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Tips to book trip consisting of rewards and paid tickets?

Tips to book trip consisting of rewards and paid tickets?

Old Aug 18, 13, 8:06 am
  #1  
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Tips to book trip consisting of rewards and paid tickets?

I have this problem a lot and haven't seen any posts on it.

Suppose my family of four want to go to Europe and have enough points for one return trip. So I have to pay for three.

The big problem is how to get matching flights. It seems the route for the award tickets are very different than those for the paid tickets.

What's the best way to go about booking this.

Should I book the reward trip first or the paid trips?

What happens if say after I book the reward trip first, I can't get matching flights on the paid trips? Will united let me back out of the award ticket if I am gold or higher?

Any other tips?

Last edited by inpd; Aug 18, 13 at 8:20 am
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Old Aug 18, 13, 9:07 am
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You don't indicate your origin and destination, so it's difficult to be specific. In general, however, the possible routes would be the same but the availability for award travel might well be more limited. In addition, award travel on UA itself and on some of its partners (LX, OS) may not be made available as far in advance as paid travel is. I have been looking for flights next summer from WAS to Germany or Austria; transatlantic flights on LH and AC are available for award booking, but not those on UA or other partners.

When the time comes, I would book the award seats first. It's harder to find award seats than it is to buy a ticket.
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Old Aug 18, 13, 9:21 am
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As for "backing" out of the award tickets, after 24 hours, Golds have a small redeposit fee per ticket.
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Old Aug 18, 13, 10:01 am
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Originally Posted by JPG3392 View Post
....When the time comes, I would book the award seats first. It's harder to find award seats than it is to buy a ticket.
+1 with one caveat -- routes with award seats may not be the route with the lowest paid seats. So always price out purchasing all paid versus 3 paid and 1 award.
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Old Aug 18, 13, 10:32 am
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Originally Posted by JPG3392 View Post
When the time comes, I would book the award seats first. It's harder to find award seats than it is to buy a ticket.
+1
If you book 3 paid tickets first, the award inventory may simply disappear.

If you have status and family members don't, consider book the award ticket for an adult member and paid tickets for yourself and other members. It may help in premier privileges.
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Old Aug 18, 13, 5:36 pm
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Originally Posted by inpd View Post
What happens if say after I book the reward trip first, I can't get matching flights on the paid trips? Will united let me back out of the award ticket if I am gold or higher?

Any other tips?
Well, you could search online for BOTH award and paid itineraries (i.e., first find the an available award route, then see how much it costs to buy a paid ticket on it - perhaps use different browsers). Rinse and repeat until you find something that works.

You might have to bite the bullet and be willing to accept that one ticket will have different flights (different times and/or airlines) than the other three, if you want the least expensive paid fares.

Once you find something, you'll probably be able to get all the tickets at the prices you want, but if for some reason the prices change or award inventory disappears, you have 24 hr to cancel without fee.


Originally Posted by aacharya View Post
As for "backing" out of the award tickets, after 24 hours, Golds have a small redeposit fee per ticket.
The redeposit fee for Golds is $100 - to me that isn't "small"!
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Old Aug 21, 13, 7:50 pm
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1 Paid Return Tix + 1 Award One way Tix

My fiance will be relocating in October. Our plan is for me to meet her in Asia; take a short vacation together in Asia/India and then fly to the United States. Obviously, I will need a return ticket [or two one way tickets] and she could travel on a one way ticket to the United States.

Just a few questions [just to make sure I didn't miss anything]:
  • If I book her on a one-way award ticket and I am on a round trip ticket; is there a way to assure that she and I will stay connected on the return legs. Since we would not be on the same "reservation/PNR/whatever is the correct term" the issues that I am concerned about are:
    1. Seat re-assignments: Obviously, I would select seats in advance. Is it possible that our seat assignments could be split? Is there any way to prevent this happening?
    2. Immigration Delays: She will have to process through immigration at the Port of Entry [POE]. I plan on having at least 4 hours connecting time at the POE. However, if she is significantly delayed I would not want to move on without her. How would the United handle this?
    3. IRROPS: We would not want to be separately accommodated on different flights. How would United handle this situation should it arise?
  • Are there any other issues with respect to a couple traveling on one award and one paid ticket that I should be thinking about?
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Old Aug 21, 13, 7:55 pm
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Originally Posted by MIT_SBM View Post
My fiance will be relocating in October. Our plan is for me to meet her in Asia; take a short vacation together in Asia/India and then fly to the United States. Obviously, I will need a return ticket [or two one way tickets] and she could travel on a one way ticket to the United States.

