In the first half of this Real Life Award Booking, I outlined how you can earn enough miles for a round trip business class tickets to Europe in just a few months. For an extra few thousand miles per person, I helped my friend book a ticket from Washington DC to Auckland, New Zealand, and then back to the US through Tokyo, Japan. It costs 107,500 miles plus taxes and fees per person, with TWO long haul legs in business class. In this post I’ll outline how you can do that – right now! Or later…
The Basics of the Award
I used a couple of basic strategies to book this award. First and foremost, I used the power of the stopover to get two continents into the same trip. A stopover is a stop of greater than 24 hours in one of your connecting cities. Secondly, I knew that business class award availability is bad between New Zealand and the US on United. BUT, I also found out that business class award availability is GREAT between New Zealand and Japan and pretty good between Japan and the US. Thus, routing through Japan on the way home actually allowed my friend to have more comfortable seats on the way home. Plus, he and his wife get to see a country that’s on their list of places to visit, even if it’s just for a cup of coffee.
Booking an award ticket involves three general steps: finding availability, putting together the award, and booking the award. I’ll go step by step how we booked this award ticket. In fact, all the screen shots I’m using from this post are from today, which means if you have the miles, you could book this exact itinerary right now!
Part I: Finding Availability
Finding availability is fairly straightforward on United. For a simple round trip flight, just plug in your cities and your dates, click on “award travel” and they’ll show you a nifty calendar that shows whether there is availability or not (and in what class). Though there are some minor glitches, in general the calendar is pretty good.
For a multi-city itinerary that’s a bit more complicated, I like to find availability for each separate segment. You can do this by clicking on “one way” and putting in your dates.
To actually find availability, I clicked on the date in the calendar with availability that I wanted. United then gave me a list of all flights that are available. You want to look for SAVER availability, anything else is generally too expensive. The website generally organizes flights from shortest and least connections to longest, with one exception: partner flights receive their own section. That means you should check ALL flights (even though there are a lot) to find the most convenient flights. When I saw a flight with saver availability I liked, I wrote it down.
I did this for each of the three segments: IAD => AKL, AKL => NRT, and NRT => IAD. (IAD = Washington Dulles, AKL = Auckland, and NRT = Tokyo Narita). I found availability for an economy flight from IAD => AKL, and business class availability for the next two legs that fit with the dates I wanted. Currently, there’s a lot of business class availability from AKL to NRT in business on Air New Zealand. My friend booked a direct business class flight back to DC, but currently, that flight only has availability on April 30th. Still, you could fly in business from Tokyo to Seattle and then in coach back to DC if you like – that long haul leg is the one where you want to make sure you’re comfortable.
Part II: Putting Together the Award
After I found all the flights I liked, I strung them all together in a multi-city award. To do this, I started by clicking on “Multiple Destinations” on the advanced booking page. Then, I put in the cities and dates from the flights I found in Part I. After that, I clicked search, and united.com gave me a list of flights for each segment. I just picked the flights I had already found in Part I, and voila! The award was all put together.
As you can see, all those flights only cost 215K miles and about $200 in taxes and fees! That’s with two 8+ hour flights in business class, including a leg on ANA, an airline that’s supposed to be awesome. From here, if you have enough miles in your account, you can book immediately.
Part III: Booking the Award
For some reason, united.com still has some issues, so I actually like to complete my bookings on the phone. The downside is, phone orders cost a fee, but there are ways to avoid that. When you get to the check out, look for a small link that says “phone order page.” When you click that, you’ll be given a confirmation number which you can write down, then you can call to complete your reservation.
This is especially helpful when you are transferring miles over. It essentially “holds” your award. You can even transfer the miles from Chase while you are on the phone with the United representative: the miles transfer almost instantly. All you do is call up, give your confirmation number, ask for a minute or two to transfer the miles over, give your credit card information, and you’re done!
Hopefully you see how you can leverage miles into a once in a lifetime trip. Or, if you’re crazy like me, you can leverage them into trips every year! Availability to New Zealand and Japan is still out there, so feel free to try and book these flights for yourself! If I was free, I know I’d love to! Enjoy!