The best award on the entire US Airways award chart could save you 70,000 miles on your next two trips. This sweet spot will almost certainly disappear when the American Airlines and US Airways award charts combine in early 2015, so book it now.

I’ve written twice about the single 120,000 mile US Airways award that includes a roundtrip in First Class to Central or Southeast Asia plus half of a business class roundtrip to the Caribbean or Central America.

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Today I’ll give another concrete example of the award. Today’s award includes:

  1. A Business Class one way return from San Juan, Puerto Rico to our hometown of Charlotte. (The outbound of this Puerto Rican vacation would be booked as a separate award. I suggest Avios now that US Airways is a partner of British Airways.)
  2. Months later, a roundtrip First Class award from Charlotte to Bangkok in Cathay Pacific First Class.)

Cathay Pacific First Class roundtrip to Bangkok should cost 160,000 US Airways miles on its own, but adding in the return from a prior Caribbean vacation onto the award drops the price to 120,000 US Airways miles roundtrip.

This is my favorite sweet spot–though there are many candidates–on the US Airways award chart, and I think it’s a simple way that a person or family could book their next two trips mostly on one award.

Don’t forget that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase and you can “buy” US Airways miles for 1.67 cents each during its current Share Miles promotion.

  • What is my favorite sweet spot on the US Airways award chart? 
  • How does it save 70,000 miles?
  • What are US Airways’ routing rules regarding stopovers and open jaws?
  • Where can you search for award space on US Airways partners like Cathay Pacific?
  • How can you book a complicated award with US Airways miles?
  • Why did booking this award take three phone calls?

The Sweet Spot

From the United States to Southeast Asia, US Airways charges:

  • 80k miles roundtrip in economy
  • 120k miles roundtrip in business class
  • 160k miles roundtrip in first class

Those are reasonable prices, but amazingly US Airways charges fewer miles from the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America to Southeast Asia:

  • 60k miles roundtrip in economy (vs. 80k from United States)
  • 90k miles roundtrip in business class (vs. 120k from United States)
  • 120k miles roundtrip in first class (vs. 160k from United States)

USAirChart

Plus US Airways lets you route through the United States in both directions at these cheaper prices. That means with some clever thinking we can get the lower prices for originating in the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America even though we living in the United States.

US Airways’ Routing Rules

Our weapons in the battle to get the most out of our miles are always stopovers and open jaws.

US Airways allows one stopover OR one open jaw per roundtrip award.

We need to use that stopover to separate in time our two trips that form part of the same award.

Try to get past the mental barrier of a “stopover” being only for a few days. The stopover in this case means going home, returning to normal life for up to year and then going on another trip later on.

To you and I, these are two separate trips. To US Airways, it is one trip, and since we are booking with them, we must speak their language.

Four Parts of this Award

  1. A free one way from Mexico/Central America/Caribbean to your home airport.
  2. A stopover at your home airport for up to one year.
  3. The main award: a roundtrip from your home airport to Central or Southeast Asia (with no stopover and no open jaw).
  4. A continuation of the return to the original starting point in Mexico/Central America/Caribbean with less than a 24 hour layover at your home airport.

How This Saves 70,000 Miles

A one way in business class from the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America to the United States is worth 30,000 miles. A roundtrip in first class from the United States to Central or Southeast Asia is worth 160,000 miles. Combined the components of this trip are worth 190,000 miles.

As one award, they can be booked for only 120,000 miles, a savings of 70,000 miles.

Searching for the Award Space

To provide a concrete example, I have chosen cities and dates. Obviously, you don’t have to choose the same airports as me, but for the purposes of this post, my itinerary is:

  • San Juan, Puerto Rico to Charlotte, NC at the end of August
  • Six months back at home in Charlotte
  • Charlotte to Bangkok in February
  • Bangkok to Charlotte two weeks later
  • Charlotte to San Juan within 24 hours of landing (unflown dummy segment, the necessity of which will be explained)

Part I: The Free One Way from San Juan to Charlotte

The award begins with the return flight from a vacation from San Juan to Charlotte.

That means this award begins halfway through an August 2014 vacation to Puerto Rico. The outbound to the Caribbean needs to be purchased separately. In this case, I’d recommend Avios or Arrival miles from the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®.

To search for award space from San Juan to Charlotte, I went to aa.com because I want the direct flight on US Airways and I find aa.com to be the best place to search US Airways flights.

