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Advice for Award Travel SFO-LHR-CPH-SFO in June 2019

Advice for Award Travel SFO-LHR-CPH-SFO in June 2019

Old Jun 29, 18, 3:53 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2008
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Red face Advice for Award Travel SFO-LHR-CPH-SFO in June 2019

Hi Folks I'm planning a trip to Europe for the family for next year (June 2019) and want to get a jump (if possible) on any award seats.

Let me lay out the situation:
--4 persons (2 adults, 2 kids (no infants))-- so require 4 tickets
--travelling economy (Saver Award Economy since I don't have enough miles for anything else)
--using UA miles (I currently have 295k miles)
--dates are essentially inflexible, maybe +/- 1 day at most, but would really like to stick with dates planned.
--really really prefer direct flights, no layovers or connections (this is a big one--with 2 young kids, my wife prefers direct flights)
--I have NO status on UA
--I do have their chase branded UA Explorer Mileage Plus credit card (which the UA website claims gives me more access to flights,"Exclusively available to you as a MileagePlus Chase Cardmember")---but I may cancel that card in the end of this July when my AF is due.

I know it's a tall order, given my relative inflexibility on dates, routing, etc, but I figured people's collective expertise here will help me get what I'm hoping for (It has successfully in the past!)

Ideal itinerary:
Friday 6/8/19: SFO-LHR (UA 930 ) 7:35 PM departure OR Saturday 6/9: UA 901 (12;20 PM departure) OR Saturday 6/9: UA 930
Sunday 6/16/19: LHR-CPH (don't care what flight as long as not early AM/late PM. (Prefer direct, although for this portion we're more flexible in time of day or connecting flights since even with a layover the flight is not very long)
Saturday 6/22/19: CPH-SFO (SK 935) 12:25 PM departure (arrive in SFO 2:45 PM)

If I price it all out correctly, it should be 60k miles pp, so 240k miles total for the 4 of us.

I know the calendar will be opening up soon although I don't know when SAS releases their inventory (seems like ~330 days, at least for the CPH-SFO portion).

the LHR-CPH (For direct flights on SAS or SAS Ireland seems to be more like ~310 days out availability)

The SFO-LHR portion seems the easiest to find (almost daily availability for 4 pax), assuming since there are at least 2 flights/day and that is all on UA metal.

I realize I may never be able to get these flights exactly how I want and may need to make some compromise (connecting flights, alternate dates, etc).


Questions/comments I have:

1. I don't care whether I fly into LHR and out of CPH or vice versa. I only chose to fly into LHR to avoid some of the crazy airport taxes/fees. But if it means better chances on getting my ideal trip, I can reverse the trip.

2. I assume given the change fees on any award ticket, I should wait until my whole itinerary is available before booking. I read some people stating they booked the outbound when available and ticketed it using miles. Then when the return flight was available they called back and added that portion on to the same ticket without somehow paying any fees (besides taxes of course). I'm not sure how you can do this (unless you're Premier Plat/1K)--UA seems pretty rigid and it seems that this would qualify as a change and i'd have to pay a fee ($75 pp)

3. once my dates are available for ANY booking (even if connecting), should I just book what I can get, under the assumption that if I try to wait it out hoping for those direct flights, I may not get anything. The dates I have set aside are probably the most inflexible part of the whole picture (my work requires me to put in my vacation request almost 1 year in advance and once I put it in, I cannot change it, no matter what).

Thanks, I know it was a very long post, but I wanted to provide as much detail as possible to get those creative juices flowing.

I would appreciate any help and advice and if you have to tell me that I'm just being unrealistic, please do so in the nicest way!

Last edited by kayexalate; Jun 29, 18 at 9:07 am
kayexalate is offline  
Old Jun 29, 18, 5:49 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
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My first recommendation would be to jump on availability if you see it. It's very much a here today, gone tomorrow situation. If it's acceptable, take it.
Second, try to keep an open mind on flexibility - we all prefer non-stop flights but we can't necessarily get them.
Third, the CPH-SFO leg might be difficult - you should be open to connecting via LHR, FRA, MUC, LAX or CDG. Personally, with flights to the West Coast, I think it's much easier to do one short and one long, rather than two medium.
Fourth, flights within Europe can be very cheap (remember to search from/to LON, not LHR) so do consider re-positioning within Europe. Flights for $15 are not uncommon.
Fifth, good luck!
lhrsfo is offline  
Old Jun 29, 18, 6:06 am
  #3  
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You could also book one-ways, but would then lose the excursionist perk that gives you a free LHR-CPH leg.

