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Old Mar 14, 12, 1:05 pm   #1
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 11
Need Help Planning a Trip to Europe

I've never used FF miles for a trip and now find myself with nearly 600,000 US Airways DM.

I think that most folks here have a strong preference for using miles for upgraded travel, which I understand. We don't though. Our preference is to get as many trips out of our accumulated miles as possible.

Given that, I'm hoping for advice here on 1.) How to be able to use our DM for this trip and, 2.) How to get the best airline, which probably means one of the Star Alliance airlines.

We've just decided to plan a trip with our adult son. He'll be departing from Charlotte and we'll (my wife and I) be departing from BWI or one of the DC airports.

I'm considering paying one of the online "consultants" to handle this for us, but I'm a do-it-yourself guy, so I'd rather learn how to take care of this on my own.

We'd like to depart the U.S. on or after July 6 and return on or before July 21. We want to be gone 11 days (including the travel day on each end).

We'd like to fly into Barcelona and depart out of Paris.

Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance.

Ron
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Old Mar 14, 12, 1:33 pm   #2
 
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There's an incredibly lengthy (and unwieldy) thread for using US miles on Star Alliance partners. You can get some good advice in there...particularly if you get into a jam. If you're a do-it-yourselfer, then I highly recommend this exercise because routing an award can be a bit of a 3-dimensional jig-saw puzzle, and it's satisfying to solve for it.

The fact that you're willing to travel in economy is useful because there is likely to be more availability.

For a beginner I recommend using united.com to search for Award flights because it does a pretty good job of finding creative routings all on its own. If a flight turns up as available in the Economy Saver Award column on united.com, you should be able to book that flight using your US miles by calling US and giving them the flight information. Be forewarned that dealing with the US agents 90% of the time involves taking them segment by segment through your itinerary (e.g., If you tell them you want to fly IAD to BCN, on July 9 they will tell you that their computer doesn't see any availability. You'll have better luck if you ask them to check segment by segment for the routing you found on United's website.) Using July 9 as an example, United tells me you can get from IAD to BCN via YYZ on Air Canada or via FRA on United & Lufthansa.

There are other tricks and tools you can read about in the thread I referenced (ANA, Expertflyer, AC), but for a simple Europe trip I think you can probably find what you want on United's website.

The other rule of thumb is flexibility: if you're not finding what you want, try reversing your itinerary (into CDG out of BCN), or try breaking the connecting flights down and looking for originating flights from other gateway cities on either side of the pond such as PHL/EWR/JFK/BOS or LHR/FRA/ZRH/MUC/etc. and then see if you can find a flight that connects from your desired destination to one of those cities).
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Old Mar 14, 12, 3:47 pm   #3
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
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I agree that UA.com is good for routine economy class awards to Europe. If you check the box for flexible dates and award travel, you'll get a calendar for the month of your departure that's color-coded to show what days have saver availability. All you have to do is pick a day of the month and a list of possible routings is presented showing which have saver availability. Do the same for the return and you've got the info you need when you talk to US res agents.

Before UA & CO merged res systems, I used the CO site to pick dates and routings for a trip my wife is taking (originally to Basel, Switzerland). US's site didn't know that Basel existed, UA's site recognized it but showed no availability, but CO's site gave numerous routings with availability each way each day. The CO site is now the UA site.

Jim
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Old Mar 14, 12, 7:47 pm   #4
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
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Thank you, both.

The UA website seems very straightforward.

I started by searching for flights from Washington, DC to Barcelona around July 6 and found plenty to choose from beginning July 9.

Unfortunately, when I looked for a return flight from Paris to DC, there seems to be nothing available until mid-August. (If I depart the US on July 9, I'd like to depart from Paris on July 18.)

Am I just out of luck because I'm trying to travel in the peak season? (Surprisingly, going over there seems to be plenty of space at the "low season" rate.)

Ron
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Old Mar 14, 12, 10:17 pm   #5
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
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The UA award availability was screwed up for a while after the migration and might still be having some problems. Yesterday morning it wouldn't even show the monthly calendars for flexible dates, but by last night it was finding some routings but I wasn't trying CDG or open jaw awards. You might want to check it over the next couple of days. If you can find outbound routing that fits your needs US res should be able to hold it for 3 days.

Jim
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Old Mar 14, 12, 10:23 pm   #6
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: CLT; Ex-SEL
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Posts: 375
Just to give you an idea of what you may be in for...

I went through 72 hours of torture this week dealing with US Int’l Res Agents, and then just finally gave up. There’s a reason HUACA is a common term found in the posts related to getting international awards on US.

I agree that these days UA.com is great for planning, but “Saver” availability is no guarantee that the folks at US will acknowledge the possibility of such a flight. In my own case I spent 3 days talking to numerous agents, politely guiding them step-by-step through my UA.com printouts. I kept hearing “Well, that flight may be available to United MileagePlus customers, but it’s not in my system here.”

I was trying to ticket a simple 2 or 3 segment trip between CLT and SZG (Austria) for May. UA had lots of good “Saver” possibilities, none of which US said existed.
At one point the best they could do was CLT-MCO-FRA-SZG with a couple of 5 or 6-hour transits which brought the whole thing to 24 hours. In the end I purchased a discounted LH ticket with AX MR and cash, at a great price (with which I can earn LH miles). That still leaves me with the problem of a bucket full of US miles though.

