Have you booked award travel with miles and points? I’m feeling exhilarated after hanging up from my phone call with United. I have some incredible travel coming up in the next few months!
I was able to take advantage of the United “cheap one-way” trick. United has generous routing rules on roundtrip awards. You’re allowed 1 stopover and 2 open jaws.
A stopover is when you stay in a location for 24 hours or more en route to your destination. An open jaw is when you fly to one location, but depart from a different location. The open jaw example below shows how you could depart from JFK in New York and fly to Santiago, Chile (SCL) and return to JFK by departing from Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE). It looks like an “open jaw” on the map.
Here’s what happened.
I decided to travel to Patagonia, a place I have dreamed of going for a while. I’d been eyeing up American award redemptions because of their off-peak, South American, 40k mile round trip awards available between March 1 – May 31. But, I waffled back and forth and the MileSAAver award flights disappeared. Arrgh! Analysis Paralysis!
Since I plan to spend time in Southeast Asia during the summer, I wanted to book part of that flight on the same award ticket as my round trip to Santiago, Chile. While I know the cheap one-way trick, and even the free one-way trick is legitimate, I was concerned I touched too many “zones” around the globe for United to consider my itinerary valid.
My plan was to go from NYC to Santiago, Chile. Then, Santiago, Chile to NYC. I would use NYC as my “stopover” and then continue on 2 months later to my “final destination,” Bangkok, Thailand. Putting the “stopover” at the end of my trip is fine because it is my home airport. I can easily “stopover” in New York for 2 months. 🙂
I went to United’s website, clicked on multiple destinations in the flight search box, and began to piece together my itinerary. United’s website can be really helpful and easy to use while searching for award flights.
With each successful piece of my itinerary, I was feeling good. I found a Saver Award from NYC to Santiago and also from Santiago to NYC. But, I could only find Standard Award availability from NYC to Bangkok. Never book a Standard Award because the amount of miles needed is often double a Saver Award. I continued, though, because I wanted to see if the United booking system would allow this routing.
It worked! It said my itinerary would cost 130k miles plus a small amount of taxes and fees. I noted the system, not only accepted the itinerary but also discounted the number of miles.
Let’s break this down. If I had booked the Saver roundtrip Award to Santiago alone, the number of miles would’ve been 60k. Then, if I had booked a one-way from NYC to Bangkok on a Standard Award, the miles needed would have been 85k.
I was never the best math student, but I know my itinerary should have cost 145k miles. The system created an itinerary 15,000 miles less because of the “cheap one-way” trick.
This told me the routing was ok according to United. I went back and searched only a one-way flight from NYC to Bangkok to look for Saver Awards. If no Saver Awards come up when doing a round trip or multi-city search, you should always search one segment at a time to check again.
I did this and there was plenty of Saver Award availability on my travel dates. I noted the flight numbers, dates, and times, and called United to book because, again, the computer wasn’t showing the Saver Awards for the last piece of my itinerary, even though the awards existed.
I gave the United agent my flights from NYC to Santiago, Santiago to NYC, and the Saver Award from NYC to Bangkok. The agent had no troubles and almost instantly said the miles needed for my itinerary would be 80k and $78.60 in taxes and fees.
The “cheap” one-way worked! The miles needed for a one-way Saver Award from NYC to Bangkok would be 40k on its own. That meant, my itinerary would have needed 100k miles, if booked separately, and when added together with my round trip to Santiago.
I saved 20k United miles with this “trick.” Woo Hoo!
20k United miles is just 5k shy of the miles needed for a roundtrip domestic Saver Award.
Have you used United’s stopover and open jaw rules to maximize your award bookings?
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