Just a few questions [just to make sure I didn't miss anything]:
  • If I book her on a one-way award ticket and I am on a round trip ticket; is there a way to assure that she and I will stay connected on the return legs. Since we would not be on the same "reservation/PNR/whatever is the correct term" the issues that I am concerned about are:
    1. Seat re-assignments: Obviously, I would select seats in advance. Is it possible that our seat assignments could be split? Is there any way to prevent this happening?
    2. Immigration Delays: She will have to process through immigration at the Port of Entry [POE]. I plan on having at least 4 hours connecting time at the POE. However, if she is significantly delayed I would not want to move on without her. How would the United handle this?
    3. IRROPS: We would not want to be separately accommodated on different flights. How would United handle this situation should it arise?
  • Are there any other issues with respect to a couple traveling on one award and one paid ticket that I should be thinking about?
Call UA and have them cross reference each PNR to one another. This will not create a true linkage but will help in the case of IRROPs at least. Seat reassignment is always a risk and the only thing to do is monitor it periodically.

Regarding POE, I recommend you book a longer than normal layover if you think this is a real concern. For instance, an award ticket with an international routing will permit you to layover for up to 24hours without using a stopover. So you could fly into your POE in the morning and depart for your onward destination in the evening, for instance, or do a short overnight at the POE.
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Old Aug 21, 13, 8:07 pm
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Originally Posted by ddrost1 View Post
Call UA and have them cross reference each PNR to one another. This will not create a true linkage but will help in the case of IRROPs at least. Seat reassignment is always a risk and the only thing to do is monitor it periodically.

Regarding POE, I recommend you book a longer than normal layover if you think this is a real concern. For instance, an award ticket with an international routing will permit you to layover for up to 24hours without using a stopover. So you could fly into your POE in the morning and depart for your onward destination in the evening, for instance, or do a short overnight at the POE.
Thanks for the quick response.

I will make sure to call United to have each PNR reference the other.

I am not sure what will happen at the POE. I read immigration boards and the reports are all over the place. Some people breeze through in less than an hour while others seem to take several hours and everything in between. It appears to depend on how busy the POE is, the experience level of the Inspecting Officer, language ability of the intending immigrant, etc.

My desired flights would:
  1. Arrive at POE during non-peak times.
  2. Have an very long connection time. [Enough time to leave airport and have a meal and see a little of the city.]
  3. Arrive in a major city where there are likely to be more inspecting officers familiar with immigrant processing.
  4. At least first flight on United so that we can take advantage of the generous baggage allowance for MP Premier Gold members.
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Old Aug 21, 13, 8:18 pm
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Originally Posted by ddrost1 View Post
For instance, an award ticket with an international routing will permit you to layover for up to 24hours without using a stopover.
That's true for round-trip tickets - but one of the OP's tickets will be one way, so no stopover is allowed.

If you miss an onward UA flight due to immigration delays, UA will probably try to accommodate you on a later flight. I wouldn't worry too much about it. Being on separate PNRs shouldn't be an issue either - the agents will understand that you didn't want to leave your fiance to brave immigration alone.

Similarly, getting split during IRROPS shouldn't be a big concern. Agents see families traveling together on different PNRs all the time. (One anecdote: I once booked my family on a set of UA award flights. Due to a schedule change, my 5 year old ended up being booked on a different flight from her parents. A call to UA fixed things up, no problem.)
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Old Aug 21, 13, 10:49 pm
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Originally Posted by snic View Post
That's true for round-trip tickets - but one of the OP's tickets will be one way, so no stopover is allowed.

If you miss an onward UA flight due to immigration delays, UA will probably try to accommodate you on a later flight. I wouldn't worry too much about it. Being on separate PNRs shouldn't be an issue either - the agents will understand that you didn't want to leave your fiance to brave immigration alone.

