United Error Message Decision Making Tree [Chart]

A lot of people have questions about why they get an error message when trying to book stopovers on, and I try to walk them through this decision making tree. Then I decided to just make a simple graph walking anyone through the United error messages.

Next time you get an error message on United, take a look at this graph and walk through figuring out what to do/try next.

united error message decision tree

Before I continue, I want to clarify one thing…

The limit on connections is as follows:

NA – Europe: Unlimited
NA – South S. America: Unlimited
NA – Asia (North or South), Central Asia, Southern Africa, Australia: 4
NA – Anywhere one way: 3

(as discussed here). multiple destination search.

Here’s the reason why errors happen…

I’m doing CHO-FRA-BKK-CHO in one browser, and then searching them in one-ways on the other browser.

Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 12.08.02 AM

The first browser does its first part of the multi-destination search and shows results for CHO to FRA. However, it only shows 2 results. Period. And only one saver seat. Period. And it’s just for one economy flight.

Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 12.11.25 AM

The same exact search on March 4 as a oneway, CHO to FRA produces 25 routes! 25 different flight times, and the first one showed me only 2! And it has saver seats for all classes and other airlines.

What’s interesting is that the only two seats United chose to show during the multiple destination search, are the first two flights shown in a normal search. But then as I continue on with the search, the seats it shows seem to be random. Still, there are less seats available on the multiple destination search, but there seems to be no consistency as to which seats they’ll show.

Which is to say, just isn’t trustworthy.

What happens is searches for a set small amount of time, and then just shows what results it has when that time is up. Even when there are flights available on a oneway search, it might not show the available seats, or the seats you need.

However, the agent never has these issues, as their computer can show all award availability without these limits that the website has. The rules are the same, the function is different. So if you need to book a stopover trip and it’s not working online, call. There are a few tickets I’ve booked that I don’t think an agent would quite understand, but those are few. Don’t be afraid to call… they’re just phone agents.

Yes, booking over the phone may come with a $25 fee. But… it could be worse, and sometimes they waive it.

Either way, I hope next time you go booking on and get an error message you come back here and figure out why whatever is happening is happening.

Also, I hope it isn’t too confusing. :-p


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  1. You should make a Delta Error Message Tree next:

    Step 1: Do you get an error message right away?

    A – No: That’s OK, you will soon, go to step 2
    B – Yes: Delta’s site can’t handle your simple request, you’ll have to call, sorry.

    Step 2: Is Delta showing Saver availability?

    A – No: What’d you expect? You’re trying to use Delta Skypesos after all.
    B – Yes: You must be flying to Mogadishu. Well, congratulations, go to step 3.

    Step 3: Will Delta allow you to price out and purchase the ticket?

    A – No: Delta’s website is incapable of basic math and makes the process of buying an award ticket almost prohibitively hard. You’ll have to call, sorry.
    B – Yes: Delta’s website will give you an unexplained error after you enter your passenger information. Despite your repeated attempts, it will continue to error out. You’ll have to call, sorry.

    • Haha! That’s an awesome and helpful chart for those in denial.
      I’d hate to copy your idea and all… but that’s pretty great. 😀

  2. Great information to have, Drew, as one who flies often from a regional airport in the U.S., to non-hub airports overseas. And Adam’s humorous reply couldn’t be better!

    • lol, glad. Hope it comes in handy!

  3. Jamba is VERY pleased with this post. This will suffice Jamba for a while.

    • Jamba came over to United recently?

  4. Thanks a lot ! I’ll be less frustrated thanks to this ! ^_-

    • I sure hope so. :-)

  5. Sir,

    As posted in the United routing rules comments but applies here:

    A question/riddle for you that I think may poke a (rare) hole in the decision tree above:

    Why can I book GRU-ADD(stop)-BKK ; BKK-SIN but not GRU-JNB(stop)-BKK ; BKK-SIN? The regions do not change between the two examples…

    Similarly, why can I book JNB-DXB(stop)-BKK; BKK-JNB but not JNB-DXB(stop)-BKK;BKK-SIN? Are these the new rules taking place?

    I’m quite stumped, especially in the first example.

    Also, why does NAN-AKL(4 hour layover)-RAR now price as two one ways instead of 12.5? I’ve even called that one in to check…

    Many thanks for all your great content and help. Feel free to email me at maxlovesaamiles AT gmail if you’re feeling generous. I look forward to meeting you in October in Chicago.

