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United has announced a 20% discount on economy class awards from the US to Europe:

  • Roundtrip awards booked between now an November 19, 2013
  • for flights flown between January 13 and March 11, 2014
  • on itineraries wholly operated by United and United Express flights
  • will cost only 48k miles roundtrip, a 20% discount on the normal 60k price.

United ran a nearly identical promotion last year, so maybe this is becoming a yearly occurrence.

I know many of us are trying to burn United miles because of its recent devaluation, so this promotion might be a good way to see Europe during the low season on a cheap award and burn some United miles in the process.

How Do You Book the United Off Peak Award to Europe? How does it compare to off peak awards from Flying Blue, American, and US Airways to Europe this winter?

United’s Current Promotion

Roundtrip awards entirely on planes bearing United and United Express paint jobs between the continental US, Alaska, and Canada and Europe in economy class, flown between 1/13/14 and 3/11/14, and booked between now and 11/19/13 cost 48,000 United miles. That is a 12,000 mile–20%–discount from the industry-standard 60,000 miles.

I did a few dummy bookings to test out what’s possible. Double open jaws price at 48k miles.

Newark to Frankfurt, Paris to Washington DC

 

But as the promotion page says, one ways and partner flights are not discounted. (Click on any screen shot to enlarge.)

One way search shows normal 30k price.
On a roundtrip search, the United flight shows up as 24k and the Lufthansa flight is 30k.

Interestingly, if you fly one way on all United and United Express metal and one way on a parnter, you get the 20% discount one way for a total price of 54k miles.

United there and Singapore back gets half the discount, 54k total.

If you’ve selected valid dates, you should see the discount at all stages of the booking process, not just the end.

This promotions is pretty easy to take advantage of. You have two months of the worst weather to Europe to choose from, so availability is incredible. But I wouldn’t consider this to be the best current off peak to Europe promotion–Flying Blue’s, American’s and US Airways’ are far better.

Flying Blue

I wrote at length about the Flying Blue promotion that allows you to use 20k SPG Starpoints or 25k Membership Rewards + $281 for a roundtrip from select US cities to anywhere in Europe through March 31, 2014.

See How to Get to Europe for 25k Points Roundtrip Through March 31, 2014.

American

Every October 15 – May 15, seven months out of the year, American charges only 20k AA miles each way to/from Europe instead of the industry-standard 30k. And unlike the United promotion, you don’t need to fly roundtrip or only on American metal to take advantage.

American has widely available economy space to Europe during the off peak period. And American’s partner airberlin has out-of-this-world availability to Germany and beyond.

If you perform any search for flights on off peak dates on aa.com, you can easily ask the calendar to show you off peak availability, by clicking the lightest green rectangle.

Once you select your flights, the price will be an impressive 20k miles oneway or 40k roundtrip.

In many ways, American’s off peak deal is the best. Its dates are the most generous, including the shoulder seasons of early May and late October. Its availability is incredible, and you can use partner availability for the same price. Plus American’s routing rules are generous allowing half-price one ways, double open jaws, and one stopover or free oneway per direction.

And as I’ve detailed, you can actually fly the outbound leg to Europe all year round for only 20k miles, using my one amazing trick!

But in some cases, US Airways may have an even more generous off peak offer to Europe.

US Airways

US Airways charges only 35k miles roundtrip for an economy off peak award to Europe.

In general I am very enthusiastic about US Airways off peak awards, but they do have drawbacks. First, you can’t use them one way. Second, the awards have to be on US Airways metal, and US Airways domestic award space is far behind United’s and American’s. Third, the off peak period is a limited, cold window from January 15 – February 28.

But if you want to fly during those times, it’s a great price. Any day on the calendar with blue-green coloring is a steal. And to some less-popular destinations like Manchester, England there is great availability for January and February still:

The lightest blue space is off peak space.

You can mix-and-match cabins and miles-price levels. Or you can fly a roundtrip in economy for 35k:

Note that the high taxes and fees on the route are only partly US Airways’ fault, namely the annoying $50 “Award processing fee.” The rest is the obscene tax that the UK charges on departures, especially huge on premium cabin departures.

Recap

United has introduced a sale on its economy award inventory to Europe. Between now and November 19, you can book flights from mid-January to mid-March for 48k roundtrip instead of 60k.

The discount does not apply to one ways or to United’s partners’ award inventory, although you can go one way on United and one way on a partner for 54k.

This discount is nice, but not as good as Flying Blue’s, American’s, or US Airways’ standard discounts to Europe in the winter.

Flying Blue offers Promo Awards for only 25k miles + taxes + low fuel surcharges from select US cities to Europe.

American’s annual discounts run from mid-October to mid-May. Plus its discounts are available on one ways and partner award space. And the discount is even bigger than United’s. American charges only 20k each way.

US Airways has an even cheaper way to get to Europe from mid-January to the end of February. For 35k roundtrip, you can fly US metal to Europe.

The only major legacy carrier not currently discounting at least part of its winter award inventory to Europe is Delta.

If you can handle economy class and a little bit of cold weather, a few miles can take you very far this winter.



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