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Mileage doom approaches: on October 6, 2016 United will restrict its generous stopover award policy on award tickets. They spin it as reducing confusion. Confusion to others is gold to us.
United’s flexible award routing rules and its Star Alliance partners have made United’s my most valued miles. I have taken trips around Africa, in particular, that would have been financially ruinous if paid in cash. I am chasing all the countries in the world so a mile is most valuable to me when it carries me to a place where there is no economic alternative. United’s current flexibility allows multi-destination trips for the price of one. On October 6, much of that will be gone. Poof.
It is not just stopovers that are being cut back, there is also the potential that tickets with egregious numbers of connections will become more difficult to book.
Each day to the 6th I will post an idea from an actual trip I have booked. Here is a recent example of my trips, a 40,000-mile one-way ticket:
Key reading to get up to speed is:
Travel is Free for how you can take it to the limits:
View from the Wing for the details on the changes:
- United Announces New Award Change Fees, Limits on Free Stopovers
- 16 Tricks and Things You Should Know About United MileagePlus
Wandering Aramean for the crucial missing piece:
The last one is critical because things are already changing.
1. Study the referenced articles for the way things should be.
2. Dream up the craziest things you want to do. Don’t hold back.
3. This is not just about stopovers, this is also tacking many sub-24 hour connections on international tickets to quickly see multiple places. You can do a lot in 24 hours, tour the Vatican for instance.
4. Not all partners show online, and some show intermittently. You can use other Star Alliance airlines sites such as Air Canada Aeroplan to find availability for some, though keep in mind certain airlines limit certain premium cabin availability to their own members.
5. Use brute force trial and error on the United website to see what sticks. Important: if one flight option causes an error, another might work even if it makes no sense for it to be different, try all the options the website provides.
6. If the United website errors out, you can call agents as a backup, though getting good agents is not easy even with elite status. You may need United phone agents to use the ‘old system’ rather than the ‘new system.’
7. Don’t waste your miles on a trip ‘just because’ it can be done. United miles will still have value from October 6. Book something you really want.