It’s finally here. This post has some of the most unique and useful tricks for tricking United’s pricing system and showcases all of United’s stopover rules.
However, the content has been dated and some of the prices have been off since United changed their award chart. But today I’ve redone the post with current prices and concepts!
While this is a more advanced post, it might be an eye opening read. If you have United miles, know that when making an award booking, you are allowed 1 stopover and 2 open-jaws. We’ll see just how far we can push that!
Let’s begin with… Routes that are not allowed starting from North America:
Combining Europe and Oceania is not allowed… nor is combining Africa and Australia.
Combining Europe and Australia is not allowed… nor is combining Africa and Oceania.
South America is the land of not allowed, as you can’t combine it with any of the following places:
All those routes not allowed were laid out in United’s Award Routing Rules.
Also, if you are not familiar already, read How to Book Stopovers on United. If you don’t know that you get a free stopover (a stop as long as you want), two open-jaws, or how to book it, this won’t make any sense. So, read that first if you’re at all new to it.
A brief amount of words before we continue:
Many people ask me, “what combinations are allowed?”, “when can I backtrack and when can’t I?”, “how many times am I allowed through one airport?”, “can I stop in the same city twice?”
You’re missing the point and maybe seeing it in pictures will change the understanding. But the reason I start with the pictures above is simple: everything is region based.
Where can you add stopovers? Backtracking? *shakes head* United doesn’t see back tracking. It doesn’t! It only sees regions as defined by their award chart. With some regions able to be combined and some not. That’s what this is about. So you can add stopovers anywhere in a region that you are allowed to cross through. It doesn’t matter if you are going to open-jaw backwards. It just doesn’t.
After this post, hopefully you’ll come back to me with some tougher questions. Like about the definition of “open-jaw”. 😉
Let us start slow. Legal routings are pretty much anything except what is shown above. Understand that this is starting from and ending in North America. Hawaii has much stricter routing rules. It’s a different region, ya know. Sometimes for the better. 😉
United allows a stopover and two open-jaws.
You used to be able add an open-jaw to a stopover or destination:
But now you can add one of the open-jaws to change where you return home to or on your destination:
But how do you decide which one is the stopover?
Better yet, how does United determine the price when you traverse more than one region?
Using the example above, how do we know that Europe is the stopover and Asia is the destination and not the other way around? Couldn’t BKK be a stopover with an open jaw on the way home instead of the destination with an open jaw before returning home? How can you tell which it is?
Because it costs 80,000 miles (like a SE Asia ticket) instead of 60,000 miles (like a Europe ticket).
This is explained in a post, How United Stopovers Are Determined.
Examples of legal routings and their prices
All prices are based on the destination.
Many of these price discrepencies are talked about in the Secrets of Award Pricing Engines!
US to Australia is 80,000 miles roundtrip…
Yet, US to Australia and Oceania is 70,000 miles! Save 10,000 miles by seeing Fiji or something.
The US to the Middle East is 85,000 miles roundtrip…
I’m sure you can see where this is going… But there are some secrets that I’d rather not publish publicly. Pretty much everything else in this article falls under that category. Plus, I imagine most of you are already signed up for the newsletter, where the password is found. The password is in the title of the Sep. 30, 2013 newsletter. Or if you sign up for the newsletter now, you’ll see the password first thing in the auto responder. Here it is:
Password = “Shhh…____ Hack Secrets!” The word missing in the _____ is in the title of the newsletter that went out Monday, Sept 30th, and is the password. (Case sensitive).
[cspasswordcode password=’Hotel’]Continuing on.
Yet, the Middle East and Japan is 70,000 miles!
The US to Africa is 80,000 miles roundtrip…
Yet, Africa and Japan is 70,000 miles!
How pricing works
Pricing with open-jaws
Africa is a more powerful zone than Southeast Asia. So for that half, combining Africa and Europe, Africa is the destination. But then we open-jaw and split the destinations.
But here is an example where the open-jaw is applied to the destination, thus giving two points to price from.
As stated, Central Asia is more powerful than the rest of Asia and more powerful than Europe. When combining Central Asia with either of those regions, it will always price as 85,000 miles. Therefore in the scenarios above, Delhi is the destination.
