Category Archives: United

Current State of Free Oneways

This blog became famous because I was the first to articulate how to book free oneways on United and US Airways awards.

A free oneway is a one way trip to or from your home airport that is tacked onto another award for no extra miles. Free oneways cut your flight bill in half for a second trip without adding to the price of the first trip!

American Airlines killed free oneways on its awards last week by nixing all free stopovers because free oneways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport.

What’s the current state of free oneways with major frequent flyer programs?

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Azul Brazilian Airlines Award Space is Wide Open on

United recently announced a new partner: Azul Brazilian Airlines. Azul is a low-cost carrier with flights throughout Brazil.

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United only flies to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, so being able to continue from there to anywhere else in the country on one award for no extra miles is a big benefit.

Or if you’re in Brazil this summer during the World Cup like I will be, being able to jet around the country for 12,500 United miles + $9 each way is a great deal when intra-Brazil prices are through the roof.

Where does Azul fly? How is award space? What miles can book Azul space?

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25% Discount on United Awards to Japan, But There’s a Better Deal

United is offering 25% off Saver economy awards between the mainland United States and Japan for flights completed by April 30, 2014.

You can book flights to Japan for only 26,250 United miles each way this month only, and the price shows up automatically online. The normal price is 35,000 United miles each way.

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Any discount is nice, but there are one or two drawbacks to consider. And anyway, there is a better deal for award flights to Japan this month.

What do you need to know about United’s 25% discount to Japan? What is the better award deal?

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How to Get Two Completely Free Flights from Europe to the US in Five Steps

An active duty military member emailed me:

This December I am getting out of the Military. When I initially get out I get 2 (one for my spouse and one for me) one-way airplane tickets to anywhere in the world. We want to use this to start our trip around Indo China and Europe. We want to go to Vietnam, Thailand, India, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, and England. After visiting these places we will fly to Dayton, Ohio. What is most important to me is flying from London to Dayton, Ohio for hopefully free.

She was writing to me because she didn’t currently have any major frequent flyer mile balances.

My first thought is: don’t fly home from London. Departing the United Kingdom–not transiting it or arriving there–incurs a massive tax called the Air Passenger Duty. While Dayton to London one way would have $5 in taxes, the direction she needs–London to Dayton–has $206 in taxes.

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Not only does she have the London departure tax problem, but she currently has no miles and puts only $1,500 per month on credit cards, which makes it hard to quickly accrue miles.

Still I was able to offer a really easy strategy to get two one way tickets from London to Dayton completely free.

Which two cards did I recommend she open? How did I recommend she book the award?

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Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: United Flat Bed First Class from Honolulu to Newark

United flies two flights from Honolulu to the east coast on internationally-configured two-cabin planes. What is sold as First Class on these planes–and BusinessFirst if you fly internationally–is a fully flat bed in a 2-1-2 configuration across the cabin.

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Flat bed first class on United flights between Honolulu and Newark and Washington-Dulles

This First Class is far superior to most domestic First Class, which is served by a recliner seat with only seven more inches of legroom than coach.


First Class Seat on a Hawaii to East Coast Flight. It converts to a fully flat bed.

United charges 40k miles each way for two-cabin first class between Hawaii and the mainland. But some of its partners charge fewer miles and have access to all the same United Saver award space. The cheapest access is with Singapore miles–a Membership Rewards transfer partner–at only 30k miles each way. Next cheapest is Lufthansa Miles & More miles at only 35k miles each way.

I used 35,000 Lufthansa miles and $2.50 to book myself from Honolulu to Newark since I had a ton lying around from getting the 50k mile bonus (now dead) on the Lufthansa Miles & More MasterCard. I detailed the award booking here.

On the day of departure, I had my brother drop me off a few hours early at the airport to fit his schedule.

I breezed through security in the priority line (because of my first class ticket), which was uncharacteristically crowded for HNL.



After security, I headed straight for the American Airlines Admirals Club.

I got in for free with Priority Pass Select that I got from my Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN.


Find out more about the benefits of the Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN in How to Get the Most out of Your Platinum Card.

The Admirals Club at HNL is one of my favorites because during the day it has a nice view of the courtyard outside. Plus the lounge is shared with JAL business class passengers, so it has a tiny food selection including soup and Famous Amos cookies and a slightly better drink selection than a normal Admirals Club.

