Help with Award Booking to VCE

Old Nov 25, 15, 6:16 pm
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Help with Award Booking to VCE

I've posted a similar thread previously, however United just updated their calendar to reflect our travel dates for next fall.

We are going to be in Venice Oct. 20 - Oct. 30, 2016.

We need to arrive at VCE on 10/20/16.

I currently have almost 110K MilagePlus points to use for a single award booking. I should have closer to 200K by year's end.

I'm currently looking at the following one-way route:

Departure: Wed, Oct 19 @ 7:05 pm

Arrival: Thu, Oct 20 @ 5:25 pm

No. of Stops: 1 stop

Duration: 13h 20m

Operated by Lufthansa

I'll worry about the return itinerary in a few weeks, when the airlines open their calendars up further into the new year.

I have the option of booking the following:

- Economy on Saver Award for 30k miles + $37

- Business Standard Award (Mixed Cabin) for 150k miles + $37

- First Standard Award (Mixed Cabin) for 170k miles + $37



I'd love to get some feedback on value. Should I give it a few months and see whether other Star Alliance airlines offer cheaper awards redemption, or just grab a seat ASAP since I'm redeeming awards and it's not likely to change?

If I were to purchase two seats in Econ for 30K each, would I have the option of upgrading to First Standard for the difference (140K miles) afterward? Does it make more sense to purchase the highest tier award right off the bat or to go low and then try to upgrade for less?

I currently have no status with the airline.

Thanks in advance for your input and advice!
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Old Nov 25, 15, 6:24 pm
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There is no rush to pick up a "standard" award. At least not until you'd have to pay a close-in fee (since you're not an elite on UA).

If you've got miles to burn, you could snag that cheap saver economy fare, and throw it away later (instead of paying to get the miles back) & book a saver biz fare, if it became available. That saver economy fare is what's likely to disappear while you're looking at it.

Unfortunately, you can't simply pay the difference in miles and upgrade to biz from an economy award.

There is one other strategy you could play; find a date that has biz or first saver available that you could make work if you had to, and then try to get the date changed down the road. Only works if that space opens up, and it might not. You've got to watch for it because UA isn't going to tell you.
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Old Nov 25, 15, 6:27 pm
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I should note there are slight variations depending on selected itineraries... all having to do with $ amount paid with points.

If leaving the previous day (arriving 1 day early) I could also select Business Saver for 57.5k miles + $58.20 but it adds an extra stop and several hours to the flight duration.
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Old Nov 25, 15, 6:33 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
I should note there are slight variations depending on selected itineraries... all having to do with $ amount paid with points.

If leaving the previous day (arriving 1 day early) I could also select Business Saver for 57.5k miles + $58.20 but it adds an extra stop and several hours to the flight duration.
That probably sounds like a no-brainer to most. Book that, and see if you can change to something a bit better if something opens up. You just can't change the origin and destination. $75 for non-elite. $100 if within 21 days of travel (which could likely be the case; there's often a lot of "good" seats that open up in the couple days ahead of a flight, possibly the date you want, possibly better routing too).
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Old Nov 25, 15, 6:34 pm
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Originally Posted by Mike Jacoubowsky View Post
There is no rush to pick up a "standard" award. At least not until you'd have to pay a close-in fee (since you're not an elite on UA).

If you've got miles to burn, you could snag that cheap saver economy fare, and throw it away later (instead of paying to get the miles back) & book a saver biz fare, if it became available. That saver economy fare is what's likely to disappear while you're looking at it.

Unfortunately, you can't simply pay the difference in miles and upgrade to biz from an economy award.

There is one other strategy you could play; find a date that has biz or first saver available that you could make work if you had to, and then try to get the date changed down the road. Only works if that space opens up, and it might not. You've got to watch for it because UA isn't going to tell you.

I definitely don't have miles to burn... we'd be exhausting them on this award flight redemption.