Award space was widely available on the direct flight in business class, so I noted the date, flight number, and cabin of the flight I wanted for a later phone call to US Airways.

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Part II: Stopover in Charlotte for Six Months

US Airways allows one free stopover or open jaw per award (but not both.) In their minds, this probably means something like, “during your trip from Charlotte to Bangkok, you can route through New York and have a stopover there for a few days before continuing on to your final destination of Bangkok.”

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

A stopover can be for up to a year, so where might someone go in between trips for up to year.. home maybe?

Really what we’re doing is killing two birds with one stone here: we’re taking advantage of US Airways cheap rates to South Asia from the Caribbean relative the United States, and we’re also getting one and a half trips for the price of one.

In this example, the San Juan to Charlotte flight is in August 2014 and the Charlotte to Bangkok flights begin in February 2015. That’s six months at home between trips to replenish vacation days for trip number two.

Part III: A roundtrip from Charlotte to Bangkok

This is the main award. This has to be a roundtrip with no stopovers or open jaws because we already used our stopover in Charlotte.

When I think about flying to Southeast Asia with oneworld, I think about flying Cathay Pacific, which is one of the world’s nicest First Class experiences. (See my review.)

The quickest routing from Charlotte would be via New York City, which has several daily Cathay Pacific flights from JFK and Newark.

I started my search on ba.com for flights from New York to Bangkok, since aa.com doesn’t display availability for Cathay Pacific flights. I knew availability on the international segments would much harder to come by than a regional Charlotte to New York flight, so I prioritized this search and would find a flight to New York afterwards.

Luckily, there were two options on the day I wanted to fly: departing from Newark or JFK.

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I noted these times then went back to aa.com to search for a flight from Charlotte to New York. I found a US Airways flight that would get me to Newark about an hour before the Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong left.Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 9.18.35 AM

For the return flight, I did the exact same thing–started on ba.com to search for a Bangkok to New York flight then went to aa.com to find a flight to Charlotte. Again, the ba.com search resulted in two options.

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Both options got me into Newark at 9 PM on February 24th.

I then turned my attention back to aa.com. There was no flight back to Charlotte leaving late enough on the 24th, so this award would require an overnight in Newark. The next morning there were ample options to Charlotte. (You can depart any time until February 25 at 9 PM and from any New York airport (EWR, JFK, LGA) and still be in compliance with all routing rules.

When I found the perfect flight back to Charlotte, I was done with finding the space for the main award to Bangkok. I noted all the dates, flight numbers, and cabins, and moved to the final part.

Part IV: Dummy Legs to San Juan

Remember that you get one stopover or one open jaw on a US Airways award and we used the stopover in Charlotte from August to February. That means there can’t be any open jaws on this award, and it has to end where it began, San Juan.

That means we need to add dummy legs back from Charlotte to San Juan to make the award fit into US Airways’ rules. We don’t plan on flying this leg. This is called “hidden city ticketing.” I talked about the risks and drawbacks last week and how ultimately it’s up to you on whether you feel comfortable with hidden city ticketing.

I found a flight from Charlotte to San Juan within 24 hours of landing in Charlotte, and I noted its date, flight number, and cabin.

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 12.25.30 AM

Booking the award

To book the award I called US Airways at 1-800-428-4322 to put the award on hold. This actually took some work as I had to call three separate times. The first agent I spoke to said it was against the rules to stopover in the United States. Since I know stopping over in the United States is well within the rules, I thanked her and hung up.

The second agent I talked to was getting a notification saying the award was not valid at first, but after some finagling, she was able to get the system to accept the award. However, she told me when there is a stopover in a region other than your starting region, the highest mileage cost applies for the award. So since I was trying to stopover in Charlotte (US region) when the award started in San Juan (Caribbean region), she was trying to charge me 160,000 miles for the award, which is exactly what this award is designed to avoid. Again, I thanked her for her time and hung up.

The third agent had no such problems and accurately priced the award at 120,000 miles plus a total of $99.09 in fees. I would pay that $99 with my Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® if I were booking this award in order to redeem Arrival miles for a $99 statement credit to offset the taxes and fees.

With all agents, I simply fed them the segments, flight numbers, and cabin class one at a time. This is generally the best way to go as they seem appreciative to not have to look up the flights themselves.

