How to Save 70,000 Miles on US Airways Awards to Southeast Asia

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By using the principles of free oneways and an incredible sweet spot on the US Airways award chart, you can save up to 70,000 miles on your next US Airways award booking to Asia.

I’m flying Turkish Airlines Business Class on My Next US Airways Award

US Airways charges ordinarily charges 120k miles roundtrip in business class to India or Thailand and 160k in first. We can cut that to 90k miles roundtrip in business class to South or Southeast Asia and 120k miles in first!

What is this awesome sweet spot on the US Airways chart? How do we take advantage of it? Can I really save up to 70,000 Dividend Miles per person by taking advantage?

We’ve written about the many great values in the US Airways chart here, here, and here. However, Scott and I were scanning the US Airways chart last week and began kicking ourselves for not writing about this sweet spot earlier, which was first covered by Mighty Travels.

US Airways charges only

  • 60k miles for a roundtrip in economy class
  • 90k miles for a roundtrip in business class
  • 120k for a roundtrip in first class

between Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. And you can route through the United States on these awards.

These awards are way underpriced! Going to South & Central Asia from the US costs 20k to 40k miles more person than going from Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean.

This post is about an Insanely Great Deal

I don’t live in Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean. How can I take advantage?

By applying the concepts free oneways! Scott wrote up free oneways on US Airways awards extensively. You should read his post Master Thread: Free Oneways on US Airways Awards before proceeding. He applied those principles on a personal award in his post Anatomy of an Award: South America, Africa, Europe, and North America in Biz for 100k.

Conceptually these trick awards–which can save you up to 70k US Airways miles–have four easy parts:

  1. A free oneway from Mexico/Central America/Caribbean to your home airport
  2. A stopover at your home airport for up to one year
  3. The main award: a roundtrip from your home airport to Asia (with no stopover and no open jaw)
  4. A continuation of the return to the original starting point in Mexico/Central America/Caribbean with less than a 24 hour layover at your home airport.

Part 1: The Free Oneway from Mexico/Central America/Caribbean to your home airport

Find segments from your desired vacation spot in Mexico/Central America/the Caribbean to your home airport by searching united.com. This doesn’t have to be a direct flight, but that will help keep the segment total low.

What cities in Mexico/Central America/Caribbean can I originate/terminate my award?

Any city you want. This isn’t an American Airlines award where the rules punish people who like to fly to small towns.

It also doesn’t matter where your home airport is. You could live at a regional airport and still be fine. (Kind of. See the booking section for more info.)

Find award space from your desired vacation spot in Mexico/Central America/Caribbean to your home airport, and note those flights. Don’t forget that if the rest of your award is in business or first class, these can be in business class.

Part 2: Stopover at Your Home Airport

These are two separate vacations–one to Mexico/Central America/Caribbean and one to Asia. They will be separated in time by a stopover at your home airport.

The only limitation on the stopover is that all award travel must be completed within one year of booking the award ticket.

Part 3: The Main Roundtrip Award to Asia (with no stopovers or open jaws)

I’ve been talking about Southeast Asia so far, but the region you can use for this award is actually much broader. “South & Central Asia includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Chagos, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam” according to the US Airways award chart.

Search for award space on united.com and note it for the future call in. Try to keep segment numbers low because we want to keep this entire award to 10 segments, and we aren’t done yet. (If you want to go to a smaller airport in Asia, consider flying the award to a major airport and connecting with a super-cheap low-cost carrier.)

You get no stopovers and no open jaws in this part of the award. Why not?

US Airways awards allow one stopover OR one open jaw. We already used the stopover at our home airport before this part of the award. That means we get no more stopovers or open jaws.

Part 4: Continue the return back to the origin in Mexico/Central America/Caribbean with no layovers greater than 24 hours.

Remember that US Airways awards allow one stopover OR one open jaw. We already used the stopover at our home airport before this part of the award. That means we get no more stopovers or open jaws.

That means that wherever the award started in Mexico/Central America/Caribbean, it has to end there also to avoid an open jaw.

Search for award space in any cabin–doesn’t matter because you aren’t necessarily flying it–from your home airport back to wherever the award started.