Delhi being the destination means that the open-jaw also makes London the destination, despite being less powerful than SE Asia (meaning when the two are combined on a ticket it prices like an Asia ticket). So when you combine all three like above, you price from the US to Europe and Central Asia to the US (via a stopover in SE Asia).
Similarly, adding the open-jaw so there’s no flight from DEL to BKK means that SE Asia (BKK) is now made the second destination. Now it would price from US to Central Asia (via a stopover in London) and then SE Asia to the US.
Open-jaw on the return
Notice that the award chart is based on oneways? Above is an example showing that when you open-jaw, so that you return to a different region, it prices two oneways. One oneway is to the destination and the other from the destination. But all prices are based on the destination.
Understand why BKK is the destination? We already decided SE Asia is the destination when combined with Europe. So the price is determined to Bangkok and from Bangkok to Hawaii.
The price is not US to Europe. Europe to Hawaii with a stop in SE Asia. That’s not correct.
A more advanced note and update:
<Start ignoring> This may be overly complicated but I’ll explain it for those interested.
The route below will not work simply because it makes ADD (Africa), in this case, a destination. Think about it. US to LHR is one direction and will price at 30,000. However it wants to price the ADD to ORD via BKK and that can’t happen because BKK is the stopover. That’s why ORD-LHR-ADD,BKK-ORD works in an earlier example. ADD (Africa) would be a more powerful zone than LHR (Europe). It has no problem pricing in that order. But it can’t take half a ticket (from destination to return) via a stopover in a more powerful zone. It confuses the booking engine.
Simply put, you can’t have a one-way (so to speak, but I mean that half of a ticket) from Africa home via SE Asia. Why? Because SE Asia is a destination and cant’ be forced to be a stopover. Essentially you can split destinations with an open-jaw (which is why ORD-LHR-ADD,BKK-ORD works), but you can’t have two destinations like LHR and BKK.
To make sure we understand the concept, lets try mixed cabin tickets:
These concepts are also explained in United’s Award Routing Rules.
When starting in Hawaii:
Hawaii to Japan (or North Asia) and Australia = 70,000 miles roundtrip. So, Australia is the more powerful zone.
When starting from Hawaii, SE Asia is a more powerful zone than Australia, but it’s not as useful as it used to be. Now it’s the same price, but it used to save 20,000 miles.
Still, the same concept can be done with Oceania and Australia starting from Hawaii. In total it would only run 50,000 miles and thus save 20,000.
Here’s where things get real complicated
When starting from the mainland US, Australia is a more powerful zone than SE Asia (when both are combined it prices at 80,000 miles).
When starting from Hawaii SE Asia is a more Powerful Zone than Australia (when both are combined it prices at 50,000 miles).
So what happens when we combine it all? What if we go from the mainland US to SE Asia to Australia and end in Hawaii? And by the way it will be the same result in reverse, always. So Hawaii to Australia to SE Asia to the US will be the same.
Which will be chosen as the destination? SE Asia like a Hawaii starting point? or Australia as the US starting point?
The answer is, Australia.
Why? Well, it’s one of two things. It’s either that the US starting points are always more powerful than Hawaii’s… Or it’s that each route is programed with different levels of priority.
Perhaps I should do a post on the most powerful routes. :-p
The truth is there is more hidden content in here than you might realize at first. Think creatively about the open-jaw destinations. Hint, hint, hint, wink, wink.
First of all, Thanks for reading. This isn’t entry level stuff, and this isn’t incredibly popular stuff, but I enjoy writing about it. So thanks.
Second, If you read this post… please comment below. Even if you just say, “read”, or “yes”, I want to know if people are actually reading this. If not, I’m not going to continue this stuff if no one likes it. Plus, I’ll keep all the goodies to myself. 😀
Third, Maybe I’ll have a little contest in the future based on this. If you can figure out how to route the two pictures below, you’re on a new level. You surpassed everything in this post. Here are two tickets I routed recently. If you figure out exactly what I did, let me know.
A frequent flyer puzzle, if you will…
ORD with stops in Hawaii, Australia, Bangkok, Tokyo, Europe and returning to ORD. (Ignore the SEA stopover, that’s another trick).
Price: 115,000 United miles in economy.
Hint: It’s two separate bookings.