticketing options/service fees page. Could anyone direct me to the policy in UA’s official website?

  83. Dear Lucky,

    Sorry, MQM is incorrect. I am talking about MPM.

    Vaild routing is only available after February 1st?

  84. Lucky, am I able to book a stopover or open jaw on a round trip to Hawaii or Alaska. Looking at MCO-HNL-LAX, then Seattle to MCO. Something like this. The cities are not exact as I am just starting to look into this.

  85. I’m in Denver and want to fly LH’s new Biz class. I will buy positioning flights to LAX. Can I do LAX-FRA(stopover), AMS-BKK(Destination), BKK-NRT-DEN? So I only have 2 segments in each direction, a single stop over and a single open jaw.

    Or, is it possible to do LAX-FRA(stopover), FRA-DXB(destination) and then from Dubai back to Denver somehow?

  86. Thanks for the quick reply. Every time I try to find the route online I keep getting an error. Do I need to call?

  87. That’s what I was afraid of. Can I call now to hold the ticket while I move some UR points?

    So damn, if I were to fly into BKK and then fly out of SIN I could take the train between the two and also spend tons of time there as well.

    So LAX-FRA(stopover) AMS-BKK(destination) SIN-NRT-DEN (or any other way of getting back to DEN from SIN). So 1 stopover and 2 open jaws, would this work?

  88. @ Ken — They typically won’t allow a hold, though you can call and then once they have the reservation confirmed transfer the points with them on the phone, and then ticket.

    Sorry I may have been confused about your routing. You can do a stopover in Europe but not an open jaw. So you’d have to fly into and out of either FRA or AMS in the above example.

  89. I thought UA allowed 1 stopover and 2 open jaws? I did change the routing from my first post to the last one adding an open jaw between BKK and SIN.

  90. @ Ken — Correct, but the open jaw has to be at the turnaround point — it can’t be mid-itinerary. That means you can have an open jaw on the front end and tail end of the itinerary, but not at a stopover point.

  91. So there’s no way to fly into Frankfurt, out of Amsterdam to Bangkok. Then out of Singapore and back to the US? I’ll have to pick only 1 open jaw with these routes?

  92. @ Ken — That’s correct. You can fly into Bangkok and out of Singapore but can’t fly into Frankfurt and out of Amsterdam. That’s not allowed.

  93. Decisions, decisions… So I’d either get an EVA 777-300ER out of AMS or a Thai A380 out of FRA… Looks like it’s pretty cheap for a train from AMS-FRA. Decisions decisions…

    For Biz class, what would you recommend for *A airlines?

  94. I just came across this site doing lifemiles and united mileage plus research. I was thinking of applying for the lifemiles credit care through us bank. They offer it to people who need to rebuild their credit, which is a long story in itself. As I see that you can book United flights with lifemiles and I am already a mileage plus member still earning miles here and there.

    Is it a pain to book US flights with lifemiles on star alliance partners and or united? Also do you combine your mileage plus number with life miles? I am guessing they are two separate accounts.

    I just want to earn travel rewards for halfway decent airlines and if I have to do it this way then so be it. Thanks for your help!

  95. @ jackie — While you can redeem both United miles and Lifemiles towards Star Alliance tickets, you can’t combine the miles themselves. You can redeem them towards similar types of awards, though.

  96. So it’s a whole different ballgame now that the devaluation has occurred. Might I suggest an updated version of this type article since the devaluation is now in effect? It’d be great to be able to navigate the new United rules and award charts with your recommendations

  97. Can I fly MAN-ANC, SEA-BWN, BWN-MAN (Europe-USA-South East Asia)? How much miles do I need if I redeem with us airways? Thanks

  98. We know the dates we want to leave to Europe, but are unsure of the exact dates for our return. The return would be 3+ months from are initial departure. Can we book the one way now, and then a month later book the return segment with our award miles? I remember doing this once for Canada, but with the changes wanted to make sure this can still be done.

  99. Thanks Lucky. Yes they are United miles. I know the only problem with booking it separately, is that if you want to change your flight you have to the change fee for both segments separately.

  100. Is it possible to redeposit half an award and preserve the return leg with pre deval rate?

  101. Hi-sorry if this was made clear earlier, but is it possible to leave from the US and route to SYD or AKL via Europe/Asia (e.g.flying eastward from the US)?

    Thanks.

  102. @ Lucky — thanks. So, using UA miles I can only route westward to SYD via SYD or AKL?

  103. @ Lucky — thanks for the clarification, despite my terrible writing (to SYD via SYD or AKL…ugh)!