The Saver Econ fare disappearing is what worries me actually. The fare is priced over 2K per seat right now, so even flying in E class would be a bug savings... that's over 4K for two people, just going one-way!

This is really my reason for posting. I don't know how many months it'll take for us to hit 300K+ in miles, which is what we'd need for two bookings (traveling with wife). I could hit 200k miles by Jan/Feb but I don't want to risk having to pay full price for the tickets.

We've redeemed SPG points for the entirety of the trip and I'd like to do the same for airfare. This would be the first vacation we'd be taking entirely on awards with no money down, and that definitely appeals to me! I would love to snag two seats in Business class though...
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Old Nov 25, 15, 6:39 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
The fare is priced over 2K per seat right now, so even flying in E class would be a bug savings... that's over 4K for two people, just going one-way!
The r/t fare will almost certainly be less.

Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
I would love to snag two seats in Business class though...
The cost to change from Y->C on the award is relatively low for the peace of mind knowing that you have the seats you need. I would also say that you're going in shoulder/off-season and I would virtually guarantee that you'll be able to find an award seat in Y or C on the return much closer to the day of travel. I wouldn't sweat it too much right now.
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Old Nov 25, 15, 6:49 pm
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OP - one other thing to consider is other cities such as Milan - it's a short train ride and makes for a more interesting trip - Europe in general is much more connected than you think - Milan to Venice is a 3 hour train ride that is worth it for the views alone - so check out some other cities like Rome or Milan - it might even improve your holiday!
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Old Nov 25, 15, 7:06 pm
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I'd love to do Milan but my wife is already pushing it with vacation time. I figure unless we can add 2-3 nights to our itinerary, Milan is off the table. Even if the train ride is scenic and worthwhile, it wouldn't be so much fun after a 13+ hour flight, taxis, luggage, etc. I'd like to keep the total transit time as painless as possible. I may look into adding a single night in Milan only if we could take advantage of the Business Saver for 57.5k miles + $58.20 USD. What's Business Saver like on UA operated by Lufthansa? Significant step up from Economy?

Edit: the Business Saver flight is actually operated by Swiss, not Lufthansa.

I'm guessing all of these Star Alliance airlines will offer the same mileage redemption as UA?
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Old Nov 25, 15, 7:20 pm
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Last question and it seems pretty obvious but just for peace of mind...

Booking one-way vs round-trip makes zero difference when redeeming awards, right?

Unlike paying cash fares, there is no advantage or savings to be had purchasing RT?

Thanks again for all the feedback!
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Old Nov 25, 15, 7:21 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
I'd love to do Milan but my wife is already pushing it with vacation time. I figure unless we can add 2-3 nights to our itinerary, Milan is off the table. Even if the train ride is scenic and worthwhile, it wouldn't be so much fun after a 13+ hour flight, taxis, luggage, etc. I'd like to keep the total transit time as painless as possible. I may look into adding a single night in Milan only if we could take advantage of the Business Saver for 57.5k miles + $58.20 USD. What's Business Saver like on UA operated by Lufthansa? Significant step up from Economy?

Edit: the Business Saver flight is actually operated by Swiss, not Lufthansa.

I'm guessing all of these Star Alliance airlines will offer the same mileage redemption as UA?
This is a bit OT, but 10 days in Venice is a bit long, though it is a wonderful city, unless you have a real reason to stay. We just did VCE then FRA, then FCO in 10 days and it was about right. This would give you more choices for arrival and departure.

Oh, and SWISS is superb. Book it!!!!

Two Italian cities in October seem wonderful The train is very easy to use.
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Old Nov 25, 15, 7:48 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
Last question and it seems pretty obvious but just for peace of mind...

Booking one-way vs round-trip makes zero difference when redeeming awards, right?

Unlike paying cash fares, there is no advantage or savings to be had purchasing RT?

Thanks again for all the feedback!
The problem with booking two one-ways instead of a single r/t is that you can (if need be) change both directions of the r/t for the same price as changing one direction of the one-way. There are also some things that can be done w/regards stopovers on a round trip, but that doesn't sound relevant here.

