Two weeks ago, in How to Save 70,000 Miles on US Airways Awards to Southeast Asia, Bill blew people’s minds with his post about one of the biggest tricks you can pull with US Airways miles:
When routing from the US to South & Central Asia, you can save up to 70,000 US Airways miles by adding segments from Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean to your home airport before the main award.
The four step process is not difficult, but it is new, so there was some confusion in the comments section of that post. To allay that confusion, I’ll give an example of this type of award I’ve just booked for two of my friends in Los Angeles.
They’ll be taking two vacations in the next five months–a three day weekend in Cabo, Mexico and 17 days in Thailand–with almost all the flights in business class for 90k US Airways miles, 30k Arrival miles, and zero cash out of pocket.
How did I search for award space? How did I book the award? How is there no cash out of pocket? How many miles did they save?
My friends had saved up 120k US Airways miles each from a combination of the US Airways Premier World MasterCard‘s 40k mile sign up bonus, this month’s Share miles program, and miles earned from flying.
They also had 46k Arrival miles each from getting the Arrival Plus–and meeting its minimum spending requirement.
They were planning to use 120k US Airways miles each for roundtrip business class flights to Thailand for a two-to-three week vacation during this North American winter, the dry season there. I told them I could get them the award for 90k miles.
They had a great trip to Cabo, Mexico last year, but didn’t think they’d have a chance to get back there again with the high flight prices. I told them they could get there for no extra US Airways miles and no cash out of pocket.
To book their trips, I included the four simple parts Bill laid out in How to Save 70,000 Miles on US Airways Awards to Southeast Asia:
- 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: A free oneway from Cabo to Los Angeles
Their award began with the return flight of their vacation from Cabo to Los Angeles. Because the whole award would be in business class, this flight could be in business class for no extra miles.
To search for award space on this flight, I searched united.com for Saver award space. US Airways has access to all Saver award space on united.com released by Star Alliance carriers.
There was great space on Mondays in December in business class.
This space dovetailed perfectly with an outbound flight on Saturday morning to Mexico for a three day weekend. But that flight would be separate from the US Airways award, and we booked it last.
Part 2: A Three Month “Stopover” in Los Angeles
The second part of the award is the separation of the two trips with a “stopover” on the award at your home airport.
My friends’ trips will be three months apart in December 2013 and March 2014, so they stopover in Los Angeles from December to March.
The stopover can be as long as you’d like, subject only to one rule: all award travel must be completed within one year of ticketing the award.
Part 3: A Roundtrip from Los Angeles to Bangkok
Part 3 of the award is the main award, which has to be a roundtrip with no stopovers or open jaws to your main destination in South & Central Asia.
I again searched for award space on united.com and found a great itinerary with only one stop in each direction, two different long haul business class products, and a 17 day trip that required only 12 vacation days.
This roundtrip award would cost 120k United miles + $57.30 in government taxes per person.
US Airways will collect the same government taxes, but we can ignore the listed miles price. The US Airways miles price will be set by its own award chart.
Part 4: A Continuation of the Return to Cabo
US Airways awards can have one stopover OR one open jaw. We used the stopover in Part 2, for three months in Los Angeles.
That means that we get no more stopovers or open jaws.
That’s the reason that my friends have to fly into and out of Bangkok instead of into Bangkok and out of Phuket, which would create an impermissible open jaw.
The same rule means the award can’t just end in Los Angeles. It has to end in Cabo where it started, again, to avoid an impermissible open jaw. And the layovers on the return all have to be under 24 hours to avoid a second impermissible stopover.
Luckily I found award space from Los Angeles to Cabo that left LAX less than nine hours after their arrival from Asia.
Putting It All Together
In December 2013, my friends begin their US Airways award by flying the return leg of a three day weekend in Cabo.
They take a three month break from world traveling at home in Los Angeles.
In March 2014, they resume the award with a 17 day roundtrip to Bangkok.
After arriving back in Los Angeles, they collect their bags, clear immigration and customs, and head home.
Nine hours after arriving in Los Angeles, the award continues to Cabo.
Booking the Award
To book the award I called US Airways at 800-622-1015. My friends had two accounts with 90k miles each, so I explained to the agent that I had to book two awards from San Jose del Cabo, Mexico to Bangkok, Thailand from two separate accounts.
I fed her the carrier, flight number, cities, and cabin of each of the seven flights on the award. I didn’t use any fancy concepts that she didn’t understand. The only “technical” word I used was stopover when I said, “They’ll stopover in Los Angeles. The next flight is March 7 from Los Angeles to Beijing on Air China flight…”
She priced the perfectly valid award correctly as an award from Mexico & Central America to South & Central Asia in business class for 90k miles + $165.55 per person–$115.55 in taxes and a $50 award processing fee.
I put the awards on hold and gave the confirmation numbers to my friends. They called back one at a time and ticketed their awards, paying the $165.55 with their Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® cards.
They then logged into their Barclaycard accounts and redeemed 16,500 Arrival miles each to remove that charge from their statements. Ten percent of those Arrival miles will be rebated to their accounts as with all redemptions of Arrival miles for airline tickets, making the true cost around 90k US Airways miles, 15k Arrival miles, and no out-of-pocket cash per person.
Without the legs to/from Mexico, a business class award from Los Angeles to Thailand would cost 120k US Airways miles per person.
One way in business class from Mexico to the US would cost 30k US Airways miles per person (if you could book it as a one way with US Airways miles.)
That means my friends saved 120k US Airways miles–60k per person–by booking their awards with Bill’s trick of adding legs from and to Mexico onto awards to Asia.
Completing the Mexico Trip
The US Airways award only included the return from their three day weekend in Cabo. For the outbound, there was a great fare on the appropriate Saturday morning from Los Angeles to Cabo on a direct United flight.
My friends again booked the ticket with their Arrival cards. After the 10% rebate, the cost was about 15k Arrival miles per person and no cash out of pocket for the ticket. Plus they will earn United miles for flying the flight since United sees their ticket as a cash ticket.
My friends have the flights booked for two vacations in the next five months:
- Three days in Cabo, Mexico in December 2013 with one way in business class
- Seventeen days in Thailand in March 2014 with the whole trip in business class
In total they each paid about:
- 90k US Airways miles
- 30k Arrival miles
- Zero cash
Raise your hand if you could have maximized your miles like this two weeks ago before reading Bill’s tricks. I know I could not have!
Getting the Miles
The easiest way to earn US Airways is the US Airways card. The only way to get Arrival miles is through the Arrival card. Both are issued by Barclaycard, so you cannot get them the same day.
US Airways Premier World MasterCard® with 40,000 US Airways miles after first purchase
- Earn up to 40,000 bonus miles with qualifying transactions
- Exclusive: Book award flights for 5,000 fewer miles – award travel starts at just 20,000 miles for cardmembers
- Zone 2 boarding on all US Airways flights
- Earn 2 miles per $1 on US Airways purchases
- Earn 1 mile per $1 on purchases everywhere else
- Annual companion certificate good for up to 2 companion tickets at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
- First Class check-in
- Please see terms and conditions for complete details
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® with 40,000 miles after spending $3k in the first three months and no annual fee for the first year
- Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that’s enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit
- Earn 2X miles on all purchases
- Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
- Chip card technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad
- No foreign transaction fees on anything you buy while in another country
- 0% introductory APR for 12 months for each Balance Transfer made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, currently 16.24% or 20.24%, depending on your creditworthiness.
- Complimentary online FICO® Credit Score access for Barclaycard Arrival cardmembers
Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®