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.
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.
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:
- A free oneway from Mexico/Central America/Caribbean to your home airport
- A stopover at your home airport for up to one year
- The main award: a roundtrip from your home airport to Asia (with no stopover and no open jaw)
- 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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.