By now, you may be well aware of the rule that on a United oneway award, you can’t take a stopover. On a roundtrip award, you get one stopover. (This is just for awards booked with United miles. Different airlines, different rules.)
In certain cases, though, you can add a stopover to your planned oneway award and even decrease the miles price.
Let use a sample itinerary to illustrate what I mean: Say you want to go from Los Angeles to Shanghai with a stop in Frankfurt.
United does not allow stopovers on oneway awards, so ordinarily this would price as two awards: Los Angeles to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Shanghai.
In business class those trips are 50,000 miles and 65,000 miles.
If you try to book these two separately or as a oneway with a stopover, that would cost you 115,000 miles!
The trick is to book this as a roundtrip flight and tack on a flight later on in the year even if you know you won’t take it. This flight should be in economy because Shanghai to Los Angeles in economy is only 32,500 miles. If we’re not flying the flight, let’s at least make it as cheap as possible.
How can spending 32,500 miles on a flight we aren’t flying save us miles?
Because a one way business class flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai is 60,000 miles. If we make it a roundtrip where the outbound is 60,000 and the “return” is 32,500, this itinerary can be had for 92,500 miles instead on 115,000.
The reason Los Angeles to Shanghai was pricing at 115,000 miles earlier was the stop in Frankfurt split the award into two expensive awards. As a roundtrip, we are allowed a stop in Frankfurt, and we are allowed to route to Asia via Europe.
All we have to do is find a “return” day to make our “roundtrip” work.
After you find your flights, just call up United at 1-800-UNITED-1 and put these flights together if you can’t book the award online, which may be difficult because the online pricing engine give a lot of error messages.
If I booked one of these awards, I would be on the lookout for changes to me phantom “return.” If changes occurred, I would do nothing at first. After flying to Shanghai, I would then call United to cancel the rest of the award because of the changes to the schedule. Talking your way into a refund of the 32,500 miles for the return should be easy.
To maximize your chances of a favorable change for you, book the return for 11 months out to give the schedule plenty of time to change.