There can’t be any layovers on this return over 24 hours because that would count as an illegal second stopover. But you may want to make the layover at your home airport for as long as possible under the 24 hour limit. The reason is that in case of flight cancellations, you don’t want to be routed away from your home airport on a rebooking.

Don’t forget that when landing in the US, everyone is required to clear customs and recheck bags, so it may be convenient to make your home airport your US international gateway city, though that isn’t necessary if you don’t check bags.

Confused yet? It’s actually super simple. Let me show you some sample itineraries.

Part 1

I live near Washington-Dulles. As an example, I scanned Copa Airlines availability and found incredible award space in economy and decent business class space on their evening flight from Panama City to Washington D.C.

Even if my preferred travel date didn’t have business class space, that wouldn’t be a deal breaker. The flight is under five hours. And I’m flying the flight to unlock savings of tens of thousands of miles.

PTY-IAD, courtesy of gcmap.com

Part 2

Washington-Dulles is my home airport. I will use it as my stopover city and take my main trip to Southeast Asia several months after flying back from Panama City.

Parts 3 and 4

So far I have the free oneway from Central America and the stopover at my home airport. Here’s what Part 3, the main roundtrip award to Bangkok, and Part 4, the continuation to Panama, could look like:

  • Panama City -> Washington-Dulles (Copa Business) [stopover for three months]
  • Washington-Dulles -> Frankfurt (Lufthansa Business)
  • Frankfurt -> Bangkok (Thai Business) [destination]
  • Bangkok -> Frankfurt (Lufthansa Business)
  • Frankfurt -> Washington-Dulles (Lufthansa Business)
  • Washington-Dulles -> Panama City (Copa Business) [optional segment after less than 24 hour layover]

For visual learners, the award is broken out below on the Great Circle Mapper. The main award is highlighted in green.

Courtesy of gcmap.com

I could also construct an award that traverses the Pacific and goes to Vietnam. The below award is eight segments, so you shouldn’t receive push back from US Airways agents about having too many segments:

  • Panama City -> Washington-Dulles (Copa Business) [stopover for three months]
  • Washington-Dulles -> Los Angeles (United Business)
  • Los Angeles -> Taipei (EVA Business)
  • Taipei -> Ho Chi Minh City (EVA Business)  [destination]
  • Ho Chi Minh City -> Taipei (EVA Business)
  • Taipei -> Los Angeles (EVA Business)
  • Los Angeles -> Washington-Dulles (United Business)
  • Washington-Dulles -> Panama City (Copa Business) [optional segment]

Courtesy of gcmap.com

What do you mean by “optional segment”?

Similar to hidden city ticketing, it is up you whether you fly the final segment or not. The final leg back to Central America allows this award to price out at the discounted level of 60k/90k/120k per person.

Any caveats to this type of award routing?

US Airways does not allow changes to an award itinerary once travel commences. I can’t stress that point enough. If for some reason you need to make a change from your US to Asia segments, you will be out of luck.

You must fly the free oneway from Mexico/Central America/Caribbean to start this award or the whole award will be cancelled.

If you don’t plan on flying the final US to Mexico/Central America segment, you must avoid checking luggage. This is a moot point for the MileValue team, we are One Bag Evangelists. For families or those taking an extended vacation, this caveat merits special emphasis.

How do I ticket the award?

Like all US Airways awards, you call 800-622-1015 and feed the agent the segments you’ve found. Be prepared to hang up and call back if you get an incompetent or obstinate agent.

Technically your stopover (your home airport in this case) on a US Airways award has to be a Star Alliance hub. But like all US Airways rules, this one is flexible if you’re willing to call a few times.

How does this award save me 70k US Airways miles?

The US to South & Central Asia should cost 160k miles roundtrip in first class. Through this method, you get the award for 120k, plus you get a free oneway in first class from the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America, which is worth another 30k miles.

How do I reach Mexico/Central America/Caribbean to begin my award?

Book a oneway award using Arrival miles, United miles, American miles, British Airways Avios, or cash.

Where Can I Get the Miles?

The best place to start for US Airways miles is the US Airways Premier World MasterCard® with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase.

If you already have that card, you can get the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in six months. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to US Airways miles with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred.

Getting both cards would earn 65,000 US Airways miles after minimum spending requirements, enough for the economy roundtrip and well on your way to the business or first class redemptions.