I had a bowl of soup and some cookies while I worked on the free wifi. I didn’t want to have too much though because I was looking forward to the dinner onboard.

The lounge isn’t incredible by any means, but it is a little better than a normal US-based airline lounge, and the price is right. After a few hours, I headed to my departure gate at about 9 PM to board the flight.

United 14
Honolulu (HNL) – Newark (EWR)
Depart: 9:25 PM on Sunday, February 16
Arrive: 12:03 PM on Monday, February 17
Duration: 9hr38min
Aircraft: Boeing 767-400ER
Seat: 1D (First Class)


How was the seat, bed, food, and service? Is United First the way to get to Hawaii?

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Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: Introduction

I haven’t been home since February 16 when I boarded a plane from Honolulu for Newark. I have loved the I’m on trip because I finally got to play poker in Asia, see Angkor Wat, catch up with friends in Europe, see more of the Balkans, and experience the curiosities that are Macau and Singapore.

The trip took me to:

  • New York
  • Macau, China
  • Singapore
  • Cambodia
  • London
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Frankfurt
  • Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Atlanta, Georgia

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Along the way, I’ve flown and stayed at:

  • Cathay Pacific First Class
  • Singapore Airlines First Class
  • Lufthansa First Class (and First Class Terminal)
  • Wizz Air and Jetstar Asia (low cost carriers)
  • Radisson Martinique on Broadway
  • Grand Hyatt Macau
  • Le Meridien Angkor Wat
  • The May Fair in London
  • A Holiday Inn Express in Frankfurt
  • hostels in Cambodia, Singapore, and Ljubljana
  • a motel in Greensboro
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Lufthansa First Class, Hair Style by Nap

Booking Process

What was the booking process, how much time did I spend in each place, and what would I have done differently?

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I Changed a United Award to Lufthansa First Last Week at the Old Price

United massively devalued its award chart on February 1, 2014, in particular for First Class awards on partner airlines.

Lufthansa First Class from the US to Europe went from 67,500 United miles each way to 110,000 miles each way.

Exacerbating that enormous price increase is the fact that Lufthansa First Class awards are generally only bookable two weeks before departure with United miles because that’s when Lufthansa finally releases First Class award space to partners.

While conventional wisdom was that Lufthansa First Class would only be bookable at its old 67,500-mile price for flights through early March 2014, I suggested in a post that you could lock in the old price for Lufthansa First Class through February 2015 by booking Lufthansa First Class at the old rate before the devaluation and later using the cancel-and-rebook-later trick.

What is the cancel-and-rebook-later trick? How was I able to change my award to Lufthansa First Class at the old price last week?

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Combining Alaska and Hawaii onto One Trip This Summer for Only 40k Points

Alaska Airlines flies a direct flight between Anchorage and Honolulu.

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I love interesting routes from Hawaii–like the Island Hopper across the Pacific–since moving to Oahu, but I think this route has some cool possibilities for everyone, like one vacation that combines Alaska and Hawaii this summer.

Anchorage and Honolulu are 2,777 miles apart. This is a sweet spot on British Airways’ distance-based award chart. The approximately six hour flight costs only 12,500 British Airways Avios + $2.50 in taxes.

Combine a one way British Airways award between Alaska and Hawaii with a few other one way awards, and you can create a really cool triangle trip to see the 49th and 50th states for as little as 40k points.

Possible Summer Trip for a Chicagoan

Possible Summer Trip for a Chicagoan

What are the best awards to combine with the Alaska Airlines flight between Hawaii and Alaska? What is the award space on these routes? In what program, do you need to amass only 40k miles to take the whole trip?

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Comparison of United, Delta, US Airways, and American Airlines Latest Award Charts

Update 4/14/14: US Airways has increased the price of its awards to North Asia in business class to 110k miles roundtrip.

In December, I compiled Comparison Tables of United, Delta, US Airways, and American Airlines Award Charts to show which program had the cheapest awards in each cabin to every country you want to visit.

With Delta announcing a new award chart that takes effect for awards booked January 1, 2015, I have updated the tables for economy and business class.

Check out the updated tables, my analysis, and my thoughts on what other changes we’ll see by 2015.

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Master Thread: Holds on United Awards

Two weeks ago, I wrote that United had ended free holds online for award bookings.

