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Reader Martin asks: I am trying to book IAD-CDG, BRU-IAD and trying to add my free oneway from IAD to ?? No mater which destination I choose the page always comes up with no available flights even though I check those flights separately and I can see there is availability. Any ideas?

It seems like I’ve gotten a similar question almost daily since I broke the news that you can add free oneways onto most United awards. Many people report, and I have experienced dozens of times, an error message when searching for free oneways on United awards as described in my posts and video on the topic.

The error may occur after clicking search, it may occur after picking the first leg, or it may occur, as Martin experienced, after picking the first two legs. In most cases, there is no way to get around the error, and you should call United to book. I want to save the $25 phone fee as much as anyone, but sometimes it worth it to pay the $25 and get the oneway added.

The error is caused because United’s search engine doesn’t show all the results that it should when you search multicity. From my experience, it will only show the first few results that I found by searching each leg oneway when I repeat the exact same search as part of a multicity search. The cause of this glitch is unclear.

The only way I’ve ever remedied this glitch online is to search each leg oneway and find dates that have availability for my desired cities, preferably availability on the shortest itinerary (the one on top). But in most cases, if the glitch strikes, booking online is impossible.

When the online booking doesn’t work, just call United. Adding a oneway trip is almost certainly worth the $25. I haven’t tried to get them to waive the fee in these cases, but even that might be possible. I invite readers to try to get the fee waived and post the results here. My attempt would be along the lines of, “I wanted to book online. I tried to book online. Your computer system produced an error that instructed me to call, so I don’t think it’s fair to have to pay for your error.”

When you call up, it’s easy to book the award because free oneways are completely within the routing rules of United awards. However, to avoid confusing the agent or drawing scrutiny, I wouldn’t say “free oneway.” In Martin’s case, I would say, “On the return I want to fly BRU-IAD on flight XXX on day YY/ZZ. There, I want to have a stopover. I will continue IAD-LAX on flight XXX on day YY/ZZ.”

Thanks for the question, Martin, and best of luck!

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