Now Is A Great Time To Redeem Your United Miles!

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I recently wrote about some of the things everyone ought to know about redeeming miles. While I harped on being flexible (which is really critical for booking award tickets that you actually want to fly), one of the other key factors is that timing is everything.

And right now is a fantastic time to redeem United miles, especially if you’re planning travel to Europe or Asia for next summer.

Great award space

Star Alliance has more carriers than the other main alliances, so it’s generally a bit easier to find award space. Right now, however, there is an abundance of space on a few routes, even over peak travel dates!

United to/from Europe

View From The Wing noted that United has released a ton of award space on their own flights for travel next summer. The best availability is from Houston and Chicago, but there’s a decent amount of space for 4+ people on many of United’s transatlantic routes:

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I don’t think this is necessarily “stop the presses” news, as United has traditionally done a decent job of releasing transatlantic award space, but the timing and quantity of space make this quite compelling.

Austrian to/from Vienna

It has been nearly a month, and Austrian is still offering phenomenal amounts of business class award space. Certain dates and routes are more limited, but there are an abundance of flights with at least four seats through the end of the schedule:

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Austrian’s new business class is more spacious than United’s old business class, but either would be a solid option for taking a family to Europe, with lie-flat seats across the board.

Austrian-Business-Class
Austrian business class

EVA & Asiana to/from Asia

This one is a bit unusual! EVA used to be amazing at releasing tons of award space in business class, but that’s really tapered off over the past few years. For the most part, they’ve been making premium cabin space available to partners within 90 days, which isn’t terribly useful for most people.

EVA-Air-Business-Class
EVA business class

Right now, however, we’re seeing dates through the end of the schedule with 4+ seats per flight. The best availability is to Chicago, but there is some sporadic space on other routes.

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If the EVA space doesn’t work for your travel plans, look for availability on Asiana. They have generous amounts of space out of their hub in Seoul, and it isn’t uncommon to see 6+ seats in business class on their A380 routes.

Booking Awards With A Stopover

One of the best ways to get outsized value from United awards is by incorporating a stopover in a third region.

You could actually take advantage of both the United and EVA space by booking a trip from, say, Chicago to Brussels, spending a few days or weeks there, continuing on to Taipei, spending some time there, then returning to Chicago.

United-Stopover

This counts as a single award to Asia, and would/should price at 160,000 miles per person in business class. Given that a partner award to Europe is 140,000, that’s a pretty great deal!

In theory you should be able to price something like this online, using United’s multi-city tool:

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In reality, it may never work. Don’t ask me why. It just won’t. You’ll get two-thirds of the way through and it will just error out. If that happens, it’s not you, it’s just the system.

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What you want to do instead is book the two over-the-water segments online. Enter those routes into the multi-city tool:

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Then select the flights one at a time, ignoring whatever prices might come up and focusing on selecting the “Business Saver” options:

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You’ll get a summary of the flights, which you can then ticket.

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I would ticket these segments, and then call United within 24 hours to add the flights from Brussels to Taipei.

There shouldn’t be a change fee within that timeframe, and this should price at 160,000 miles in business class. That might be a longer phone call, as your award will likely need to be repriced, which takes some time.

Stopover rules/fees changing soon

As a reminder, United is updating their stopover policies (and their change fees) for all awards booked as of October 6th. Stopovers aren’t going away, necessarily, but are being replaced with an “Excursionist Perk” that seems far too complicated.

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In practice, I don’t believe you’ll be able to book awards to Asia with a stopover in Europe once the “Excursionist Perk” rules are implemented. I’m also not sure you’ll be able to cross both oceans when going to/from Asia (though hopefully it will continue to not matter).

Don’t Have United Miles?

The best way to top off your United account is with a transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards.

As long as you have one of the following cards:

You can combine points earned with any of these cards:

Transfers are instant, so you can wait to move points over until you’ve confirmed availability.

For what it’s worth, the sample itinerary I used above is also bookable through Air Canada Aeroplan for 150,000 miles, with no fuel surcharges. If you have a ton of American Express Membership Rewards points, or even Starwood Preferred Guest points, that might be a better option.

Technically you could also book through any other Star Alliance partner, but I tend to get nervous about the transfer lags with some of the other carriers.

Bottom line

Ultimately, there are a lot of unknown variables with the new “Excursionist” policy. If you have an United award in mind, I’d highly recommend booking your trip before October 5th.

And the abundance of award space for next summer makes that process even easier!

Is anyone booking a United award for next year? Where to?

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Comments

  1. Hi, Tiffany. Thanks for this post. I know that one can book US to Asia via Europe at the moment…is there any way to book the reverse – Asia to US via Europe as one award? Thanks.