Luckily, JB from the MileValue Award Booking Service came up with an extremely simple hack to regain all of the lost award-hold functionality.

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The ability to hold awards is crucial when booking a trip has many moving parts–hotels, flights for more than one person, several awards booked with different types of miles, etc–that you want to lock in completely before booking any part of the trip. That means it is great news that we can hold United awards so broadly!

Award holds on United are possible again under two circumstances:

  • You have enough miles in your United account to book the award. (PayPal trick)
  • You do NOT have enough miles in your United account to book an award AND the award contains a partner segment. (DoNotTrackMe trick)

That means there is only one time when you cannot hold an award on

  • You do NOT have enough miles in your account and the award contains only segments on United airplanes.

And even here, there’s a workaround.

How do you hold a United award when you have enough miles in your account? What about when you don’t have enough miles? What’s JB’s hack?

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Look How Easy It Is to Get a Family of Four to Europe This Summer

Look how easy it is to get a family of four to Europe this summer!

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For only 240k United miles total, there are ample options from the United States to many places in Europe. If 240k United miles sounds like a lot, it really isn’t. It’s within easy earning reach for two parents.

Why do you want to book with United miles? How good is the space? What city should you not return from?

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Value in First Class on the United Chart

On February 1, United miles became much less valuable for premium cabin flights.

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Not only did all first class awards outside of the western hemisphere go way up in price, but partner first class awards went way, way up.

Since people who want to fly first class awards want the swankiest, most aspirational flights, the increase in the partner award price is a big problem.

United Global First is good. But Thai First Class is great.

There’s no perfect solution, but I’ve come up with the strategy I’ll use to book premium cabin awards for myself with United miles going forward.

What do I think is the best value way to convert United miles into premium cabin awards?

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United Ends Free Holds Online, But You Can Still Use This Trick

Update 3/6/14: This post is outdated. See Master Thread: Holds on United Awards

In What You Need to Know about United Award Holds, I ran through the two ways to hold a United award online:

  1. Any award that contains a partner segment can be held for free if your account does not have sufficient miles to ticket the award immediately. Bill wrote about this trick at length with screen shots.
  2. Any award can be held through the PayPal trick as long as you do have sufficient miles in the account.

The first trick is dead!

How can you now hold a United award?

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United Reserves Right to Cancel Awards Booked at Erroneous Mileage Amount

I noticed a new addition to United’s interactive award chart today.

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At the bottom of the page, United has added the sentence: “United reserves the right to refuse or cancel any awards redeemed for travel listed at an incorrect or erroneous mileage amount.”

What does it mean? Does United really have a right to cancel your awards?

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The Miles You Want to Go to Australia, Part 2

In part 1, I discussed the economy award options to Australia with American Airlines miles.

Australia is one of the hardest awards with frequent flyer miles. Part of it is that there are very few routes between the US and Australia, served by only five airlines:

  • United (Star Alliance)
  • Qantas (oneworld)
  • Delta (SkyTeam)
  • Hawaiian (no alliance, American Airlines partner)
  • Virgin Australia (no alliance, Delta partner)

Add in a flight from Vancouver to Sydney on Air Canada, and those are basically the options to get from the US to Australia without having to transit Asia.

The Big Deal with Transiting Asia

When I first started looking into going to Australia about three years ago, I thought: what’s the big deal with transiting Asia?

The big deal is that transiting any part of Asia but especially Southeast Asia adds hours and hours of flying, not to mention layovers, to the trip.

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According to the Great Circle Mapper:

  • Los Angeles to Sydney direct is 7,488 miles
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo to Sydney is 10,297 miles (about six extra hours of flying)
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo to Bangkok to Sydney is 13,002 miles (about 11 extra hours of flying)

My goal for award bookings to Australia is direct flights. This post will discuss the best routes, times of year, and miles to collect to book direct flights to Australia in economy.

The three best miles to have to get to Australia in economy are:

Delta charges 100k miles roundtrip to Australia in economy, which is 25-33% more than its competitors, so I will ignore the Delta and Virgin Australia award space to Australia in this post.

Save your miles by using American, United, or US Airways miles to book Qantas, United, Air Canada, and Hawaiian award space.

This post will look at booking economy space with United miles.

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