United Airlines and their website United.com is my go-to option for searching for award availability not only on United flights, but on their Star Alliance partner flights as well. I find United.com to be very intuitive and easy to navigate and most importantly, I find the Saver Level award availability to be plentiful using United miles.
The below video and transcript will give you all the tools you need to search for award flights using United miles.
Video: Searching for United and Star Alliance Availability at United.com
Hi, this is Brad Barrett from TravelMiles101.com, and in this video I want to walk you through how to search for award availability and award flights at United Airlines’ website which is just United.com.
I spend a good portion of my time searching for flights here on United’s website. The other website that I use primarily is American Airlines’ website, that’s AA.com, and I will definitely record a video on that as well and I’ll have it linked here down in the transcript.
Learning how to use United’s website is very important. A lot of people getting into this concept understand how to earn the points. You open credit cards, you meet the minimum spending requirements, you earn these points.
Naturally, there are always questions on which specific cards to open and that kind of stuff. We certainly will touch on that here in many, many posts or through my travel coaching service. That’s the easy part and then what really gets people a little nervous is actually booking these award flights.
I want to just provide the tools that you need to book pretty much any flight. Now there are always little tricks and things like that you might need to know in a perfect world, but you know if you have the fundamental tools to figure this out, you’re going to do quite well with this.
Let’s just get to work and now I’m just doing this on the fly here. I’m at United.com and just from the main home page, we’ve got let’s say we’re going from New York City. We’ll do New York City all airports and let’s say we want to go down to Orlando. We want to visit Disney World.
We’ll click Round-trip, New York to Orlando. We’ll do, my dates are flexible. Now, we can just pick a date, I guess October sounds pretty good. We’ll go in the fall here. You can obviously search for how many people you need. The more that you put in, the more difficult it’s going to be to find award availability. That’s just the natural way this works.
There are only a finite number of award seats on each flight and the more you need, if you needed 10 award seats, that’s going to be rather difficulty, but certainly 1 or 2 are usually going to be fairly straightforward if you have some flexibility. Then 3 or 4 is certainly doable. It’s always just going to depend on finding that lowest level Saver award ticket. We’ll see that in a minute here.
We’ll stick to economy and then you just click here, ‘Award Travel.’ We will just let this rip, so we’ve got at trip from New York to Orlando, one person, using award seats.
The computer thinks for a minute and then it gives us a calendar so you get two months here and you can cycle between the months, so you’re looking here for the dates that are colored in yellow and green because that denotes the Saver award economy.
A lot of people get tripped up with award seats just in general. It has nothing to do with the cash price. You’ll see there is absolutely nothing here relating to here and we’re all conditioned, of course, to book a flight based on the cash price but that’s just not relevant when it comes to an award flight. It’s only ‘is there availability’ so that’s what you need to check.
The Saver level, that just means that’s the fewest number of points that you can pay. Usually for a Standard award which is says down here, Standard Award, that’s usually double what they charge for the saver so if you were in an absolute crunch, maybe you’d consider the Standard award but for all intents and purposes, you want to stick with the Saver level.
We see here in October it looks like the vast majority of the days are either green or yellow, so we see a couple that don’t have, a couple here, so it looks like about 20 of the days would have some availability. We don’t know yet if those are going to be direct flights or not but you just click through here and you can actually scroll down, so I just picked October 1st.
We’re looking here, we’ll get an entire list as you see here, and what you’re looking for is the economy saver, so what you’re looking for is something in the left-hand column here. In this case, there actually is a direct flight from Newark to Orlando, direct flight, 2 hours 35 minutes on this United Airlines airplane. It’ll be 12,500 miles for this one way. It’s normally 25,000 for a round-trip saver in the United States, in the continental United States.
You’ll see here the Standard, like I mentioned before, is exactly double that so this would cost 25,000 for the one-way or 50,000 for the round-trip. If you found this round-trip, it would be 25,000 miles and $11.20 which is an unavoidable September 11th security fee, so that’s it. If you had miles, you could just book this but we’ll scroll down a little bit, see what else.
Yeah, there’s a lot of direct flights here and you can just see what time works for you, 5:50, 3:45, there’s a lot of options. Now here if you scroll down there are some flights with stops. Naturally, in a scenario where there are plenty of direct flights, you’re not going to want to stop but in many cases, many flights, certainly international flights if you’re coming from a non-hub airport, in all likelihood you’re going to have to stop somewhere so you would all the way down, all the while looking in this left-most column to see what there is, and then you would just hit Select and it would take you to the return day, so I just click that just for fun there just to see what we’ve got.