Final Itinerary

  • San Juan — Charlotte US Airways Business Class recliner seats (stopover for six months)
  • Charlotte — New York US Airways First Class
  • New York — Hong Kong Cathay Pacific First Class
  • Hong Kong — Bangkok Cathay Pacific Business Class
  • Bangkok — Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Business Class
  • Hong Kong — New York Cathay Pacific First Class
  • New York — Charlotte US Airways First Class
  • Charlotte — San Juan US Airways Business Class(optional segment)

Note that for more flights, we spent fewer miles. Charlotte to Bangkok roundtrip would have cost us 160,000 US Airways miles in First Class. By following the steps above, we got an extra flight from the Caribbean and saved 70,000 miles in the process.

Recap

US Airways has a great deal when flying from the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America to Central or South Asia. We can take advantage of this deal even if we don’t live in the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America.

By building in a stopover at your home airport in the US, you can get your trip to Asia for cheaper and get a free one way flight coming back from the Caribbean.

By following the steps outlined above, you can save 70,000 Dividend miles all while getting one and a half trips for the price of one.

I hope this guide makes you want to book yourself a similar award o enjoy two trips to the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. If I’ve inspired you, but you’re nervous about booking for yourself, please hire my Award Booking Service to do the work for you.
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23 COMMENTS

  1. From sfo to manila in first or business
    What would be ur ideal plan to save?

    So adding the Caribbean will make a first class worth 160k down to 120k, even if u don’t fly the Caribbean anymore?

    Any tips want best way to travel from sfo to manila in business or first?
    Especially in an Asian carrier.

    Thanks Scott

    • No. This works because it is cheaper to go from Caribbean to SE Asia than USA to SE Asia on US Airways’ award chart. That is NOT the case to Australia. However, you could add the prior free one way onto an award to Australia for free in economy or only 10k miles in biz on a US Airways award.

  2. I’ve never booked a dummy leg. What do you think about doing this trip, but making the first leg a dummy leg? I’m just thinking, it’s easier for us to plan further out, and an actual flight to Puerto Rico on the back end would be better than on the front end. If I wasn’t on the initial flight, would that come back to haunt me when I do show up for the connecting flight to SE Asia?

    • If you don’t get on the first leg of the trip from PR to Charlotte (or the first leg of any trip) the remainder of the itinerary is canceled.

  3. Hola Scott, I’m off to India and Thailand on this award in Nov. for 90K all 8 segments in business. Since I already live in Mexico I will have a stop in India and made my destination Thailnd and I will use all the legs to get back home MEX-IAH-IST-DEL stop for 1 month – BKK stop for two weeks- NRT- SJO- PHX- MEX Flying the 777 300ER on Turkish, A380 on Thai and 787 Dreamliner on ANA Thanks for the tips, nobody can believe I’m flying around the world in business for 90K

    • intertesting.. you mustve booked this when US still had more star alliance partners?
      which usair-affiliated airline are you using for MEX-IAH?
      thai using usair miles? NRT- SJO? who flies this route?
      couldnt find more-direct route from TYO to MEX?

      • Mr Cool, booked it back in Jan when it was Star alliance. Using UA from MEX to IAH. The Thai leg on the A380 is from BKK to NRT then ANA for NRT- SJO so I could fly on the 787 and have some friends there in SF, but there aren’t many good options to MEX from Asia

  4. For this to work though you need to make sure that you don’t check a bag correct? Otherwise it will end up in Puerto Rico. Also what do you do if there is inclement weather and you get rerouted?

    • yes & yes… i just did an around the world tour.. CLE-BOS-FRA-BKK-HKT-REP-BKK-VIE-DME-BUD-VIE-PRG-FRA-MIA-CLE using UA miles + 3 cash segments.
      luckily no routing changes or delays, but would be VERY difficult to not check my bag for any of the flights

  5. Would this work where Honolulu is my home airport? Does this require that we do not check bags because the bags could be routed all the way to the Caribbean?

  6. I hate to be the the “Debby Downer” here- but there is one HUGE flaw with your ticket above. If you truly booked those flights you might find yourself very disappointed. The Leg from EWR to HKG is Business Class NOT First Class on CX as you state.
    Actually, CX does not offer a F class on that route- let alone you might have been tipped off when you see 7 seats available in what you thought was first. On CX 777 there are only 6 seats in F class.

    Sorry!!!

    But great post though – it works fine just not out of EWR :)

  7. Scott–this is pretty freaking awesome. I have a trip to Mexico later this year and need to plan an India trip for next year. This will be perfect if I can convince my wife to just travel with a carry on. Maybe even ship our stuff back home if necessary from India :).

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