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Old May 19, 17, 8:33 am   #1
Original Poster
  
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: denver
Posts: 222
Best strategy for getting Family of 4 Saver Awards : 2018

Initial plan.. with some flexibility.. for trip to Egypt, Jordan, Israel

Ballpark, 15 days.. weekend take off and return, probably June 2, 2018- June 16.
Need to take weekend as can't get more than 2 weeks off, can't go earlier because of school, and don't want to push later as starting to get really hot..

Current flights ballpark plan..
DEN- LXR (Luxor)
LXR - Amman (With long layover in Cairo)
Amman - Denver.
85k points each person

So in looking approx 330 days out.. I could reverse trip, but on weekends it looks like DEN -> EGYPT has more availability than Jordan->DEN,

I don't believe there is any way to hold the outbound flights, when seats are released (approx July 4, 2017), so I think I have to wait til approx 330 days from Return...

So my plan is approx July 18th 2017, try to book all flights...

(I know it's not exactly 330 days, but easier to use that for explanation)

Any hints appreciated..
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Old May 19, 17, 8:40 am   #2
  
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: PHL
Programs: UA 1K, MM
Posts: 1,473
If you see availability in the outbound for what you want you can always book a one way set of tickets and have that set. Be aware that if you do this and alter have to change/cancel due to return availability you have to pay a re booking fee if not Elite.
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Old May 19, 17, 8:52 am   #3
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: denver
Posts: 222
Exactly... I'm nervous about booking one way.. and then not being able to get return.. at $200 person.. not sure I'm willing to take $800 risk.

Also should mention this will be definitely be on UA.

casey
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Old May 19, 17, 9:18 am   #4
  
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Virginia, USA
Posts: 3,476
Although I don't personally use award booking services they might be useful in a situation like this.
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Old May 19, 17, 9:25 am   #5
  
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 1,045
Quote:
Originally Posted by caseynshan View Post
Initial plan.. with some flexibility.. for trip to Egypt, Jordan, Israel

Ballpark, 15 days.. weekend take off and return, probably June 2, 2018- June 16.
Need to take weekend as can't get more than 2 weeks off, can't go earlier because of school, and don't want to push later as starting to get really hot..

Current flights ballpark plan..
DEN- LXR (Luxor)
LXR - Amman (With long layover in Cairo)
Amman - Denver.
85k points each person

So in looking approx 330 days out.. I could reverse trip, but on weekends it looks like DEN -> EGYPT has more availability than Jordan->DEN,

I don't believe there is any way to hold the outbound flights, when seats are released (approx July 4, 2017), so I think I have to wait til approx 330 days from Return...

So my plan is approx July 18th 2017, try to book all flights...

(I know it's not exactly 330 days, but easier to use that for explanation)

Any hints appreciated..
Quote:
Originally Posted by caseynshan View Post
Exactly... I'm nervous about booking one way.. and then not being able to get return.. at $200 person.. not sure I'm willing to take $800 risk.

Also should mention this will be definitely be on UA.

casey
The change/redeposit fee, assuming no status on UA, is $75 per passenger.

However...

What constitutes a "long layover" at Cairo? Anything longer than 24 hours will definitely increase the price of the award, as it will become a stopover.

Regardless, in this situation, with the current state of UA's tools, I'm not sure I can recommend booking the one-ways in advance. In order to get this itinerary at 85K per person, you must take advantage of the "Excursionist Perk," where you can get LXR-AMM for no additional miles. _That_ requires a round-trip itinerary.

Whereas, under the old system, it would have been reasonably straightforward to call and convert a one-way award into a round-trip award, the current system sometimes appears to require current availability on all segments, including the ones you already have reserved. Unfortunately, I don't think anyone has been able to quantify "sometimes," or to find a pattern. But, there's definitely a risk that you'll call them up and the agent will be unable to make the change you want.

The best advice I can give is:

1 - Check frequently, starting from T-330
2 - Consider signing up for a service that monitors availability (e.g., ExpertFlyer)
3 - Check each set of flights as a one-way. In other words, search DEN-LXR, then LXR-AMM, then AMM-DEN. If you find availability on each of those, try booking the multi-city itinerary. If you cannot find those same flights, call. It's distressingly frequent for UA to show more availability on one-way searches than when the multi-city search is used. The agent will be able to stitch together an award, and if you mention that you tried to book it online and it wouldn't work, they'll normally waive the phone booking fee.

Good luck!
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Old May 19, 17, 10:32 am   #6
  
Join Date: Apr 2017
Programs: United, Chase Ultimate Rewards
Posts: 18
I am in a similar place. About the same dates but for Europe. Ideal is IAH-LHR direct. Not likely to happen in June....so I am open to flying TATL to AMS/FRA/MUC or from EWR/IAD/ORD.

Will need 4 tix. Have about 200K miles with United and another 350K with Chase which can be transferred as needed.

As of right now, I intend to focus on getting first acceptable route outbound on United or partners as a one way. The return can be on United, Air France, Singapore or (God forbid) BA.

Am I planning this right?
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Old May 19, 17, 10:43 am   #7
  
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: LAX
Posts: 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by usulbaggins View Post
I am in a similar place. About the same dates but for Europe. Ideal is IAH-LHR direct. Not likely to happen in June....so I am open to flying TATL to AMS/FRA/MUC or from EWR/IAD/ORD.

Will need 4 tix. Have about 200K miles with United and another 350K with Chase which can be transferred as needed.