Now we’ll look on the way back, and this actually looks even prettier. There’s a lot more days here so you have plenty of direct availability. Just like that, we would have this for 25,000 miles and $5.60 (x2 = $11.20).
You can pretty much play with this. I guess let’s just quickly go through another one. Let’s do something harder. We’ll say New York to, why don’t we do Paris? We’ll again do my dates are flexible, October, we’ll do award travel, and we’ll click Search.
The computer always just thinks for a few seconds here, and wow, look at this. It looks like nearly every day in these two months, you could find the saver level availability. Let’s just see what there is. From Newark or the New York City area, there might be some direct flights.
You might see, to Paris, in fact there are. Wow, look at this. Two flights direct. If you wanted to fly from Newark to Paris, 30,000 miles and $5.60. You would have a direct flight. We could book this right now and it would be booked. It would be as simple as that.
You can always scroll down and see, they have partner flights. This one would be Aer Lingus through Dublin. In a scenario like this, you would not want to do that. I actually have a neat little trick I want to show you.
This is slightly more advanced but this might help you, so you’ll notice on the home page that, we’ll go back to that in a second, but you’ll notice that there’s a box that says Non-Stop Flights Only. Now, if you click that normally, it will give you essentially no information which is kind of odd.
There’s a way to trick the computer – in a good way – into giving you the direct availability here. We know, so you have to go through the way that I just said and we find a direct flight, so we know that this date, which I believe is October 1st, there’s a direct flight from Newark to Paris.
We went back to United.com. Now we know that October 1st is a good day, so I’ll just change this to Newark here since we know that, and we’ll do Search Specific Dates. Now you know that’s a little different so now we know this is just the one-way. We’ll just look for this.
Click Search Specific Dates, we know it’s October 1st, we’ll click Award Travel, and we’ll click Non-Stop Flights Only.
Now, this is an end-around here to trick the computer into giving you dates where there are non-stop flights only so you can see this at a glance. It’s a slightly different looking calendar than we previously saw.
Now, in the fall, there’s always going to be some decent availability but let’s just move over here into the summer months. It gets a little more sporadic in September. You’d expect to see it in July and August to be a lot more sporadic. Yeah, here in July, I mean in August, excuse me, there is fewer than half the dates are available with the Saver level award availability on a direct flight.
Let’s try in July as well. July is historically the toughest month for award travel but actually it looks fairly comparable to August, so this is a cool way. Otherwise, if you did the way that we normally search, there might be days here that show indirect flights or flights with a stop.
That doesn’t really help you all that much in a lot of cases, especially when you’re flying from Newark where there are direct flights often. This really helps you get a glance of how you would book a direct flight using United miles.
Now, just the last note here is that using United miles, you can actually book on all of their Star Alliance partners. Now, we’ll see if there’s something here. Let’s see if this shows or actually since we just put in direct, that’s not going to help us.
Let’s go back here and we’ll type back in New York, do my dates are flexible, award travel, and click Search. Hopefully this video’s valuable to you in that you’re seeing how I would do this in real life. This is clicking through, trying to figure out, going back to United.com, putting in a new search.
I mean, this is the way this works. This is not some perfect video where I plan this out in advance. This is me sitting down for 13 minutes so far and walking you through how you would book this.
First, they show you non-stop flights, then United flights with stops, and then here we get to partner flights with stops. Anyone that’s in the Star Alliance or that has a partnership with United will potentially appear here so you’ll see Air Canada here.
Let’s see what else we’ve got, United again, Aer Lingus, sometime there’s the German carrier Lufthansa, so you have a bunch of different options. Usually you’ll see SwissAir thrown in there. There’s a LOT Polish Airlines. You have a lot of different options which is kind of cool.
Again, for a flight like this where there are direct options, you don’t often need to go down to those partners but for someone who lives in, let’s say, I don’t know, Indianapolis. They’re not going to get a direct flight to Paris. They’re going to have to stop somewhere. Maybe they fly to New York. Maybe they fly to Chicago and then take a partner flight across the ocean. There are a lot of different options and certainly having United miles gives you access to all those options.
It’s pretty easy to rack up United miles. You can do that through Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfers, which would be the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card (and Sapphire Reserve). There’s a United MileagePlus Explorer Business card. There’s a United MileagePlus Explorer Card. It’s pretty easy to rack up a couple hundred thousand of these points and also keep in mind if you have a spouse or a significant other, each of you can open every single card and earn the bonuses on each of those cards.
You can see why you can earn a significant number of points by doing this strategy. I hope you enjoyed that look at how you’d search the United website.