With this week’s United devaluation, the most popular award that the MileValue Award Booking Service books–premium cabin awards to Europe with United miles–went up in price as much as 63%.

Last week, one passenger flying one way from the continental US to Europe in business class would pay 50k United miles for the privilege, whether the flights on the award were operated by United or one of its many European partners like Lufthansa and Swiss. In first class, the price was 67.5k miles.

Today, a business class award to Europe on United flights costs 57.5k miles, while partner business class like TAP or Austrian costs 70k miles. For first class, the United-metal price is 80k miles, while the partner price is 110k miles.

Partner business class space now prices out 22% higher than United business, and partner first is 38% more than United first. Those are premiums I don’t want to pay because United business and United first are both nice products that I’ve reviewed:

This post will show how to most quickly find United-metal award space on united.com to book awards with United miles on the cheaper United-metal chart.

How to Pinpoint Awards with Space on United Flights

The example I’ll use to illustrate the technique is a one person award from Chicago to Ljubljana, Slovenia in July.

Simple Search

I’ll start with a simple search to illustrate the problem. I’m searching for one person one way on the home page of united.com.

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The results are superficially promising with the majority of days having the premium cabin award space we’re after. (These days are colored green or blue.)

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Unfortunately–on the day I searched–both awards with Saver space are two-stop itineraries with transatlantic flights on a partner, so they both price at 70k miles.

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Segment-by-Segment Search

To limit the connections to one, I’m going to search segment-by-segment. If I can find a day with a direct flight from Chicago to Frankfurt, then I can be pretty certain that finding a direct flight from Frankfurt to Slovenia will be easy. Intra-Europe award space is usually wide open.

I reran the search, checking the Nonstop Flights Only check box on the search screens.

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Again the results for July are superficially promising.

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But by clicking around I realize that almost all the award space is on the Lufthansa flight, not the United flights. We are specifically trying to avoid the higher priced Lufthansa space across the Atlantic.

To change the filter, so that we are only shown–and the calendar only considers–the United flights, we need to click on Advanced Search. You can do that on the search results screen or on the search part of the home page.

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Settings for the Advanced Search

Scroll down near the bottom of the Advanced Search screen and select United Airlines Flights Only and Nonstop Flights Only.

(Also pictured is the Number of Flights to Display. It’s irrelevant here, but when searching for connecting flights, always set it to Display 50.

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Rerunning the search with these new parameters, we see that United is a lot stingier with award space than Lufthansa is on the route.

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There aren’t many options, but these are our options to save big miles with United-operated flights. Now we can click on each green and blue date to see whether the premium cabin award space is in business or first. It turns out all this space is in first.

Re-running the Full Search

The final step is to rerun the original Chicago to Ljublana search on a day that we know there is a United Chicago-to-Frankfurt first class space. Those days should return one stop itineraries that price at the United-chart price of 80k miles one way.

Rerunning the search for July 20, we get such an itinerary.

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Recap

Premium cabin United awards are much cheaper if the region-connecting flight is on a United plane instead of a partner plane.

You can search for award space on only United planes very quickly by setting the Advanced Search options to display United flights only and then using the two-month calendar to pinpoint the space you need.

Once you know where this space is, you can search for your full award and find itineraries that include United flights as the region-connecting flights, saving yourself thousands of miles.

Save time and miles by searching smarter! Or skip the work and hire the MileValue Award Booking Service for your next award.

Getting the Miles

I’m still bullish on United miles. They’re fantastic for economy awards. They’re also reasonable for United Business awards, and I consider United Business to be a very comfortable bed with solid food and entertainment options. See reviews here and here.

There are a lot of options to get United miles. There are United co-branded credit cards. There are also cards that earn Ultimate Rewards like the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, and Ink Bold that allow 1:1 transfers of their Ultimate Rewards to United miles.

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