Strategy for Using Points - IAD to Moscow

Old Sep 4, 19, 12:17 pm
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Strategy for Using Points - IAD to Moscow

I've been tasked with figuring out how to use our stash of United and Ultimate Reward points to get our family of 4 from Washington Dulles to Moscow in September 2020. What is the best strategy to use here? Should I start looking at availability as soon as it opens up on United's website? Do more seats open up later on in the process? Should I use a different site to search or even book the trip? I'd really prefer to find award seats at the lowest number of points if possible, but I just don't have much experience with navigating the United site for award bookings.

Any tips or tricks you can provide this newbie would be really appreciated!
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Old Sep 4, 19, 12:27 pm
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In coach. Easy. Go with LH or LX combos. Book early.
In business this will be trickier, you'll have to be flexible and keep checking for partner awards.
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Old Sep 4, 19, 12:31 pm
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Personally I look on United.com first, starting a bit before the tickets will be available (330 days ahead). So looking just now, award booking IAD-MOW (Moscow all airports) for four travelers, I see quite a few options for August 4 outbound, routing on OS or LH via VIE or FRA or MUC. These are 1-stop flights in economy for 30k miles one way and about $45 in fees.

Given that that is Summertime, I would guess that September might have similar or better availability particularly if you book way in advance. You will not find a lower miles cost for those segments.

If you want to fly Business, I see a couple of options at 60k miles one way with either one or two stops (Transatlantic segment in Biz/Polaris, remainder in coach) and again around $40-60 in fees.

Personally I book as far ahead as possible to lock something in - it's easy and not too expensive to redeposit miles later if plans change.

I also use ExpertFlyer.com for specific things - for example if I book IAD-ZRH with a connection, I might use EF to check daily for saver availability on the nonstop. For Moscow you'll probably be connecting no matter what, so the UA site should serve your needs fine.
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Old Sep 4, 19, 12:31 pm
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Originally Posted by crashvt2003 View Post
I've been tasked with figuring out how to use our stash of United and Ultimate Reward points to get our family of 4 from Washington Dulles to Moscow in September 2020. What is the best strategy to use here? Should I start looking at availability as soon as it opens up on United's website? Do more seats open up later on in the process? Should I use a different site to search or even book the trip? I'd really prefer to find award seats at the lowest number of points if possible, but I just don't have much experience with navigating the United site for award bookings.

Any tips or tricks you can provide this newbie would be really appreciated!
Here are my tips:

1. Start looking as soon as the calendar opens up, more seats may come up later, so keep searching until you find something that works for you. This is especially true with Saver priced awards, they may not be available initially.
2. You can search round-trip, but also consider two one-way awards as this may yield better search results. Often the UA search engine shows no return flights on the RT, but if you search the return as a one-way, availability shows up. This also helps as you can search the outbound, and potentially book it before the return date is available for booking.
3. If you can't find anything IAD-DME, try searching other gateways (e.g. YYZ, ORD, JFK), then consider a positioning flight (This is a general tactic, and probably not as applicable when you are starting from a TATL gateway).

You don't mention if you are looking for Economy or Business. If Economy, you should also search on the UR portal to see what the use of miles would be there. It will likely take more points than converting them to UA miles, but still could be an option to look at.
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Old Sep 4, 19, 12:34 pm
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Just to add more info, we're looking at Economy. Our kids will only be 4, and don't want to bring them up to Business class yet. Don't want to disturb everybody with their antics on that long of a flight.
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Old Sep 4, 19, 12:47 pm
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Originally Posted by crashvt2003 View Post
Just to add more info, we're looking at Economy. Our kids will only be 4, and don't want to bring them up to Business class yet. Don't want to disturb everybody with their antics on that long of a flight.
you will have plenty of options. Book once it becomes available, no benefit of waiting if you know when you'll want to go. Book LH TATL, should be better than UA and with dynamic pricing probably harder to find UA at 'low' than LH.
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Old Sep 4, 19, 4:49 pm
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Woth small kids and coach i strongly suggest SU nonstop although it seems to be once weekly now.. those 3 hr european fliggts are quite painful after a longhaul and then you ll have customs immi and traffic to hotel..
If booking with miles consider making an overnigh stop in eu on the way to recover..
sq flies arn-dme - probably the most pleasant way to do short haul if you can get to arn
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Old Sep 4, 19, 5:04 pm
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Originally Posted by azepine00 View Post
Woth small kids and coach i strongly suggest SU nonstop although it seems to be once weekly now.. those 3 hr european fliggts are quite painful after a longhaul and then you ll have customs immi and traffic to hotel..
If booking with miles consider making an overnigh stop in eu on the way to recover..
sq flies arn-dme - probably the most pleasant way to do short haul if you can get to arn
I would suggest just the opposite. It is the "adults" who need all this pampering. Just get the kids from A to B without any hoopla. Nothing is much worse than Moscow customs. Doing it in the EU will be good practice ;-)
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Old Sep 4, 19, 7:18 pm
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Originally Posted by azepine00 View Post
Woth small kids and coach i strongly suggest SU nonstop although it seems to be once weekly now.. those 3 hr european fliggts are quite painful after a longhaul and then you ll have customs immi and traffic to hotel..
If booking with miles consider making an overnigh stop in eu on the way to recover..
sq flies arn-dme - probably the most pleasant way to do short haul if you can get to arn
My wife has done the non-stop to Russia several times to visit her family, so I know all about it. But, since we are all going this time, I'd rather avoid having to pay ~$4000 because we can't use our stash of Delta miles on Aeroflot. I would really like to do the non-stop, but I think we're willing to deal with a 3 hour layover if it means we can save that kind of money. Our plan is to crash at an airport hotel once we arrive in Moscow so we an try and get the kids oriented. Then we will make our way into the city.
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Old Sep 4, 19, 7:58 pm
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Originally Posted by crashvt2003 View Post
My wife has done the non-stop to Russia several times to visit her family, so I know all about it. But, since we are all going this time, I'd rather avoid having to pay ~$4000 because we can't use our stash of Delta miles on Aeroflot. I would really like to do the non-stop, but I think we're willing to deal with a 3 hour layover if it means we can save that kind of money. Our plan is to crash at an airport hotel once we arrive in Moscow so we an try and get the kids oriented. Then we will make our way into the city.
no airport hotel at DME
SVO has plenty including Radisson that is attached and several others with shuttles or within short walk

late september is not high season to russia so you should not have trouble with award tickets (and paid ones should be 500-700 imo plus discount for kids) however it may be quite busy if you route via MUC on LH due to octoberfest
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Old Sep 4, 19, 8:15 pm
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I would think with some flexibility on dates you won’t have any problem getting four coach tickets.

Keep in mind different Star partners fly into different airports. The airlines with one-stop connections from IAD to Moscow are: Lufthansa, Swiss, TAP, Austrian (DME), Turkish (VKO) and Brussels (SVO). Probably best to decide what part of the city you want to arrive to (traffic in Moscow is abysmal) and aim for that option.

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