Yesterday, I wrote about how to book free stopovers online on your United awards. While researching for that post, I made a typo that caused me to discover a loophole that allows us to get free oneway flights on United awards in much the same way we can get free oneways on American Airlines awards! This discovery completely changes the way I’ll be booking United awards from now on.

Getting these free oneways requires taking advantage of United’s booking rules that allow one stopover and two open jaws for international awards from the US. And being able to book these free oneways online requires understanding how to book free stopovers online, so if you haven’t read yesterday’s post on that subject, read it now.

Here’s the idea: You can use one stopover and one open jaw to construct a free oneway on a United award. Example:

Andy lives in Washington, DC.

On February 6, 2013, Andy flies from Washington-Dulles to Munich, Germany (IAD-MUC)

On February 20, 2013, Andy flies from Zurich, Switzerland to Washington-Dulles (ZRH-IAD)

In business class this award is 100,000 miles. Andy has taken advantage of a free open jaw by flying into Munich, but returning from Zurich. Andy still has another open jaw and a stopover that he hasn’t used though. With his extra open jaw and stopover, he can tack on a free oneway to anywhere in the continental US, Canada, or Alaska (see the bottom of this post)! The same example with a free oneway:

On February 6, 2013, Andy flies from Washington-Dulles to Munich, Germany (IAD-MUC)

On February 20, 2013, Andy flies from Zurich, Switzerland to Washington-Dulles (ZRH-IAD)

On April 10, 2013, Andy flies from Washington-Dulles to Los Angeles (IAD-LAX) <—Free oneway!

This itinerary also prices out as 100,000 miles, with all legs in business!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead of getting one awesome vacation–business class to Europe– for 100,000 miles, Andy is getting one and a half, since he has a free oneway to Los Angeles in business class tacked on for two months later. Now he just needs to buy a oneway back from LA or book a oneway award back.

What if Andy wants to go to Hawaii? Unfortunately Hawaii is not in the same region as the continental US for United awards, but tacking on a oneway to Honolulu does not price as a new award, instead it just adds 2,500 miles to the price of a coach award from the US to Europe:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve highlighted the flight times to show that the oneway to Honolulu is actually farther and longer than either of the European legs, but tacking on the oneway to Honolulu at the end only adds 2,500 miles and negligible taxes to a coach award to Europe. A practically free oneway to Hawaii. Why does it price this way, 62,500 miles? United is just adding up the cost of a oneway award from Hawaii to Europe (32,500 miles) and a oneway from the continental US to Europe (30,000 miles).

What about to the Caribbean? The Caribbean is also a separate zone from the continental US for determining miles needed. But amazingly on the United chart, it actually costs fewer miles to get from the Caribbean to Europe than from the continental US to Europe. This is shocking considering the way to get from the Caribbean to Europe on the Star Alliance is by connecting through the US. Here’s a sample free oneway from the Caribbean to the US tacked on before the main European award. “Free” is a bit of a misnomer though, since adding the oneway actually decreased the price of the award by 2,500 miles!

Those of you who are familiar with adding free oneways to American awards know that to do so you must live in an international gateway city. One advantage of United’s free oneways is that you do not need to live in an international gateway city. On this itinerary from Denver to London and back, the international gateway on the return is Philly. So with American miles you could not continue to your home in Denver then stay a few months before continuing to Los Angeles. But with United miles you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to give two more examples of tacking on oneways. The first tacks on a oneway to Sao Paulo after a Newark to Europe itinerary. Normally Newark to Europe roundtrip in coach is 60k miles and Newark to Sao Paulo oneway is 30k in caoch, so booking this as two separate awards would be 90k miles. But if you book this as one multicity award with a “stopover” in Newark, the price drops by 12,500 miles!

 

So far all the examples I’ve given have featured a direct flight after the stopover, but there is nothing magical or necessary about direct flights to exploit a free stopover on United awards. Here’s proof of that:

This is essentially the same award as the previous example: Newark to Europe, Europe to Newark, Newark to Sao Paulo. But the first example had all direct flights and this includes stopovers on two portions. No matter, both awards priced at 77,500 miles (although taxes changed.)

Like I said at the beginning, this will change how I book United awards. From now on, I’ll try to book mostly roundtrips with United to unlock the stopover and two open jaws. I’ll try to avoid using the stopover on the main portion of the award, subbing in an open jaw if necessary, so I can use one open jaw and the stopover to get a free oneway.

How can I substitute an open jaw for a stopover on the main itinerary? Imagine I want to see Frankfurt and Copenhagen on one trip. I could book Newark to Frankfurt, stopover there, fly Frankfurt to Copenhagen (destination) then return Copenhagen to Newark. But by burning my stopover, I can no longer tack on a free oneway at the end.

I’d be better off flying Newark to Frankfurt and returning Copenhagen to Newark on the award, paying for my own Frankfurt to Copenhagen transportation separately. Frankfurt to Copenhagen probably costs under $100, and by buying it separately, I’ve preserved my stopover, preserving my ability to tack on a free oneway worth more than $100.

The free oneway must have some limits. I can’t imagine that as long as you stay within 15% of MPM (airline nerd talk) that you can have a free oneway from where you live to anywhere else in the continental US, Alaska, and Canada. But I haven’t found any routings that don’t price the extra leg(s) as a free one way. For instance, look at this routing:

 

 

Yes, you are reading that right. The return is Lima to Houston to Los Angeles to Santa Barbara (stopover), Santa Barbara to Phoenix to Newark. The return goes west then east within the US. And yet the itinerary prices at 40,000 miles, which is the normal coach roundtrip from the US to Peru. Santa Barbara to Newark is a free oneway.

So you can go crazy flying to the west coast then back to the east. But surely you can’t route through the same city twice in one direction. Apparently you can:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at this itinerary. The return routing is London to Philadelphia to Denver, stopover, Denver to Philadelphia. The return itself goes to Philadephia twice, but the award still prices at 60,000 miles, the normal price for a US to Europe roundtrip award. Despite the free oneway going to a city that’s already been flown through, it still prices as a free oneway award.

Like I said there must be some limits to this amazingly powerful free oneway on United awards, but I haven’t found it. Now that you know the ins and outs of adding a free oneway onto a United award, where will you take your free oneway?

 

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.