  104. ben – advise please, last year my wife and myself flew LHR SIN MEL on SQ and returned on TG MEL BKK LHR with stopovers in both SIN and BKK – this year trying to do the same and can’t – HELP !! thks Mike

  105. Hello,
    I was lucky enough to book my September honeymoon travel using MileagePlus pre-devaluation. And, it seems United is letting us change flights with no hassle (I have Platinum status so no charge). We are flying back from Cambodia, I currently have us booked PNH (TG-Y)-BKK (CA-C)-PEK (CA-F)-IAH (UA-Y-waitlist)-EWR, but I have just noticed that there is availability for 1 on ANA in first from Narita to Chicago on the following itinerary – PNH (OZ-C)-ICN – NRT (OZ-C)- ORD(NH-F) -NY (still need to find availability). So my questions are: would you recommend ANA over Air China in first (if an extra seat opens up) and as I can continue to search for availability, what *A airline would you recommend from Asia to the US. (We have our flights booked to Asia in Business class on Eva.)
    Thanks!
    Shana

  106. @ Shaha — ANA has one of the best first class products in the world, so if the space opens up I would absolutely switch to it. There are only so many first class products available on miles, and I don’t think Air China is a half bad option in this case. Within two weeks of departure you might be able to do Lufthansa first class via Europe, which would be a great option. I’d also keep an eye on Asiana availability, which is another great airline.

    Congrats on the honeymoon!

  107. Can I do something like DFW-Milan, back from Milan through JFK, stopping for 23 hours, then heading back to Dallas, with United miles on Lufthansa? I am trying to do this online but keep getting an error message. Wouldn’t this permissible, though?

  108. Thanks. I think the website just isn’t allowing it. May finally be able to try your favorite airline (though in economy)

  109. Could you guys help me with the following. I am seeing if there is a better way to use my miles for a bug upcoming trip.

    I am getting married this year in Houston and was wondering how JAWS or Layovers work if if I can make something work to my advantage. We live in Philadelphia but family is in Houston so we are flying down.

    Here is a sample schedule.

    10/15 – PHL – IAH
    10/19 – IAH -> LAX -> OGG (MAUI)
    10/25 – OGG (Maui) -> HNL (Honolulu)
    10/27 – HNL -> LAX -> PHL

    THE LAX stops are only short layovers.

    Currently as it stands right now I spent 90K Points total for 2 sets of tickets for IAH – OGG and return HNL – PHL.

    I still need to get the tickets from Phl – IAH and one way tickets are super expensive (~$500) while round trip are about the same.

    They have shifted around the flight schedules to Hawaii a few times so I can change without penalty

    Is there a way to get multi city passes such as PHL – IAH (4 day wedding layover) – LAX – OGG? Any suggestions would help.

    Then somehow get an extra segment of HNL – > PHL with open ticket to IAH

    Ask any questions and I can help clarify

  110. When using a stopover with two open jaws, I’m not clear which are is considered the origin/destination with regard to the change fee.

    For example, if I have the trip with outbound LIH->SFO->PRG and return of ROM->SFO, which is the origin/destination, is it LIH and SFO? Does this mean I can change the return leg to be FRA->SFO and not incur the award change fee?

    Thanks, Larry

  111. @ LarryK — LIH is your origin, PRG destination, and on return FCO your origin and SFO your destination. Nowadays you get hit with a change fee for changing routes, though.

  112. Love the blog, great post! Is this a valid itinerary:
    ORD – NRT (stopover here for 1 week)
    NRT – BKK (destination)
    PVG – ORD (open jaw)
    ORD – ANC (at some later stage within 3 months)

    I believe this should be 75k in economy, but can’t search it online (if i add the last leg to ANC)

    Thanks!!

  113. @ SG — That itinerary has two stopovers (one in Tokyo and one in Chicago), so that wouldn’t be allowed.

  114. Hi Lucky,

    Last year I booked a BOS-YYC-YVR-BOS, and stayed 72 hours in YYC. Should I have been charged extra for the stopover in YYC? I usually fly BOS-YVR-BOS and it is 50,000 miles but this time it generated at 70,000.

    Thanks,

    FO

  115. @lucky – I was logged into my United account on United.com. I should say the 50,000/70,000 was for 2 people in economy. I am always confused about booking stopovers and openjaws.

    I appreciate everything you do!

  116. Hello,
    I want to redeem UA point on LH flight from USA to China.
    Is that possible to have a route from the US to Asia via Europe and come back route via the Pacific instead of the Atlantic.
    For example: JFK-FRA(stopover)-PEK-NRT-JFK.

    Thank you.

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