Similarly, getting split during IRROPS shouldn't be a big concern. Agents see families traveling together on different PNRs all the time. (One anecdote: I once booked my family on a set of UA award flights. Due to a schedule change, my 5 year old ended up being booked on a different flight from her parents. A call to UA fixed things up, no problem.)
This is good to read. While my fiance is a big girl, has traveled around Asia and can handle herself in most normal situations, I would still like to actually accompany her during all parts of the trip. I just did not know if UA would basically say:
  1. "Sure we'll accomodate your fiance since she was delayed by immigration. But you could have made the flight, so 'no soup for you!'"
  2. Or for IRROPS, "We have one seat going route X and one seat going route Y. Take those seats or we will consider the issue closed as you have refused reasonable accomodation for our service failure."

    I appreciate the personal example but separating a child from the parents might be viewed differently than separating two competent adults. BTW, I am not doubting what you stated. Once, when returning from Asia, I had a tight connection in HNL. Had to re-clear security and I opt-ed out, as usual. Well, the wait was unusually long and I missed my connection. UA could not have been more helpful and, without any drama, put me on another flight. P.S. I didn't have any status at that time, either. On this trip I will be MP Gold [just barely], if all goes as planned.
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Old Aug 22, 13, 12:20 pm
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Originally Posted by MIT_SBM View Post
This is good to read. While my fiance is a big girl, has traveled around Asia and can handle herself in most normal situations, I would still like to actually accompany her during all parts of the trip. I just did not know if UA would basically say:
  1. "Sure we'll accomodate your fiance since she was delayed by immigration. But you could have made the flight, so 'no soup for you!'"
  2. Or for IRROPS, "We have one seat going route X and one seat going route Y. Take those seats or we will consider the issue closed as you have refused reasonable accomodation for our service failure."

    I appreciate the personal example but separating a child from the parents might be viewed differently than separating two competent adults. BTW, I am not doubting what you stated. Once, when returning from Asia, I had a tight connection in HNL. Had to re-clear security and I opt-ed out, as usual. Well, the wait was unusually long and I missed my connection. UA could not have been more helpful and, without any drama, put me on another flight. P.S. I didn't have any status at that time, either. On this trip I will be MP Gold [just barely], if all goes as planned.
#1 is extremely unlikely (and anyway, you just tell them "we were held up in immigration." How would they know you would have made it if it weren't for your fiancee?)

#2 could happen in that they might accommodate you on different flights. But you can still ask to be put on the same flight, even if it's later than both, and they will probably agree. And if they don't, is it really that big of a deal?

Don't worry. You'll be fine. Really.
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Old Aug 22, 13, 2:05 pm
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Originally Posted by snic View Post
... SNIP ...

And if they don't, is it really that big of a deal?

Don't worry. You'll be fine. Really.
No, the earth won't come to an end.

I know both she and I will be fine, assuming that the plane doesn't crash, catch on fire or worse.

But these are the first world problems that we deal with on forums such as this one. I mean, really, IF I thought this was a critical issue I would just purchase two first class tickets or more likely two business class tickets and travel insurance.
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Old Aug 22, 13, 2:30 pm
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In the past, before kids, I had no problem booking my wife's award ticket on a separate flight than my paid flight. It was fun to listen to Channel 9 as her NH flight "raced" against my UA flight to NRT.

Now that we have kids in tow, I need to book the same flights, and had just gone through an experience a couple weeks ago SNA-TPE. It seems the award itineraries come from a completely different bucket, and the saver awards were *A routing through ICN, whereas paid tickets were routing through NRT. Based on past experience, I booked the awards first, via ICN, then priced the same itinerary with an agent (the website wouldn't even show me the routing). It priced at $4500 in coach!

I guess savers were only available on via ICN because everyone was buying up seats via NRT, but why won't the website show me the same routing, even if I used multi-stop and entered each one manually?
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Old Aug 22, 13, 2:44 pm
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Originally Posted by Indurain View Post
I guess savers were only available on via ICN because everyone was buying up seats via NRT, but why won't the website show me the same routing, even if I used multi-stop and entered each one manually?
Because UA markets only certain flights on other airlines, not all of them.

Award tickets are totally and completely different: award inventory is separate from paid inventory. To book an award ticket, the web site (or an agent) searches a completely different database from what it searches for paid tickets.

As another example, one can book JFK-FRA on Singapore airlines as an award very easily (when it's available). But it's impossible to buy a seat on SQ's JFK-FRA flights, via UA or (AFAIK) anyone else.
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