And I agree with other posters; Europe is very much connected by rail, so swapping between MXP and VCE isn't that big a deal. If you took that MXP flight the night before then a morning train to Venice, I think you'd find that a very nice way to start the trip.
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Old Nov 25, 15, 7:59 pm
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Thanks everyone - my wife is pushing me to be thrifty and just book the Economy Saver Award so that we can cover our return right away on miles, but I'll discuss all of your points with her tomorrow morning and make a decision.

And I hear ya about 10 days being long for Venice; we've gotten a lot of that when discussing our trip. The thing is, it's costing us nothing and we're booked in a suite at the Gritti Palace, so I envision a very relaxing 10 nights wandering the city, getting lost in the maze of alleys and side streets, the usual museum tours (particularly excited about Peggy Guggenheim!), lots of reading, fine eating and plenty of bācara, cicchetti, prosecco, etc. We've been on a lot of adventurous int'l trips in recent years (from the Middle East to the entire island of Honshu last fall) so ten days filled with nothing but good food and wine, cafes, art, books, and cruising on the canal sounds perfect to us! We'll probably save Milan to pair with the Lake Country the next time around.
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Old Nov 25, 15, 8:05 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
Thanks everyone - my wife is pushing me to be thrifty and just book the Economy Saver Award so that we can cover our return right away on miles, but I'll discuss all of your points with her tomorrow morning and make a decision.

And I hear ya about 10 days being long for Venice; we've gotten a lot of that when discussing our trip. The thing is, it's costing us nothing and we're booked in a suite at the Gritti Palace, so I envision a very relaxing 10 nights wandering the city, getting lost in the maze of alleys and side streets, the usual museum tours (particularly excited about Peggy Guggenheim!), lots of reading, fine eating and plenty of bācara, cicchetti, prosecco, etc. We've been on a lot of adventurous int'l trips in recent years (from the Middle East to the entire island of Honshu last fall) so ten days filled with nothing but good food and wine, cafes, art, books, and cruising on the canal sounds perfect to us! We'll probably save Milan to pair with the Lake Country the next time around.
LOL - I wish you luck! I've spent a ton of time lounging around Venice and trust me - after 5 days you will have seen it all! Yes - so many amazing things to see and do - but you can't believe how touristy and expensive Venice is (the restaurants, the sites, all of it) - and the water taxi definitely loses it's aura when you have to pay 100 euro to get to the train station... The Gritti Palace is great if you get the right room - but honestly everywhere in Venice is fun - just don't expect a grand canal view and you will be fine.... If 10 days is what you want then have a blast - just budget accordingly as Venice is way more expensive than you think!

If you can find this picture (hint - it's of a famous floor) I will be truly impressed - Venice has lots of hidden tours and treasures - go for it! Use the viator app - it's worth it....



The view from my room on my last trip - Venice is amazing - just keep an eye on your wallet!


Last edited by bmwe92fan; Nov 25, 15 at 8:21 pm
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Old Nov 25, 15, 8:18 pm
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My wife and I visited Rome, Florence, Bologna and Venice earlier this year. Bologna was our favorite by far. Awesome food and lots to do in Bologna and nearby Modena. Venice was very crowded with tourists.
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Old Nov 25, 15, 8:42 pm
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Thanks fellas and I appreciate the Venice tips!

We've chosen to travel between seasons, so we'll hopefully miss the cruise ship crowds. While it's true that certain parts of the city can be very touristy, the fun is finding the local flavor. I'm prepared for the costs. The hotel is 100% free as is the flight. So bring on the food and wine! I'm slowly compiling a list of restaurants; mostly charming neighborhood bācaros, old rustic osterias & small family-run trattorias, historic caffčs and pasticcerias, etc. Ten days will ensure we stray far from the tourist route!

PS - Beautiful photos! Were they both taken at the Gritti?
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