I wanted to share how I booked one crazy itinerary using United miles for my sister the other day. The point of this post is to demonstrate some of United’s award routing rules, such as a free stopover, by booking a real life trip.
My sister lives in Tokyo right now and wants to visit home (Los Angeles), go on a family vacation in Kauai, and go back to Tokyo from Kauai. I was trying to figure out how this could be possible. Originally, I found a ticket from Tokyo to Los Angeles (stop one week) with a Los Angeles to Kauai free oneway on American Airlines. However, she would miss half the vacation because the lack of award availability from her Los Angeles to Kauai or Honolulu next month. I really wanted to book that ticket because it was incredible value for only 25,000 AA miles, but it wasn’t going to work out.
Since the dates for the above trip wasn’t going to work, my next logical choice was using United miles. I checked for availability leg by leg starting from Tokyo to Los Angeles. My sister lives closer to Haneda airport, so I found HND-LAX on economy for 32,500 miles. I figured she could rough it out for about 9.5 hours on a red-eye since people live in closets in Tokyo.
The next step was to find tickets from LAX to Kauai. Since there were no direct flights to Kauai on United, I found LAX-HNL for 3 people. It was the best I was going to find, so I went with that option. They would have to buy cash tickets or use 5K United miles one-way for the Honolulu to Kauai portion. I ended up doing a combination of both based on availability.
I booked my parents 2 tickets from LAX-HNL for 20,000 United miles each. For my sister, I looked for a continuing flight from Honolulu to Tokyo. Unfortunately there were no tickets for the dates she wanted. However, I did find a business class ticket from HNL to ICN (Seoul) to Narita (NRT). She preferred not going to Narita because it is about a 2 hour ride to the city vs. 20 minutes. Therefore, I found her a ticket the next morning from Seoul’s other airport Gimpo (GMP) to Haneda (HND). She would arrive at Incheon airport at 4:40PM and then leave Gimpo (GMP) to Haneda 8:40am in the morning, an 18 hour layover. She said that was perfect because she could go shopping or meet a friend in Korea. Since Incheon (ICN) and Gimpo (GMP) are co-terminals, she could treat both airports the same and depart from either airport. I pieced everything together on United.com and used Honolulu as her free stopover since United allows one free stopover per roundtrip ticket. Note that a stopover is over 24 hours and a layover is under 24 hours. You can have as many layovers under 24 hours, but only one stopover when booking a roundtrip.
In the end her ticket looked like this:
- Haneda (HND) to Los Angeles (LAX) for one week in economy
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Kauai via Honolulu for six days in business
- Honolulu (HNL) to Seoul Incheon (ICN) for 18 hours in business
- Seoul Gimpo (GMP) to Haneda (HND) in business
- Total miles 92,500 miles and $52.
Here’s what it looks like when mapped out:
Here’s the receipt from United (dates blacked out):
The cost was 92,500 miles because one leg HND-LAX was economy and LAX-HND was business class. United allows a mix of economy and business class when booking a roundtrip.
Hopefully this post was helpful to give you some ideas on how to maximize your points and miles. The itinerary looks like one crazy itinerary using United miles, but it’s not really when you break it down. In the end, she’s able to visit home and stop by Hawaii for no extra miles or cost by taking advantage of United’s free stopover rule on a roundtrip ticket. Now it’s time for more credit cards to earn miles to replenish that account . Any questions?
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