Creating “Mega Trips” with United Miles and Avios

Do you ever get the urge to take a mega-trip? Not a quick weekend to Nice like I just booked, but a few weeks to several cities. I’m planning to book a multi-city hop to Asia this fall, so I’m exploring all of my redemption options now.

It can be hard to visit several cities on one award trip, but by using your United miles and British Airways Avios, you can easily construct incredible trips where you can see three cities for barely more than the price of a roundtrip award to one city.

Here’s how it works:

United awards allow a stopover and an open jaw. That means you can include three foreign cities on a United award, but there will be an unfilled hole between two of them.

For instance, imagine you flew from your home airport of Newark to Rome. You stop over in Rome for a few days before continuing to Vienna. A week later, after an open jaw between Vienna and Munich, you return from Munich to Newark.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 6.52.13 AM

This is a valid United award and it includes Rome, Vienna, and Munich. Unfortunately there’s no flight between Vienna and Munich, and no way to add one because the United award already uses its stopover and open jaw.

That’s where British Airways Avios come in. Avios are ideal for short, non-stop flights like Vienna to Munich because the price of an Avios award depends on the distance of the flight. Vienna and Munich are so close that the Avios award costs only 4,500 miles.

Rules

United awards can have a stopover and an open jaw. That gives you a chance to fly into city A, continue to city B, and return home from city C. But it leaves a hole between city B and city C that Avios are ideally suited to fill.

Try to make sure that one of the cities involved with the open jaw is a oneworld hub, so that there will be a direct flight.

You can fly the outbound and return of the United awards in different cabins. If you do that, you just pay the one way price for each cabin.

Examples

Rome, Vienna, and Munich

Start on the multi-city search page of united.com. Enter the dates and cities you desire. Remember that there will be an open jaw. In my case, the open jaw is between Vienna and Munich.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 6.57.13 AM

Give the number of passengers, then skip down to the bottom and select Award Travel.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 6.57.29 AM

Search results are displayed without the miles price or the taxes on multi-city searches. Don’t worry. Those reappear at the end.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 6.59.03 AM

It was fairly easy for me to piece together a United award for October that features time in Rome, Vienna, and Munich for only 60k miles and $153.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 6.59.20 AM

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 7.35.36 AM

But you’ll notice the award has no way to get from Vienna to Munich. This is where Avios come in.

British Airways has a partner named Niki, based in Vienna with excellent award space throughout Europe.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 7.40.50 AM

Since the flight is so short, it costs only 4,500 + $45.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 7.41.02 AM

If you book both the United award and British Airways award, you’d get a two-week trip to Rome, Vienna, and Munich with all flights included for 60,000 United miles, 4,500 Avios, and $198 in taxes. That’s an unbeatable way to jet around Europe!

Tokyo, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur (with a First Class return)

Nothing limits the techniques in this post to European trips or economy awards. Here’s an award that hits Tokyo, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur. The outbound is in economy, but the return from Kuala Lumpur to San Francisco features 11 hours in United Global First Class.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 7.42.43 AM

The total cost of the United award is 120k miles and $79. The 120k miles is 40k miles for the outbound in economy and 80k for the return in First Class.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 7.43.19 AM

But if you noticed, the United award has no flight between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Luckily British Airways’ oneworld partner Malaysia Airlines flies around the world from Kuala Lumpur with excellent award space.

From Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines usually offers award space on several daily flights. The cost is only 7,500 Avios and $21.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 7.43.31 AM

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 7.43.39 AM

So the total cost to see three vibrant Asian capitals would be 120k United miles, 7,500 Avios, and $101. And that price includes a return in First Class, so you can hit the ground running back at home.

In Summary…

United miles and Avios pair really well together. United is perfect for the longhaul segments that form the backbone of the trip, and Avios are perfect to fill in small gaps that the United award can’t reach because of its stopover limit.

United miles and Avios are both 1:1 transfer partners of Ultimate Rewards. You can stock up on those with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, The Ink Plus, and The Ink Bold.

You can also earn 50,000 bonus Avios after spending only $2,000 in the first three months with the British Airways Visa Signature Card.

Have you constructed an award redemption like this before? If so, where did you go?

angelinasignature

Let’s connect: Twitter | Facebook | Subscribe | japt.co

Comments

  1. Sean says

    For your Europe example, I’d recommend just taking a train bt Vienna and Munich. 4 hours. 30-40 euros. And city center to city center instead of having to venture way out to MUC.

    But point taken – Avios rock for short distances, though in Europe you’re often much better off booking a train due to the location of airports from city centers, as well as the low cost and ease of trains.

  2. patricia says

    I’ve done something similar

    EWR-LHR-PEK-PVG
    PVG-HKG <= avios comes in here, rest is UA pre-deval
    HKG-BKK-SIN
    SIN-ICN-JFK

    for a single 140K RT award (pre-deval pricing), here I can sample F from UA, CA, TG, and OZ.

  3. Brandon says

    For your trip to Tokyo, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur, you also have another option to fill in the open jaw. You can take Air Asia from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. The fare on that route can be as low as 40 US dollars. You can either pay the fare, or redeem 4,000 Barclaycard Arrival miles for that segment.

  4. eponymous coward says

    Daisy chaining awards is pretty easy. Right now, you could use a US Airways first class award North America to Hong Kong (120K miles), return with Europe stopover, and then use 60K United miles to go to Australia from South Asia in business class, and use Avios for the short internal flights in Australia/SE Asia in economy

    So:

    JFK-HKG(stop) US part 1/HKG-SIN(stop)-BNE UA part 1//BNE(stop)-MEL(stop)-SYD(stop) BA award #1//SYD(open jaw)-BKK or CNX(open jaw) UA part 2//BKK or CNX(stop)-HKG BA award #2//HKG-FRA(stop, use trains for this part ;))-DFW-JFK US part 2

    IMO, planes for short European flights don’t make a ton of sense. The trains are relatively cheap ($40-60 for advance bookings) and for flights of 300 miles or less, it’s pretty much a wash for time when you count in security nonsense at the airport and boarding (the London-Paris high speed train beats Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle by a mile, and you end up in the city instead of out in the boonies). Avios start making more sense on longer flights, like, say Berlin-Rome or London-Vienna.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>