This sounds complicated. Who can I talk to about creating such as trip?

Never fear! At our popular Award Booking Service, we can easily construct an award trip like the ones highlighted above. We do the work. You do the travel.

Recap

US Airways award chart is littered with great sweet spots. You can fly roundtrip from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean to Southeast Asia for a mere 90k miles in business or 120k miles in first class. Flying from the US and Canada to Southeast Asia would be 20k-40k more expensive depending on your cabin of service!

Using the free oneway loophole that Scott discovered will save you thousands of miles and help you book multiple incredible vacations for the price of one. That proposition is tough to beat.

There are certainly catches to consider, however. You must “burn” your stopover in your home city, so you likely can’t add a stopover or open jaw in Southeast Asia. Also you can’t alter dates after travel commences, so you must be absolutely sure of vacation plans before pulling the trigger on this.

61 Responses to How to Save 70,000 Miles on US Airways Awards to Southeast Asia

  1. Excellent idea!

  2. I am very happy to see this post

    Sorry to ask though.

    If I plan to take BR from SFO-TPE-MNL (2 hours in TPE layover), how can I use this method. sually fly in Buisness for 120k… So i an save 70k?

    You also shared before free one ways. With this specific booking above, will I be better with free one ways, or do this thing you were sharing above?

    Could you cite me an example for my route. I am just not really getting it yet.. I hope you do not mind.

    Thank you again!

    • XXX in Central America/Mexico/Caribbean to SFO
      ——
      months later SFO-TPE-MNL
      MNL-TPE-SFO-the same XXX in Central America/Mexico/Caribbean

      All that in business class would be 90k miles. Make XXX some place you want to go on vacation and buy a one way ticket there to start this fun.

  3. So you save 30K business or 40 first…. the “other 30″ is pure nonsense

    Just the fact that you lose the right to stop in Europe or Japan for a more interesting vacation, and that you have to buy an extra ticket to get to Central American (bleh) plus Hotel fees does not make this as attractive as you portray it to be.

    I know of a much much cheaper options to get to S East Asia and you DO get the stop in Europe or Japan! But cant divulge on open websites.

  4. Awesome!

    1. So I can’t reallve save 70k more , rather 30k?

    2. What if it is the other way around, person is coming from MNL? MNL-TPE-SFO???

    • 1. You save 30k plus get a free oneway worth 30k from Central America/Caribbean to US.
      2. It doesn’t work coming from that way.

  5. 3. So I will not bascially fly the very first one from the XXX to SFO? since I am in SFO right? Basically, the one I will have is when I return to SFO, then go to that city?

    • NO! INCORRECT.

      If you don’t fly the first leg, the whole award is cancelled. You can skip the last leg, but you have to go down to Central America or the Caribbean for a vacation.

      • I see. Totally understand it now. So it is best to buy two one ways with my own money/miles … (to/from xxx )to match my itinerary ?

  6. In your example (one way Panama to Washington DC Dulles), are you getting on the plane for the 1st leg in Panama or are you skipping that and getting on the plane in Dulles for the 2nd leg? If so you really starting in Panama, how do you get to Panama – did you buy a separate one way?

    • If you ever miss a flight, the rest of your reservation is cancelled. Do not skip leg one.

      As the post says:

      “How do I reach these regions to begin my award?

      Book a oneway award using Arrival miles, United miles, American miles, British Airways Avios, or cash.”

  7. I’m still a new reader of your blog and will admit I got confused a bit with the free one-way stuff; though what you wrote was pretty innovative. However, if the price is 90k miles, then why not just fly from USA to North Asia, with a stopover in SE Asia, which also costs 90k miles?
    Maria, if you want to go to Manila, why not fly the following route in business class?
    SFO-TPE on EVA Air
    TPE-MNL (stopover) on EVA Air
    MNL-ICN (destination) on Asiana
    ICN-SFO on Asiana
    I know I stated ICN as your destination but you can have a 2 week stopover and only stay 25 hours at your destination, right? ;)

    • @joey

      I like your suggestion although I plan to stay 2 month in MNL the most.. Sometimes 1.5 months. So it won’t work?

    • That’s a great way to do it also! This gets half a free trip in Mex/Cent Am/Carib too though.

