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United has announced a 20% discount on economy class awards to Europe from January 15 to March 13, 2013:
- United and United Express operated flights
- Booked between now and November 15
- Roundtrip economy class awards for 48k miles.
I’ll break this promo down and compare it to the discounted awards to Europe being offered by American and US Airways.
Roundtrip awards entirely on planes bearing United and United Express paint jobs between the continental US, Alaska, and Canada and Europe in economy class, flown between 1/15/13 and 3/13/13, and booked between now and 11/15/12 cost 48,000 United miles. That is a 12,000 mile–20%–discount from the industry-standard 60,000 miles.
I did a few dummy bookings to test out what’s possible. Double open jaws price at 48k miles.
If you’ve selected valid dates, you should see the discount at all stages of the booking process, not just the end.
This promotions is pretty easy to take advantage of. You have two months of the worst weather to Europe to choose from, so availability is incredible. But I wouldn’t consider this to be the best current off peak to Europe promotion–American’s is far better.
Every October 15 – May 15, seven months out of the year, American charges only 20k AA miles each way to/from Europe instead of the industry-standard 30k. And unlike the United promotion, you don’t need to fly roundtrip or only on American metal to take advantage.
If you perform any search for flights on off peak dates on aa.com, you can easily ask the calendar to show you off peak availability, by clicking the lightest green rectangle.
In many ways, American’s off peak deal is the best. Its dates are the most generous, including the shoulder seasons of early May and late October. Its availability is incredible, and you can use partner availability for the same price. Plus American’s routing rules are generous allowing half-price oneways, double open jaws, and one stopover or free oneway per direction.
But in some cases, US Airways may have an even more generous off peak offer to Europe.
US Airways has the cheapest economy off peak award to Europe at only 35k miles roundtrip. It also has the only business class off peak award to Europe, which costs only 60k miles roundtrip–the normal coach price.
In general I am very enthusiastic about US Airways off peak awards, but they do have drawbacks. First, you can’t use them oneway. Second, the awards have to be on US Airways metal, and US Airways domestic award space is far behind United’s and American’s. Third, the off peak period is a limited, cold window from January 15 – February 28.
But if you want to fly during those times, you can’t beat the price. Any day on the calendar with blue-green coloring is a steal. And to some less-popular destinations like Manchester, there is great availability for January and February still:
Note that the high taxes and fees on the route are only partly US Airways’ fault, namely the annoying $50 “Award processing fee.” The rest is the obscene tax that the UK charges on departures, especially huge on premium cabin departures.
United has introduced a sale on its economy award inventory to Europe. Between now and November 15, you can book flights from mid-January to mid-March for 48k roundtrip instead of 60k.
The discount does not apply to oneways or to United’s partners’ award inventory, although you can go one way on United and one way on a partner for 54k.
This discount is nice, but not as good as American or US Airways’ standard discounts to Europe in the winter.
American’s annual discounts run from mid-October to mid-May. Plus its discounts are available on oneways and partner award space. And the discount is even bigger than United’s. American charges only 20k each way.
US Airways has an even cheaper way to get to Europe from mid-January to the end of February. For 35k roundtrip, you can fly US metal to Europe. Or for 60k, you can fly flat bed business class roundtrip to Europe.
The only major legacy carrier not currently discounting at least part of its winter award inventory to Europe is Delta.
If you can handle economy class and a little bit of cold weather, a few miles can take you very far this winter.