This was originally posted at the MrPickles blog here.
United Airlines is one of my favorite frequent flyer programs. They generally have the best availability on all of the Star Alliance partners for travel all over the world. They also do not collect fuel surcharges on award tickets and have very generous routing rules for award tickets. Their website is also very good for finding award flights as it shows all partners online.
With the great flexibility in routing rules for award tickets you can get very creative. Once you find the flights you want for your international trip you can add on a free one way to anywhere in the USA. United allows two open jaws and a stopover. This means that you can visit 2 international cities (and travel on your own between them) as well as begin and end in 2 domestic cities. Then you can stopover and add 1 more flight on the beginning or end of your journey.
Adding on a free domestic one way to an international award ticket is very easily done!
In my example I will show you a booking in economy for simplicity. This method also works for business and first class if award space is available.
Here is an example of a simple open jaw trip to Europe: New York – London (open jaw) Paris – Chicago (open jaw and stopover!) – San Francisco (free one way!). It prices correctly at only 60,000 miles for economy
This example utilizes both allowed open jaws (one in Europe and returning to a different city in the USA) and a stopover (nearly 2 months in Chicago). Note that you can simply pick a date in the future for the free domestic one way flight to San Francisco (or anywhere else domestic!) and change the date of the flight for free as long as you are more than 21 days away from departure. When you make a change be sure that the flight you want to change to is available as a saver award online and call United to change the date.
How to book your trip with a free one way flight:
1. Find the flights that fit your trip dates individually as a one way search. Write down the date, flight number, flight times, origin, and destination cities. Repeat this until all flights are located including your desired free one way flight.
2. Use the United “Multiple Destinations” search to find each flight you wrote down individually. NOTE: Most of the time you will get an error (see below). If this happens you must call United to book your itinerary. It will incur the applicable phone booking charge based on your elite status with United. Well worth it for a free extra flight!
3. If the search does not give you an error it will show you your total price in miles and taxes+fees like the example above. You can proceed to booking your ticket online!
Rules for your free one way flight:
1. You must use your free one way flight within one year of ticketing the flights. You can only book the flight up to 1 year after the date you book the ticket.
2. If you do not live in or near an United hub city you are allowed to connect through the same hub airport as part of your free one way flight. For example: Your return flight routing is Paris-Chicago-Atlanta. You stopover in Atlanta for a few months and then fly Atlanta-Chicago-Los Angeles. You go through Chicago twice on the same ticket. This IS allowed!
3. Your free one way can be a city that you have already connected through. Using the example in Rule #1 you can simply fly back to Chicago from Atlanta as your free one way if you wish!
4. Don’t forget that your free one way can also be at the beginning of your trip too! This is very useful for combining two award tickets to create three trips! A simple example: Ticket #1 is booked as: New York – London – New York (stopover) – Los Angeles. Spend a week in Los Angeles. Ticket #2 is booked as: Los Angeles – New York (stopover) – Paris – New York. Be creative!