Category Archives: United

The Cheapest Awards within One Region

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If you THINK BIG, and take an amazing multi-destination trip, you’ll need to book several tickets to hop between destinations.

In the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia, flights are fairly cheap because of the many competing airlines, including low cost carriers. In other regions, like Africa and South America, short flights can be exorbitantly expensive as a lack of competition drives up prices.

When ticket prices are expensive, that’s the time to use miles. I’ve already laid out the cheapest intra-region bargain awards with American Airlines and United miles. There are also some excellent deals within a single region on the American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways award charts.

Hop Around My Favorite Continent for 12,500 of Which Miles? (from google.com)

Hop Around My Favorite Continent for 12,500 of Which Miles? (from google.com)

The key to finding great miles uses within a single region is finding award charts with big regions.

For instance, Singapore Airlines categorizes all of South America as one region and charges only 12,500 miles each way in economy within the region. One route I’m looking at for a big trip in December is from Medellin, Colombia to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The ticket would cost $755 or 12,500 Singapore miles + $75. That’s over 5 cents of value per mile on an economy ticket!

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With the demise of American Airlines Explorer Awards, big trips will require many awards. Choosing the right miles for each of the small awards will really add up, so make sure you know the top intra-region awards.

  • What are the top intra-region awards with American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways miles?
  • What about British Airways Avios?

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Award Space Home from the Great Wall

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I had a blast spending 70 hours in Beijing with my brother this week using the 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit rule.

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on a section of the “wild” Great Wall near Jiankou

The rule requires you to enter China from one country and leave China to a third country within 72 hours among other requirements.

Since the time you can spend in Beijing under the rule is so limited, I would not fly directly from the United States to China, starting the clock when you’ll be severely jet lagged. We started our Asian trip in Hong Kong and got over jet lag there, so when we flew to Beijing (same time zone), we could hit the ground running.

Since starting in Beijing is not recommended, I looked at award space next May for awards returning from Beijing to the United States. Why May? The temperature was perfect for us in September, and May has similar weather. (September 2015 will be bookable next month.)

There are a number of direct flights from Beijing to the United States and Canada on Air China, United, Air Canada, and American Airlines that I’ll look at in this post. I’ll ignore the Delta flights because they can’t be booked one way until January 2015.

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  • How is award space for two people from Beijing to the United States in May 2015?
  • What miles can you use to book the flights?

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More United Options to Brazil, Azul Adds Flights to USA

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United partner Azul, a Brazilian low cost carrier, is adding flies to the United States in December 2014.Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 6.20.17 PM

  • December 1, 2014: Viracopos-Campinas (VCP) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • December 15, 2014: Viracopos-Campinas (VCP) to Orlando (MCO)

Note that Viracopos-Campinas is often called a Sao Paulo airport. It is about 50 miles from the city center and farther away than Sao Paulo’s other international airport (GRU.)

These new American destinations are in addition to the 100+ destinations served in Brazil.

You can book Azul flight with United miles. Azul’s planes are in an all-economy configuration, and United charges 30,000 miles each way between the United States and Brazil.

  • How is the Azul experience?
  • How can you book Azul flights with United miles?
  • Where does Azul fly to from Viracopos airport?

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Six Under-Priced Awards on the United Airlines Chart

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As promised in yesterday’s post on the Five Under-Priced Awards on the American Airlines Chart, today I’ll post six under-priced awards on the United chart.

The basic premise of these posts and my post on the Coolest Thing You Can Do with 60,000 Miles was connecting far-flung regions into a single trip by taking advantage of under-priced awards between the regions.

Why American and United awards? Because they can be booked as one way awards, and these THINK BIG trips allow you to see more by booking a series of cheap one way awards.

I’m including the cheapest one way international awards between non-American regions only because the cheapest international awards from the United States are better known.

Hopefully seeing cheap ways to get between South America and Africa or East Asia and Fiji will spur you to THINK BIG and come up with a really creative trip that incorporates both places.

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1. Economy Class: 10,000 Miles Between Central America and Northern South America

or 20,000 miles in Business Class

Between Central America and Northern South America (Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela), you can fly for only 10,000 United miles in economy or 20,000 in business.

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United partners have hubs in El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama, so finding award space is a cinch.

This award could be the way to combine Central America, the Galapagos and South America on a single trip. THINK BIG.

  • What are the other top six under-priced awards on the United Airlines chart? Pay special attention to five and six!

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How to Get Your Own Row in United Economy

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A few days ago I flew from Honolulu to Guam in United economy and got myself five seats in a row, so I could sleep during the flight.

Even at 6’4″, I only needed four consecutive seats for sleep. I raised the arm rests, collected a few pillows and blankets, and had some great sleep for a few hours after take off. Then I switched off with my brother and he napped for a few hours.