Personally, I'd wait until the entire itinerary is available online, versus jumping to book one-ways. The harder flight could be the EU-US one anyways, which is at the end of your trip.
aacharya is offline  
Old Jun 29, 18, 8:17 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Originally Posted by lhrsfo View Post
My first recommendation would be to jump on availability if you see it. It's very much a here today, gone tomorrow situation. If it's acceptable, take it.
Second, try to keep an open mind on flexibility - we all prefer non-stop flights but we can't necessarily get them.
Third, the CPH-SFO leg might be difficult - you should be open to connecting via LHR, FRA, MUC, LAX or CDG. Personally, with flights to the West Coast, I think it's much easier to do one short and one long, rather than two medium.
Fourth, flights within Europe can be very cheap (remember to search from/to LON, not LHR) so do consider re-positioning within Europe. Flights for $15 are not uncommon.
Fifth, good luck!
FWIW, I flew SFO-CPH and CPH-SFO on SAS, and the flight / service was great. Granted I was in business, but it was still a pleasant flight. It's a long haul though...so be prepared w/ the kiddos.
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Old Jun 29, 18, 9:18 am
  #5  
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Originally Posted by aacharya View Post
You could also book one-ways, but would then lose the excursionist perk that gives you a free LHR-CPH leg.

Personally, I'd wait until the entire itinerary is available online, versus jumping to book one-ways. The harder flight could be the EU-US one anyways, which is at the end of your trip.
Is award inventory on SFO-CPH easier to find than CPH-SFO?

Again, I can flip flop my whole itinerary. When I did my quick search it seemed like SFO-CPH had much less inventory in economy than CPH-SFO.

Last edited by kayexalate; Jun 29, 18 at 9:33 am
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Old Jun 29, 18, 12:43 pm
  #6  
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It's all YMMV. I can find easy EWR-FRA this week for 30K, everything back in three weeks is 60K.
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Old Jun 29, 18, 1:35 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
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I have booked similar trips with my family of four each of the last four years. I have generally waited until Fall to book end of July/August trips. In general, availability has not been bad, especially because we go through FRA to visit friends. SFO-FRA typically has saver availability, both UA and LH, (though I have done midweek). I have found saver inventory returning in August is VERY tight.

The tough leg here will be CPH-SFO (or vv.). We managed to snag ARN-LAX when we were returning from Sweden, so sometimes their long hauls do open up.

My suggestion would be not to panic about booking the first day they are available. Keep in mind you should be able to get one-stops through FRA pretty easily (and one of those soft pretzels goes a long way toward soothing the savage child). But, as soon as you see something really good, book it. Given that you have strong date and nonstop preferences, you may need to book something that is just off-ideal to ensure you can put the trip together, and then decide later if you want to pay a fee to change to, say, a nonstop.
PVDProf is offline  
Old Jul 26, 18, 10:40 am
  #8  
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for the SFO-LHR portion on UA there doesn't seem to be any availability for direct flights on Sat 6/8/19 in the saver category (30k miles)

how can I tell if they have not yet been released or if they were released and snatched up by someone?

there are dates beyond 6/8/19 that are available (6/10, 6/11 for example).

That would help me to know whether to make some alternate plans (connecting flight, leaving another day) or to keep looking for availability to show up on 6/8/19 for that direct flight which is my first choice.

(I want to say I did see the direct flights before (but I'm not sure), but was waiting on the availability of the CPH-SFO portion which now I realize seems near impossible, especially if I want 4 seats)

Thanks.
kayexalate is offline  
Old Jul 26, 18, 11:06 am
  #9  
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Originally Posted by kayexalate View Post
how can I tell if they have not yet been released or if they were released and snatched up by someone?
1) There's no scheduled release, so there's no difference here.

2) They're not going to tell you how many people have booked and in what classes.
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Old Jul 26, 18, 11:09 am
  #10  
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Originally Posted by kayexalate View Post
how can I tell if they have not yet been released or if they were released and snatched up by someone?
You can't. Furthermore, even if it could, it wouldn't help you. There's not a set number of award seats available on any flight. Some flights may never have a saver award seat open. Weekdays are less popular for leisure travel than weekend days, which may explain why you aren't seeing seats on Saturday, 6/8, but you are seeing them on Monday, 6/10. If sales trend below UA's expectations, they'll likely open seats. If they don't, they won't.

If you have a saver award flight confirmed, you can call United to waitlist for a saver award on your preferred flight (as long as it's operated by United; this won't work for partner flights). So, decide what your preferred backup plan is, book it, and then call UA as soon as it tickets and ask to be waitlisted for the nonstop on 6/8.
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