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At MileValue, we constantly champion the free oneway on award tickets. Adding a free oneway is possible (to varying degrees) using all four legacy carrier’s miles. For more information, make sure to check out Scott’s comprehensive posts below:

Master Thread: Free Oneways on United Awards
Master Thread: Free Oneways on American Awards
Master Thread: Free Oneways on Delta Awards
Master Thread: Free Oneways on US Airways Awards

Free oneways are great, but nothing gets us more excited than “negative” awards. Negative awards occur when you add a segment that lowers the price of your award and allows you to add another destination to your vacation. The airline is rewarding you for flying more! For specific examples using American Airlines AAdvantage miles, make sure to check out Scott’s great post 7,500 Miles to Europe and Negative 7,500 Miles to South America.

I wanted to give another example of a negative award that we just booked for a client at our Award Booking Service, this time using United miles.

Our client wanted to travel from Los Angeles to New Zealand in business or first class and explore the country in earnest. The client wanted to depart in December and return in January, peak travel times to Down Under. This award would price at 135,000 United miles roundtrip or 67,500 oneway. On paper it was going to be a difficult award to secure.

As I detailed in the post, Where is the Award Space to Australia and New Zealand? These Exact Routes, premium cabin award space is readily available between Asia and New Zealand. This is legal routing on United awards, so it was the first place I looked. Sure enough there was plenty of space from Los Angeles to Singapore via Tokyo-Haneda. We then got our client to Christchurch, New Zealand on Singapore’s nonstop.

 

 The client’s outbound read as follows:

  • Los Angeles -> Tokyo-Haneda [ANA Business]
  • Tokyo-Haneda -> Singapore [Singapore Business]
  • Singapore -> Christchurch [Singapore Business]

With the outbound secured, our client asked if he could use his open jaw to return to Los Angeles from Auckland on the inbound. United allows both a stopover AND two open jaws on awards, so this was perfectly legal. We began to build his inbound originating from Auckland until he asked the million dollar question:

“Can I add a side trip anywhere?”

I began to look for great side trips that could connect in Auckland before continuing back to the US. My main weapon? Wikipedia. For more information, check out Scott’s post: How to Use Wikipedia to Book Awards Like a Pro.

Pulling up Auckland International Airport, I suggested he try Nadi, Fiji or Papeete, Tahiti. Our client opted for the former because Air New Zealand only operates the Papeete <-> Auckland flight twice-weekly and the Papeete flight was nearly twice as long.

Air New Zealand seemed to have business class space on nearly every Sunday but economy all other days. We selected a business class leg from Nadi to Auckland and then worked on getting him back to Los Angeles.

We used the same method of routing through Asia to get his party home in premium cabins.  His inbound itinerary read as follows:

  • Nadi, Fiji->Auckland [Air New Zealand Business]
  • Auckland->Shanghai [Air New Zealand Business]
  • Shanghai->Tokyo-Narita [ANA Business]
  • Tokyo-Narita->Los Angeles [ANA Business]

As I mentioned above, a roundtrip business class award ticket from the US to New Zealand is 135,000 miles/person. I placed the itinerary on hold using the method I just wrote about in my post, The Trick to Hold United Awards.

I was expecting the entire itinerary to price at 270,000 miles (135,000 x 2). When I called in to finalize, the phone agent took an eternity to price it out. When she finally returned, she said the entire award would be only 255,000 miles! I couldn’t believe it!

Why did the award price lower than expected?

Simply put: an award chart sweet spot! United charges 67,500 miles for a oneway business class ticket from the US to Australia/New Zealand. United only charges 60,000 miles for a oneway business class ticket from the US to Oceania. Adding the oneway from Fiji to Auckland actually saved miles on the award ticket. United priced the award as 67,500 + 60,000 as opposed to 67,500 x 2. We received a mileage rebate for including another city!

How is the client getting from New Zealand to Fiji?

They will be purchasing a cheap economy ticket with cash. They were already making their way across New Zealand, but this award chart discrepancy allows them to save miles and extend their vacation for the cost of a oneway cash ticket. That’s a great trade off.

Could this award be even better?

Absolutely! Our client wanted to make his way around New Zealand on his own. Remember that United awards allow a stopover AND open jaw. He already was using his open jaw to arrive in Christchurch but depart from Nadi. He still had a free stopover to use.

He could have flown US -> Asia -> Christchurch (stop) -> Wellington // Nadi ->Auckland -> Asia -> US

At 127,500 miles, the above itinerary is an insane value. The stopover in Christchurch would have helped the client continue to Wellington for no charge, but he opted to drive instead. After all, New Zealand is pretty scenic. Scott knows, he just spent time in Wellington and Queenstown himself.

Recap

I inadvertently tripped over a United award chart sweet spot. The cost in miles to fly from the US to the South Pacific is 7,500 miles less than from the US to Australia/New Zealand. By adding a oneway from Fiji to Auckland on an award ticket, we lowered the cost of the ticket by 7,500 miles per person.

Tricks like these help extract the maximum value from your miles. Award charts aren’t perfect because they’re designed by humans. Using these charts and the airlines’ own routing rules to your advantage saves you miles and creates incredible vacations like the one we just booked for our client.

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