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Last year United changed up the award routing rules and it became a bit harder to create some more interesting award itineraries. More or less, the computer now does the thinking instead of allowing you to piece together your preferred routings complete with free one-ways and all. There is still some room for maximizing awards, with the Excursionist Perk, but just not nearly as much as their used to be.
There is, however, some pretty nifty functionality that I have been playing with quite a bit as I try to figure out the best way to try out the new Polaris business class seats on the 777-300ER. I ultimately decided against flying the inaugural flight this morning – though Zach from The Points Guy was on it and has a report here if you are interested. While I didn’t make the first flight, I do want to fly it sooner rather than later.
To fly United’s 77W domestically on its San Francisco – Newark runs before it turns to international service, you are currently looking spending many hundreds to potentially thousands of dollars per one-way flight. There are also standard business class awards available at 50,000 miles each way, but that is a ton of miles to spend for one 5 – 6 hour flight. However, if you could get two business class flights out of that one award price it becomes a little bit more reasonable of a deal.
Sort United Award Itineraries by Airport
When I thought I was going to go on the inaugural flight today I used one of my favorite current features on the United website where you can sort awards by the airports they connect in as shown below. You can simply go to the airport(s) you want to transit and select “only”. Alternatively, you could de-select any you absolutely do not want to go through.
In my case I really wanted to fly the 77W with the new Polaris business class seats from Newark – San Francisco. However, I also needed to get to Newark from my home near Houston. While it doesn’t always work, in this case I sorted the award results by connecting airport with “Only Newark” selected, and I had my start and end points of the one-way trip as Houston – San Francisco.
Most normal people won’t want to fly Houston – San Francisco by connecting in Newark, but if I had taken this specific inaugural Polaris flight, it would have been by far my best way to do it. I could have flown in business class (domestic first) from Houston – Newark, stayed overnight in Newark, and then flown out from Newark to San Fransisco in Polaris business class the following morning all for one domestic award price. Spending the standard domestic business class award rate of 50,000 miles would still have been a lot, but I would have gotten two flights I wanted for that price instead of just one.
This won’t work to stay somewhere for several days and continue on via a true stopover, as the best you will get out of it will be an overnight in a city or a connection of a few hours during the day. However, sometimes that is all you need to stretch your miles and get a bit more bang for your buck.
Have you ever made use of United’s filter by airport feature to try and stretch a little more value out of your award?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.