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  • How did I maximize my chances of getting an entire row?
  • How does a row in economy compare to one First Class seat?
  • How was my sleep?

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Review: United In Flight Entertainment on Your Own Device

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Yesterday, I flew a United 777-200 equipped with the carrier’s latest entertainment concept: I could freely stream hundreds of movies and TV shows on my own laptop or United’s iOS app. (Hemispheres magazine said that Android compatibility is coming soon.)

I had never seen a system like it, and it seems like the wave of the future as it’s much lighter for United to remove all of its monitors and let us use our own.

I tested out the system by watching the fantastic Searching for Sugar Man documentary on my laptop on my flight from Honolulu to Guam.

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  • How did I like the personal streaming entertainment?
  • What would I improve?
  • How many TV shows and movies were available?
  • Was there internet on my flight?
  • What has United done with all its monitors?

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Reminder: You Can Still Book United Awards at Pre-Devaluation Prices

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You can still pay United’s award prices from January 2014 and before for premium cabin awards.

The catch is that you need to be changing an existing award that you booked February 2, 2014 or earlier. Any award you booked before that date–no matter the origin, destination, cabin, and airline–that you haven’t flown yet should be eligible to be changed to any other award at the old award prices.

I recently changed a First Class award from North Asia to the United States to a different routing on a different airline and paid zero extra miles even though the current price for the award is 50,000 miles more than I originally paid.

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I get to fly in this suite after my change!

The MileValue Award Booking Service is ready to help you if you have an old United award you want to change to something better at the old prices.

  • How can you find out if you have any awards that are eligible to be changed at the old rates?
  • What are the old rates?
  • How do you make the change?
  • What change did I make?

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Uber and United Team Up, Up to 1,000 Bonus United Miles

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Uber is my favorite way to get around. I no longer call or flag down taxis. And on a recent trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles, I didn’t rent a car, using Uber to get around instead.

Uber is the world’s best taxi service because it has clean, courteous drivers and the easiest ride-ordering app imaginable. Tap, tap, tap, and a car whose progress you can track towards you is on its way.

Now Uber and United have teamed up, with United putting an Uber button directly in the United app. Update your United app, and a tile should appear on the home screen for Uber.

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There is a chance to earn 1,000 United miles by using the Uber service through the United app. I don’t think that’s as good as my referral link for new users, through which new Uber users can get a $30 credit toward a free ride when they sign up. (I also get a free ride up to $30. Feel free to post your referral link in the comments.)

  • How does the Uber/United partnership work?
  • How can you get 1,000 United miles by using Uber?
  • Is there a better offer for new Uber users?

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Anatomy of an Award: Three Cities in Asia on Two Awards

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This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Anatomy of an Award posts highlight real awards I’ve booked to show you the techniques needed to book your dream trip.

I recently booked my brother a pair of awards that will allow us to visit Hong Kong, Beijing, and Seoul together. His awards cost about 100,000 airline miles and bank points and zero out of pocket.

from gcmap.com

from gcmap.com

The main award was a United award, but United awards only allow one stopover in addition to your destination, so I needed to add an extra Avios award for one segment between Hong Kong and Beijing.

We are not getting Chinese visas for Beijing, so I also had to time our flights to get us as close to 72 hours in the city as possible without exceeding the limit for visa-free transit.

Finally, he had enough miles for one way in business class and one way in economy.

These awards demonstrate the limits of United awards, how to see more cities than a United award will allow, and the problems with multi-city searches on united.com. They also showcase, the kind of award planning you can get from my Award Booking Service.

  • Why could I not book the entire trip as a single United award?
  • Why did I choose Avios for the second award, and how did I choose which flight to book with Avios?
  • How did I ensure I got as close to 72 hours in Beijing as possible?
  • How did I book one way in economy and one way in business class on his United award? How did I choose which direction for each class?

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Incredible Asiana First Class on A380 Flying to US

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Asiana has started flying an A380 between Seoul-Incheon and Los Angeles. The daily flight includes fully enclosed suites in First Class and fully flat beds in Business Class.

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First Class on Asiana A380

Asiana is a member of the Star Alliance, so Asiana flights are bookable with United miles and Avianca LifeMiles without fuel surcharges.

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Business Class on Asiana A380

Award space is wide open in summer 2015 on the route in all cabins. Award space for this summer is less available, but if you are flexible, you can be among the first to fly the Asiana A380 in any cabin you’d like.

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  • How many miles does United charge to fly Asiana First Class and Business Class?
  • How many miles does Avianca LifeMiles charge?
  • How is the award space?
  • How does the product look?