  2. Totally agree with you. I’ve been EXCEPTIONALLY happy with my ability to redeem UA miles all year this year. This summer I was able to do some GREAT redemptions pretty last minute to Europe and from the middle east on a combination of UA and their partners, all in premium at saver levels. NO problem – and significantly easier than on AA and partners. In February I’m going to Bangkok and Myanmar with some friends. Amazingly, I got CX J on the way there through Chicago (hoping they open up F closer in!) and besides that AA had zero availability. I’m using UA miles on the return and they have TONS of options in J. And even in F at reasonable redemption rates! I’ve decided that I’ll use ANA for J from BKK to IAD via NRT – all products I’ve been wanting to try. Bottom line – UA in general has the best availability and the easiest access (no needing to continually call various AA phone lines around the world – just click on the UA web site and boom – your options are there!) , and it’s a reason I continue to fly UA and the Chase family of cards.

  3. Hi Tiffany. Thanks for the post. Are you seeing any LH availability at the moment? They are my preferred carrier heading over to Europe.

  4. Tiffany — have you or Ben heard anything more about the proposed route between LAX and VIE on OS that Ben posted about a couple of months ago? It would be great if that route were to open for booking while OS is feeling so generous about making business awards available.

  5. @ Kacee — Ummm….what part of “summer” are you looking in? Because I see space in June, July, and the parts of August that are open for booking.

    And we’ve had no issue ticketing the EVA flights through a variety of programs, so not sure why you think it’s phantom/not bookable?

  6. Awesome! Great timing! I don’t have to wait til November to book my EVA flight from LAX to BKK.

    quick question:

    Which is preferred: booking round trip in a single itinerary or separately in one-ways?

    are there any benefits from one to the other?

    Thanks in advance…

  7. @ Thomas — If you’re using United miles, I would book a round-trip. That would make you eligible for a stopover (or a “free” one-way from LAX later on), and would equate to lower change fees if you needed to modify your trip later on.

  8. people this is good for people that need to use miles. I’m more impressed with the SQ promos out of the US they are CRAZY around 650 USD in Y and 1150 in P to Europe/ Asia !!!! return !!!! that’s insane !!! we never get these sort of deals out of Asia you are paying a good 1500 usd less than what we pay here. I’ve never seen fares this I suggest you biz class lovers to get on the SQ p class for the money and comfort it’s not SQ biz but it’s comfy and worthwhile I slept like a snoring baby.

  9. How did you get 160k miles total in your example from ORD-BRU-TPE-ORD? Does United calculate the total price based on your last leg (TPE-ORD 80k times 2?)
    I’m trying to book something similar flying out of SFO through Europe, then TPE and finally SFO, but this is a little complicated since their system wouldn’t work, just like you described, freezing up when I’m 2/3 way through.
    Is booking the 2 over the water leg trip online and then calling for BRU-TPE tix reliable? What can I expect if they tell me no dice or tag some hefty fee on the BRU-TPE leg? I’ve never done this before so thank you for your explanation!

  10. @ Annie — That’s the price for a round-trip partner award to Asia: https://www.united.com/web/format/pdf/United-Award-Chart-02-01-14.pdf

    “Reliable” is a tough thing in this game. It should price, I’ve done it thousands of times, but there’s always a chance something will go awry. You could get an unhelpful agent, in which case you just say thank you, then hang up and call again. If you were to try several times and it just never priced, you could always cancel and get the miles refunded within 24 hours.

  11. Gotcha! Thanks again for writing this article, the examples are relevant and I think I’m finally understanding how this all works.

  12. @Tiffany – much appreciate your response and all your contributions actually!

    I do plan on using United miles and if I book round trip from LAX to BKK, what region qualifies as a stopover? For instance, can my free one-way in the future be from LAX to somewhere else in Asia, like HK, or LAX to Europe, or LAX to domestic US?

  13. Hi Tiffany,

    I’m flying to Morocco and back from Spain (most) likely BCN next June or July. I am having a hard time figuring out getting to Morocco, using miles. I usually fly UA, since I live in San Francisco, but have a ton of UR points I can use. Most likely CMN, but could do RAK. looks like might be best to fly to Europe and then use one of the low-cost carriers to get to Morocco. Any thoughts? Thank you.

  14. @ Petra — Sounds fun! If you want to use your United miles, look for connections to Morocco through Frankfurt, Lisbon, or Istanbul. I would probably not bother with that, to be honest, as you’d have to connect twice from Spain, so would just use United miles for the main trip to Europe and organize the others separately. Transferring miles to British Airways and then to Iberia is probably the best option if you don’t see reasonably cheap flights.

  15. The problem with using United miles as opposed to AA is that AA allows free changes to dates but United charges hefty fees (~$100+) per ticket which can be huge for a family.

  16. Doesn’t United require stopovers to be in the same region as the departing or arriving region?

    How does Brussels qualify as a stopover for this?

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