This is Why I Love United Awards – To the Max

United awards Africa – US are 40,000 miles one-way.

This is a one-way:


I first learned of United’s city hopping potential from Wandering Aramean’s Maximizing award redemption value. Sortof. Then the followed the teachings of Travel is Free, you can start with The Complete Guide to United Award Routing Rules.

Since I had to get back to the US some way, why not add in stops in Rome for the Vatican, Portugal’s Azores, and Brussels, all new destinations for me.

Keeping the connections under 24 hours, a bit of luck with the United website not erroring out, and I was set.

Sao Tome & Principe – soursop in the garden!

Sao Tome 01 Sao Tome 02

Accra, Ghana (required overnight)

Accra 01 Accra 02

Nairobi, Kenya – my final Africa UN country!

Nairobi 01 Nairobi 02 Nairobi 03 Nairobi 04 Nairobi 05 Nairobi 06

Addis Ababa – yet another transit

Addis Ababa 01 Addis Ababa 02

Rome – The Vatican

Vatican 01 Vatican 02 Vatican 03 Vatican 04 Vatican 05 Vatican 06

Terceira, Azores, Portugal

Terceira 01 Terceira 02

Brussels, Belgium (required overnight)

Brussels 01 Radisson Red Brussels 01 Radisson Red Brussels 02 Radisson Red Brussels 03Brussels Air 01 Brussels Air 02

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  • Gene

    ultra impressive “one-way”.

  • John

    How were u able to transit Lisbon twice? And how were u able to book so many segments on a one way? It thought there was a limit of four (or eight) or something like that

  • Wow! To the max indeed!

  • Linmoron

    all rather pointless to get stuck in a tube flying in coach for so long.

  • Chris R

    Is that in J or Y class? If it’s J then kudos, but in Y (and perhaps even in J) I wouldn’t do such an exhausting marathon itinerary. Still, the other OP asks good questions: how you were able to route through a same city twice? And, how many segments does UAL allow? I recall doing USAirways and they always had a 10 max segments for a roundtrip where you managed 10 segments on a one way! Also, I note your itinerary has you directionally ‘backtracking’ which most airlines don’t allow (Ethiopia-Kenya-Ethiopia, and Lisbon-Azores-Lisbon. Finally, how long did it take you to get this itinerary locked in, and did you call UAL to book it? Do tell, please.

  • Matt

    John and Chris, check out the links from travelisfree and WA in the first paragraph and IIRC, your questions will be answered. Again, IIRC its not calling United, but using the multi city function on the website. It’s been a while since I looked into it, but those links should help.

    The impressive part is finding the right flights and availability to keep all layovers under 24 hrs, but maybe there’s help in the links regarding that too.

    Well done, Stefan, very well done, sir.

  • Yeah, what Crhis asked…..but yes, very impressive itinerary

  • Max J

    You booked this on the UA site??? How? I have issues with it erroring on a simple open jaw! How did you search?

  • Ryan

    A very misleading post. He obviously paid for multiple awards. Nothing special here.

  • @John – when I talk to the US experts at a certain point they aren’t always sure and it comes down to will it ticket or not, push the button.and hope.

  • @Linmoron – business was available for all or nearly all, I didn’t value that for the price premium, so booked coach as I usually do. With my Star Alliance Gold status at check-in I got exit row or extra legroom seats on all and that is plenty for me. The experiences I had, some of which are pictured, were not pointless to me.

  • @Chris R – in Y because I don’t value J for the price premium. With Ethiopian and TAP you can get almost anything in Y, this was two weeks out and got every segment I wanted, still, if I recall, most were also available in J. For the routing stuff, trial and error seems better with UA than assuming rules will prohibit. Some things I think will ticket do not, others that think will not, do. This one ticketed online. Earlier in same trip had one not quite as elaborate that needed to phone in.

  • @Matt – especially in Africa where a lot of the next flights are 25 hours due to the turn of the one daily flight, earlier in the trip on a different ticket I had that with Lagos, which triggered a new intra-Africa 17.5k one-way.

  • @Max J – piece by piece to confirm availability, then putting this pieces in multi-city in various ways until it worked. Meaning might search a segment as TMS-NBO or might break it up into TMS-ACC, ACC-ADD, ADD-NBO. Plenty of thing I try get errors, the point of the case is sometimes you get lucky!

  • Fantastic redemption! It is also one of the things I love about United awards but this is quite a bit more added than I have done before!
    Nice job hitting all those spots!

  • @Charlie – I am thinking about an October Mediterranean island hopping trip, will test what I can do with United awards though outside Aegean’s network may be too much backtracking compared to other options. What I need to visit are Crete, Ionian Islands, Dodecanese Islands, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Lampedusa and Malta.

  • Aegean does service a lot of airports in the region but there are really only 4 hubs that they use (I may missing one) – ATH, SKG, HER, and LCA. So, you are right, you would likely have to backtrack a bit. But, if you go with paid flights, they always have some really good sales throughout their domestic network, especially for October/November. But, that is also when peak season ends so you may be missing some of the seasonal island flights they have.

  • Jamie

    How did the “creatives” at the Radisson turn out? The room looks nice.
    That looks like an amazing trip. Too exhausting for me, but pretty great that you were able to see all of those places on one award ticket.

  • @Jamie – the Creative at check-in was a chatty delight and the hotel excellent, really shocked me how good it is.

  • P T

    My hero! Great persistent research, great reporting, great photos, and great attitude. Keep going strong while you are young.

  • Frank

    Your main layovers were in Ghana and Brussels, why didnt you cut the travel time to just use longer layover at those places? Also, any reason to backtrack that much or go to back and forth the same city? Great award!

  • stacey

    wow, impressive that you saw so many places and also that you were able to book it all online … squeezed great value out of a Y ticket … not difficult to fly Y on such short legs!

  • Shannon

    still so handsome!

  • @Frank – my Ghana and Brussels were only ones I had forced overnight layover that I would have done without if possible. Accra is my least favorite overnight in Africa, the visa on arrival process takes absurdly long, it has been as much as 2 hours for me, and the nearby hotels crazy expensive other than the walkable Holiday Inn for 20k points. I tried to overnight in the terminal this time which did not work. My purpose for this ticket was to get out of Sao Tome which only has a few flights a week, all the extra flying was then to get to Kenya to finish my UN count for Africa, then I saw the Rome connection so why not, and finally to take care of Azores as well as long as I was doing it, and TAP operated flights to TER and PDL are cheap in cash tough not all that abundant for awards and only a couple a day so had to finesse them.

  • Such a great award, and congrats again on your final Africa UN country! Can’t wait til next time we run into each other to hear more stories 🙂 And perhaps plan another blogger trip??

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  • DS

    I am trying to book a United award that looks like this. Haven’t had any luck so far. This itinerary has one open jaw and one stopover.
    Den to Akl
    Syd to Maa
    Maa to Denver (via pacific in Thai airways)
    Can you tell me what’s wrong with this routing?
    Much thanks

  • @DS – routing rules may not allow that combination of regions.

  • Mike L

    Ha! The first time I saw this page I was just looking at the award. This time I looked and realized that I definitely stayed in the same hotel as you in STP – and what a wonderful little place it was! Also flew the same route-ish (in my case, TUN-IST-ADD-ACC-STP).

  • @Mike L – a nice guest house. What did you do and like in STP?

  • Fester

    And, this is why UA is changing the routing rules!!!

    Bloggers are great but they ruin it for others because the programs as a result of posts like this.

    Oh well…it was great while it lasted.

  • @Fester – yep, always the fault of bloggers.