In your case, Ron, for the return to DC you’re probably going to need a partner award via BRU, FRA, ZRH, YYZ or someplace like that. See http://www.staralliance.com/ for routing ideas. DCAorBust is right, there are lots of good tips in that 664-page+ thread.

“Bonne chance!” as they say in Paris.
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Old Mar 15, 12, 7:21 am   #7
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 11
I looked again and noticed that although there is no availability for "low season" at 30k miles (one way on the return), there is a lot of availability at 55,000 (UAL calls it "standard").

So, since I'm flying in July, peak season, do I just pony up 30,000 miles going over and 55,000 miles coming back? That would be 85,000 times the three of us.

Now, I'm wondering if I should just buy tickets for this trip and save the points for when we can go again.....only in the off/shoulder season. It looks like we could go for 30,000 each way on a trip in September.

85,000 in July seems like quite a premium over 60,000 in September.

Ron
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Old Mar 15, 12, 8:28 am   #8
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: DCA
Programs: Underappreciated US CP, nobody status with everyone else.
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On a bit of a tangent but... 600K miles.... like cheap wine, these things don't hold up with time. I find the best use of miles and their ever diminishing value is to use them.
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Old Mar 15, 12, 8:33 am   #9
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
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I think you should use a consultant.
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Old Mar 15, 12, 8:48 am   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron G. View Post
So, since I'm flying in July, peak season, do I just pony up 30,000 miles going over and 55,000 miles coming back? That would be 85,000 times the three of us.
No, you do not. The only way you can get UA tickets using US miles is at the saver rate- UA only offers standard to their own mileage program members.

You'd need to fly US at premium rates, which would be 90,000 (medium) or 125,000 (high) for coach.

Incidentally, 125,000 miles would get you first class on UA, Lufthansa or Swiss going to Europe. 100,000 would get you business. Both of which you can sometimes do-even in peak season.
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Old Mar 15, 12, 3:22 pm   #11
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
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Hi - I would never use a consultant - but that is just me.

Can you leave from someplace other than CDG? There is not a lot of *A there.

I do see seats from CDG to ZRH so that might be an option - though at the moment I don't see any seats out of ZRH.

I see seats available on July 18 from:

LHR to IAD (UA)
LIS to EWR to IAD (TP and UA)
FCO to YYZ to IAD (AC and UA)
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Old Mar 16, 12, 4:02 pm   #12
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eponymous_coward View Post
No, you do not. The only way you can get UA tickets using US miles is at the saver rate- UA only offers standard to their own mileage program members.

You'd need to fly US at premium rates, which would be 90,000 (medium) or 125,000 (high) for coach.

Incidentally, 125,000 miles would get you first class on UA, Lufthansa or Swiss going to Europe. 100,000 would get you business. Both of which you can sometimes do-even in peak season.
The US Airways site showing the mileage table for Star Alliance travel between the US and Europe shows 60,000 for economy, 100,000 for Business and 125,000 for FC. It says that's true for all *A airlines, including UAL.

So, doesn't that mean that I can use the UAL award search to find availability on *A airlines, then call US to (hopefully) book it, and the mileage cost would be 60,000 round trip? Despite the fact that the UAL availability might show some flights at 55,000 (Standard)?

Thanks.

Ron
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Old Mar 16, 12, 4:15 pm   #13
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: PWM, BOS
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron G. View Post
So, doesn't that mean that I can use the UAL award search to find availability on *A airlines, then call US to (hopefully) book it, and the mileage cost would be 60,000 round trip? Despite the fact that the UAL availability might show some flights at 55,000 (Standard)?
The seats available to partners all have to be at the saver level, so no US can not see or book the standard awards.

I think the issue this year is the Olympics. Either flights are not available or a lot of tickets have been taken. I don't see anything...from ZRH, FRA, MUC.

Good luck.
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Old Mar 16, 12, 4:38 pm   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron G. View Post
The US Airways site showing the mileage table for Star Alliance travel between the US and Europe shows 60,000 for economy, 100,000 for Business and 125,000 for FC. It says that's true for all *A airlines, including UAL.

So, doesn't that mean that I can use the UAL award search to find availability on *A airlines, then call US to (hopefully) book it, and the mileage cost would be 60,000 round trip? Despite the fact that the UAL availability might show some flights at 55,000 (Standard)?

Thanks.

Ron
As stated here:

Quote:
Originally Posted by PWMFlyer19 View Post
The seats available to partners all have to be at the saver level, so no US can not see or book the standard awards.
This is exactly right.

But again, do not limit yourself to coach tickets on your search. Especially given that 125,000 miles can get you a ticket in saver first on UA... or anytime coach on US. You've got 600,000 miles, you might as well use them.

You may find decent availability on Lufthansa in business, depending.
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Old Mar 16, 12, 4:53 pm   #15
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Philly
Programs: US, CO, Marriott
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I find rates and availablity out of Paris to be difficult. It is very easy to take the train from Paris to Frankfurt and then get cheaper fares ex Lufthansa's hub.

The train runs frequently, can be booked from the USA, and is about $100.

I love the fast trains, and the views coming across. Its the highlight of my trip!
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