    • I’ve noticed both of these things recently.
      I’ve been dumb founded for hours trying to make logic of how New Zealand interferes with normal tickets to Oceania and raises the price, even when coming from Japan or Asia. Super annoying.

      GRU-JNB. Because United hates you flying from South America to South Africa if you are going anywhere else. It’s odd and I haven’t played around enough to understand the exact rule, but a while ago they made some exception for GRU-JNB and it screwed up other things.
      Because BKK-SIN doesn’t change regions and therefore doesn’t count as an open-jaw. Does that make sense?

    • Drew,

      Thanks for the speedy response. Glad to know, not suprisingly, that you share this obession. I’ve gone to the rate desk on the AKL-RAR example and they still gave me no love…

      Just to poke a bit more on the 3rd example (JNB-DXB(stop)-BKK; BKK-SIN), I can book PVG-AKL(stop)-NAN; BKK-SIN for 32.5K(!), so I do think it’s a legal DOJ (oh the puns!) to have your “return” leg not change regions or go back to your orginating region, but United seems to only allow certain regional combinations (AKL-PVG(stop)-NAN; BKK-CTU also works, for example, pricing at 35K). FRA errors out as the last airport, TYO and EWR work…

      I’ve been checking out the combinations, but other than trial and error, (and almost always being allowed to return to the same region as that of origin), I can’t seem to find too much logic to it. Any light you can shed here?

  6. That chart nearly brought a tear to my eye. Thanks, Drew. No one else does stuff this awesome!

    • lol, well I hope it was a tear of joy. I actually starting writing it thinking it would really insightful… but the by the time I was done I think I confused myself. So I hope it makes sense to others! lol

  7. Is there a strict limit of four segments, or does that only apply
    To departures from the United States.
    In the past I have ticketed yyj (Victoria bc) – yvr – yyj – zrh (stopover) – bkk – pnh (5 segments ) and back rep-icn-yvr-yyj (4 segments) as well as the variation of yyj-yvr-fRa-zrh-bkk-pnh. Is that no longer possible due to a new rule limiting number of segments, or not allowing European stopovers or routing from canada to Asia ?

    • I wrote a post in December because a number of rules changed then.

      And in the verbal processing, some one commented with this info:
      For future reference, I have gone through the rules for several dummy bookings and found the maximum permitted transfers for a few regions, RT from North America.
      NA – Europe: Unlimited
      NA – South S. America: Unlimited
      NA – Asia (North or South), Central Asia, Southern Africa, Australia: 4
      NA – Anywhere one way: 3

      So default is 3, but to Asia, Southern Africa, Australia, it’s 4.

  8. This week I had major problems booking germanwings flights using united miles. I called united and ten different agents told me the same thing along the lines of

    “german wings is not a seamless partner so whenever we book it, we have to wait 24 hours to hear back from germanwings to get confirmation.”

    I have tried multiple tickets on multiple dates and have failed on every single one of them.

    In your opinion, is this a glitch/IT issue between the two companies? why am I having major problems?

    • Was availability found online? Because if it’s bookable on, I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be bookable over the phone. But honestly, I have no experience with this.

  9. Drew-

    With all honesty. The most commercial thing you could do is set up a mile brokerage. Those guys make 6 – 7 figures.

    No need to pump cards. No worries about what programs think of you.

    You use your expert booking knowledge to find flights others can’t and take the spread on the cost per mile. And I don’t mean award booking service like Scott. I mean buying miles and reselling them as first / business class or economy tickets.

    And you still help us out with your knowledge.

    Think about it. Seriously.

    • Really, this does not sound enjoyable at all to me… But… 6-7 figures?
      I mean… boy, that just has no appeal to me. I just don’t want to dabble in the black arts too much. But I will say, if I had a Steve Belkin baht run opportunity and I figured out how to work it… I might do it and then figure out how to sell them later.

      But I did read the article. And the numbers work. Buy 100,000 miles for $1,00 and then sell a first class flight for $5,000. Or who knows. I’m sure it’s not that easy but ya know. I can see how it would work.


  11. Hello Drew, thank you for the great information. I am assuming that the answer is yes but does the 4 connection limit apply to Japan.


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