As of right now, I intend to focus on getting first acceptable route outbound on United or partners as a one way. The return can be on United, Air France, Singapore or (God forbid) BA.

Am I planning this right?
I usually find better availability on partners to Europe than on United metal, but I'm usually looking for J awards during the summer months. If the non-stop isn't available when your dates open up, something to keep in mind is that when you book a trip that far in advance, there will be some schedule changes between when you book and when you fly. So you can book a connecting flight and cross your fingers that a schedule change occurs that changes the times by a significant amount (it can't just be a few minutes) as when that happens the agents have some flexibility in booking you on United flights that don't have award availability. But of course, be prepared to fly the itinerary you book - there are no guarantees that you'll be able to improve on it.

I'm usually booking for 3 or 4 people as well and it's tough to find that many seats. Definitely start checking as soon as your dates are available and expert flyer is very useful.

For the return, with the fuel surcharges, BA and AF are not a great way to use miles/points (IMO), so I hope you can find availability through UA!
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Old May 19, 17, 11:00 am   #8
  
Join Date: Apr 2017
Programs: United, Chase Ultimate Rewards
Posts: 18
Forgive me for asking the obvious. I thought expert flyer could not pull United flights. Maybe I misunderstood.

Thanks for pointing out that AF also has fuel charges. I had forgotten that.
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Old May 19, 17, 11:25 am   #9
  
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 1,045
Quote:
Originally Posted by usulbaggins View Post
Forgive me for asking the obvious. I thought expert flyer could not pull United flights. Maybe I misunderstood.

Thanks for pointing out that AF also has fuel charges. I had forgotten that.
ExpertFlyer has "unofficial" (i.e., unsanctioned by UA, probably via a partner) access to UA X, I, and O space (saver coach, business, and first awards). It does not have access to XN, IN, ON, PN, or R space (saver coach for elite / CC, saver business for platinum/1K/GS, global first upgrade space, business upgrade space for GS, business upgrade space for everyone else).
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Old May 19, 17, 11:36 am   #10
  
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: SAN
Programs: 1K, *G, 1MM
Posts: 179
I actually think booking award tickets is easier than trying to book paid tickets since award tickets are done on a one way basis so you can snag the tickets instead of having to wait for the return dates. I did this for family members for December to Australia - booked them one way to Australia, then when the return dates opened up booked the returns.

It was more difficult for me to book my paid return flights as I needed to wait for the return dates to open up by which time the cheaper outbound tickets had gone.

So go ahead and book your one way award tickets if there is availability.

In regard to concerns for the return you have great flexibility for the departure point since you are not purchasing a return ticket. Also, having been in Egypt (and Jordan), internal flights in Egypt are very good and quite cheap to buy, and it is also quite cheap to hire a car and driver in both Egypt and Jordan to get to where you need to be.

Hope you and your family have a great trip!

Last edited by Aussienarelle; May 19, 17 at 11:48 am
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Old May 19, 17, 11:42 am   #11
  
Join Date: Apr 2017
Programs: United, Chase Ultimate Rewards
Posts: 18
So I just signed up for expert flyer trial and am seeing inconsistent results. As an example, on United's web site I can see that there are 4 I awards available on IAH-FRA-LHR on Apr 18 (United flight 46, LH 908). The same TATL flight shows up when I just search IAH-FRA. So it is not subject to the married segment logic.

Expert Flyer shows the TATL flight as being unavailable. Am I missing something?
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Old May 19, 17, 12:00 pm   #12
  
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: LAX
Posts: 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by usulbaggins View Post
So I just signed up for expert flyer trial and am seeing inconsistent results. As an example, on United's web site I can see that there are 4 I awards available on IAH-FRA-LHR on Apr 18 (United flight 46, LH 908). The same TATL flight shows up when I just search IAH-FRA. So it is not subject to the married segment logic.

Expert Flyer shows the TATL flight as being unavailable. Am I missing something?
Are you just looking at the IAH-FRA segment on expert flyer? It shows me that there are four seats available in I and X for flight 46 on 4/18/18 (I don't know how to screen shot).
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Old May 19, 17, 12:12 pm   #13
  
Join Date: Apr 2017
Programs: United, Chase Ultimate Rewards
Posts: 18
Well now it does. Wonder what that was all about.
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Old May 19, 17, 12:18 pm   #14
  
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: LAX
Posts: 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by usulbaggins View Post
Well now it does. Wonder what that was all about.
I hate it when that happens! I believe that is the latest date possible to book right now so it's quite possible that the systems were still syncing.

With the help of EF alerts I've been able to vastly improve the routing on some award itineraries. I'm lazy and just let them keep renewing my subscription even when I'm not actively looking for an award.
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Old May 19, 17, 12:34 pm   #15
  
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: new york, ny
Programs: UA 1K, CO Plat, CO Million Miler
Posts: 2,253
Flexibility is the key...I was able to book saver trips for 9 family members to and from Santorini in the summer of 2015. Going over 4 of us flew BOS-MUC-ATH, 3 of us JFK-VIE-ATH, and 3 of us EWR-GVA-ATH, with flights on UA, LH, and A-3. Coming home, we all managed to fly on the same AC flight to YUL, and then split with some of us continuing to BOS and the rest to EWR on UA.

We also booked a couple of less than ideal itineraries for some of us, watched like a hawk, and changed to better ones when they became available. We all managed to arrive in ATH within an hour and 15 minutes of each other.
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