      • Very good point Scott! I guess I wasn’t thinking of that extra Caribbean/Mexican/Cent Am vacation! :)
        @Maria, I’ve heard of 2 months stopovers in the past as well so that should work too. You’ll probably have to call US Airways a few times though until you get an agent willing to work with your proposed itinerary; or if you wish to also have a Mex/Cent Am/Carib vacation in addition to a MNL trip, do what Scott/Bill suggested in this blog entry. To save some hassle, perhaps just travel to North Asia (like Hong Kong or Taipei) and then buy a low cost carrier ticket to Manila (i.e. Cebu Pacific, PAL, etc.) or use milevalue’s award booking service.

        • Thanks.. But if I do use that method (central/Mexico)

          My bags are what I worried… After my first leg to (central/mexico)XXX-SFO (I need my bags)

          Then when SFO-TPE-MNL
          I need my bags again

          Then MNL-TPE-SFO
          I need my bags for the last time and pass the immigration line

          Now, going to Mexico, how does it work again? Checking In again? How long is the gap coming back from Manila to again take that free on way to Mexico from SFO?

          Also, your idea of just paying/miles from SFO-TPE is cheaper than adding manila? So its going to be 90k?

          How much would “milevalue booking service” need miles/$ for lets say TPE-MNL?

          Thanks!!!!

          • You would get your bags in all those places.You don’t go back to Mexico at the end. You don’t fly those legs. The MileValue award booking service charges $111 per person per award. Please direct future questions to the award booking service via the form at milevalue.com/award-booking-service

        • @joey
          I checked buying tickets from TPE-MNL IN buisnessclass and it cost around $500. I don’t think it is worthit for each way

          So it’s like SFO-TPE rt with 90k (I’m assuming instead of 120k)
          + $1000 back n forth TPE-MNL all in Biz

  8. I really appreciate these posts that think a little outside the box. I’d actually prefer the one-way from Mex/C.A./Carib. more than standard stopovers in Europe or Japan since I like to keep my vacations separately focused on one destination at a time. Stopovers screw up my internal body clock!

  9. You’re just giving up your “free” stop for the “free” one way… but I can still see the appeal, nice

  10. The not checking bags for the last leg isn’t neces true… if the layover is long enough, certain airports require you to pick up luggage and check it back in later, no?

    • Not sure if it’s an airport or airline thing, but yes if the layover is long enough, you will have to pick up checked bags.

    • If your first stop in the US is your home airport, then you have no issues since you have to collect your bags and go through immigration. If you connect to a smaller airport,then you are in trouble…..

  11. I will pay someone to replicate this deal from Tulsa to Maldives around dec 15th-31st. Does the one way from Mexico have to be before the trip to Maldives?

    • Probably won’t work those dates, but we do have an award booking service –> milevalue.com/award-booking-service

  12. i will plane from TYO to itali , i could see LH spaces on united or KVS. and then i called at US agent . but the agents said me “there are not any seats ” i tried for 3 days. so i gave up.
    i thought us air miles can not go from ASIA to EUR .

  13. Nice deal! But only for those who have a desire to purchase/use award ticket to go to start destination. I booked a trip for August 2014 from LAX to Lisbon Lisbon to Bali, Bali to LAX for 120k on Biz. I could have done it for 90k but I have no desire top go to Mexico or Central America at this point.

  14. You should be careful about the “Optional Segment” there could be a risk in these itineraries if say one of your last segments get cancelled or delayed. Using your example LAX-Dulles if that is cancelled or delayed the airline has the obligation to route you back to Panama and not Dulles which might screw up your plans.

  15. Looking at the US award chart I also see really good value from South America. Any chance to get EZE for Central America with US phone agents? :)

  16. Pretty misleading headline. But a good tip.

    Better yet for those in SoCal, just leave from Tijuana. That would skip the nonsense of getting to Panama City or wherever.

    • A lot of people are missing the point Bill tried to make that the extra vacation to Central America is a perk. Central America is awesome! I love Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

  17. any ideas on using usair miles from IAD to GIG or IAD -GIG – Capetown – IAD?

