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I wrote a couple of days ago about 10 of my favorite airline award chart sweet spots. As I said in that post, earning miles and points is only half the battle, the other (often harder) part is learning how to get the most value out of them on the redemption side. You might be wondering what eeking out value of miles on the redemption side has to do with a United award chart devaluation. Well, the short answer is that redemptions to Alaska got 10,000 miles more expensive round trip than before after the recent United award chart devaluation, and while that is a bad thing, you can still get some very good value out of redemptions to/from Alaska if you strategize.
Whereas Alaska was grouped with the lower 48 and Canada in terms of regions and pricing on the old United award chart, it is now its own sort of region within a region for redemptions costing 35,000 miles round trip instead of the 25,000 it did when grouped with the lower 48 states and Canada. Again, bad news on the whole, but not terrible news if you know how to maximize award bookings “between regions” with United.
When playing around with the options, it appears that Alaska now works for United “free one ways” the way that Hawaii, Caribbean, Europe, and more do from the US. For example, let’s say that you live in New York and you want to fly to Anchorage and back on miles. With United that will cost you 35,000 miles round trip in coach. However, say you live in New York and want to go to Anchorage in the summer and then down to Miami in the winter. If you book New York – Anchorage – New York – Miami in coach it will still just cost you 35,000 miles. You can stop in both Anchorage and New York as long as you want before the final flight to Miami (as long as the last flight happens within one year of the original booking date). You will need to book the return from Miami to New York using dollars or additional miles. The other option is to tack on the return as a free one-way on the start of another big award trip.
Basically you are getting a free “stopover” in your home city of New York and by planning two trips at once you are getting more for your miles. This isn’t a new concept with United, but this is a pretty simple way to put it to good use. To make this type of booking you need to use the multiple destinations search option on United.com and be aware that sometimes not all flight options display online, so you may have to call in to book.
I also want to add that while I was building mock itineraries for this post I realized that stopovers on domestic tickets seem to still be working for 10k additional miles even though my understanding was those were to go away with the recent award chart changes. The more airlines devalue award charts, the more we need to learn to keep up. Stay tuned for likely announcement on the new Delta award chart later today.