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How to Use United Expert Mode

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United has a setting you can activate called Expert Mode that allows you to see how many seats are in each fare bucket on a given flight.

I mentioned it yesterday in “Booking Two Tickets on the Same United Flight” and I got some questions in the comments about what Expert Mode is, how to use it, and why you’d want to use it.

What is a fare bucket?

Every ticket you book with cash or miles has every segment come out of a fare bucket or fare class.

The fare bucket is a one or two letter code that represents what cabin you’re in, whether you got the seat with cash or miles, and how many miles you’ll earn for the flight.

Everyone walking through this door has a ticket that booked into one fare bucket

Airlines are willing to book a certain number of tickets in each fare bucket. If the Saver economy award fare bucket has zero seats, you can’t book a Saver economy award on the flight, but if it has six seats, you can book up to six Saver economy award tickets.

Knowing how many seats are in each bucket will let you know whether you can expect an upgrade, whether you can book an award, and whether elites have better award access on a certain flight.

  • How can you enable Expert Mode on united.com?
  • How can you use Expert Mode on united.com in award bookings and to secure upgrades?

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Amazing Business Class Award Space for Four People to Europe

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Until late last year, getting to Europe in business class was much easier than it has been lately, especially for traveling parties of three or more. In December of last year, Austrian Airlines stopped releasing business class award space until about three months before departure. This made advance business class award redemptions for larger parties much more difficult.

In the past I’ve booked families of four to Europe and even to the Middle East on Austrian Airlines, and it is a very solid and comfortable flat bed business class product. See my full review for my thoughts on the onboard chef concept and the comfort of the bed.

Minced veal patty, potatoes, and veggies in Austrian Business Class

I was very excited several weeks ago to discover that Austrian Airlines was again releasing business class award space as soon as the schedule opens for up to four passengers.

  • Where does Austrian Airlines fly?
  • What kind of business class product do they have?
  • What miles are best suited for travel on Austrian Airlines
  • How good is award availability?

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Booking Two Tickets on the Same United Flight

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Last year I wrote “How to Book Multiple Awards from Different Accounts on the Same Flights.”

The idea is that you can never transfer miles from one airline to another, even if they are airline partners, but you can book two seats on the exact same flights with two different types of miles.

Last week I used 30,000 Singapore miles and 35,000 Lufthansa miles to book myself and a friend one way First Class flights on United from Honolulu to San Francisco.

United flies one flight a day from Honolulu to San Francisco on a 767-400ER with fully flat beds in First Class (in addition to the flights to Newark and Washington-Dulles which are always on 767-400ERs.)

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Sleeping in a flat bed on a previous United flight to Hawaii

Since my friend had never flown in First Class, since I really wanted to sleep the entire flight, and since Lufthansa and Singapore have reasonable miles prices for the flight, I decided to book us two First Class tickets.

I booked one ticket for 30,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles + $5.68 and the other for 35,000 Lufthansa Miles & More miles + $5.60.

This guide will be useful whenever you want to book two or more seats on the same flight with two or more types of miles from airline partners. One common situation is to book the same oneworld flights with American Airlines, US Airways, and/or British Airways miles.

  • How did I search for the award space?
  • How did I book the awards?
  • What big risk did I take?
  • What other types of miles work together like this?

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LifeMiles Blocking Lufthansa First Class Award Space. Back Up Plans

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Lufthansa First Class is no longer bookable using LifeMiles.

For the past few years, Lufthansa has only released first class award space to its Star Alliance partners 15 days before flight departure. LifeMiles, which is in the Star Alliance, used to be an excellent program with which to book these last-minute luxury flights.

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Recently, however, Lufthansa first class award seats have not been showing availability on lifemiles.com. When I called and talked an LifeMiles agent, he was also unable to find any Lufthansa first class availability.

This is another significant blow to the value of LifeMiles. Lufthansa first class is a great product, and enjoying the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt is on many frequent travelers’ bucket lists.

  • What’s so great about Lufthansa First Class?
  • Why is losing the ability to book Lufthansa First with LifeMiles such a big deal?
  • What other mileage programs can be used to book Lufthansa First?

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Free Giveaway: Pair of United Club Passes exp Dec 2015

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A generous Cave Dweller has donated a pair of United Club passes that expire December 31, 2015 to one MileValue reader. (Congrats to Kim who won last week’s pair of passes.)

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Here are the United Club locations to check whether you’ll be able to use a pass on your next trip.

If you can use the passes by December 31, 2015, there are two ways to enter to win them!

  1. Comment on this post. (Are you one of the people who receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts? Click the post title in the email and comment on the blog instead of replying to the email.)
  2. Retweet this tweet:

You can enter both ways.

I’ll pick a winner on Monday, email the winner, and send the passes out to the winner.

Best of luck!

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