  18. Hi Scott,
    After reading this article, I plan to make a trip to SE Asia using US airway awards (140K). I followed the steps and made a draft, pls let me know if it is doable with US airway agent:
    1.Central America/Mexico/Caribean to home airport
    4/17/13: SJO-PTY, 1 hr layover, PTY-IAD (Copa airline)
    2.Stopover my home airport for 4 months
    3. Home airport to SE Asia
    8/1/13: IAD-LHR, layover 14hr 25′, LHR-SIN (UA and SIN
    airlines)
    8/20/13: SIN-IST, layover 7hr 25′, IST-IAD (Turkish airline)
    4. Home airport to original starting point (SJO)
    8/21/13 or 8/22/13, as long as less than 24hr layover of my home
    airport.
    IAD-PTY, PTY-SJO

    Total 8 segments for this trip.
    Thank you for your time.

  19. 1) What about taxes for the whole trip? Taxes look discouraging for anything originating from Mexico if I am seeing them right from UA web site.
    2) Will this work for someone in PHX?
    MEX-PHX//PHX-LAX-NYC-BOM(dest)BOM-IST-LAX-PHX?

    • You need to add PHX-MEX at the end, and then it should work. Taxes are not too bad at all, probably under $150.

  20. I think this is a great idea. I tried to book something to leverage this. I felt the most significant constraint (for me) was the less-than-24 hour gap between the Asia–> US trip and the US–>Mex/Caribb trip.

    Couple that with the less-than-10 segments constraint and it gets even harder to string together an itinerary that works. I like this challenge though!

    The fortunate part in all this is that this is on Star Alliance – which is quite liberal (at least for Economy awards!) and has quite a few options flying international.

    Well done, as always!

  21. Pingback: Anatomy of an Award: Southeast Asian and Mexican Vacations in Business Class for 90k US Airways Miles, 30k Arrival Miles, and Zero Cash | milevalue.com

  22. In your first example, how are you getting space on Lufthansa’s business product?

  23. That article talked about booking general Lufthansa flights (great read btw!) but it didn’t talk about getting the business class seats, which you got on the flight in this article.

    My understanding is that Lufthansa doesn’t release business/first award seats until around 2 weeks out. Is this still correct? And if so did you book the whole fare under business and then hope Lufthansa would release business class seats later?

    • Lufthansa doesn’t release first class seats to partners until 15 days before departure, and US Airways never has access to Lufthansa First. Lufthansa business is released at the same time as Lufthansa economy (~350 days out), and US Airways has access to the space 330 days out.

  24. what if my home airport is a small airport (ie. ROC), then the return trip from southeast asia would not stop in ROC?

  25. In your routing example on the return, do you have to track back through the way you came from? For example you listed:

    Panama City -> Washington-Dulles (Copa Business) [stopover for three months]
    Washington-Dulles -> Frankfurt (Lufthansa Business)
    Frankfurt -> Bangkok (Thai Business) [destination]
    Bangkok -> Frankfurt (Lufthansa Business)
    Frankfurt -> Washington-Dulles (Lufthansa Business)
    Washington-Dulles -> Panama City (Copa Business)

    Can you do this instead:
    Panama City -> Washington-Dulles (Copa Business) [stopover for three months]
    Washington-Dulles -> Frankfurt (Lufthansa Business)
    Frankfurt -> Bangkok (Thai Business) [destination]
    Bangkok -> Washington-Dulles (hypothetically if there is such a route)

    Thanks!

  26. Pingback: Anatomy of an Award: Southeast Asian and Mexican Vacations in Business Class for 90k US Airways Miles, 30k Arrival Miles, and Zero Cash | Hack.Travel

  27. Hola Scott,

    I really appreciate your anatomy of awards and have topped off my US Air miles for two RT business to Asia, just a few questions.. Since I already live in Mexico- MID I assume I can use my stopover or open jaw on the trip. I’m thinking MID-IAH-IST- DEL stop-BKK destination then back NRT-SJC on the Dreamliner and through IAH to MID. What are the rules for continuing around the world, do I have to go back the same direction I came? Thanks for the help

  28. ShoNuffHarlem

    Why do you need to not check bags to DC? Since you enter the US in DC, no matter what you have to go through Customs and retrieve your bags.

  29. Pingback: US Airways Has Eliminated One Sweet Spot to Asia, but There is a Sweeter Spot | milevalue.com

  30. Pingback: Top Five US Airways Awards to Book Before It’s Too Late | milevalue.com

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