An Answer to the Most Common Question I Get about Free Oneways on United

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Reader Martin asks: I am trying to book IAD-CDG, BRU-IAD and trying to add my free oneway from IAD to ?? No mater which destination I choose the page always comes up with no available flights even though I check those flights separately and I can see there is availability. Any ideas?

It seems like I’ve gotten a similar question almost daily since I broke the news that you can add free oneways onto most United awards. Many people report, and I have experienced dozens of times, an error message when searching for free oneways on United awards as described in my posts and video on the topic.

The error may occur after clicking search, it may occur after picking the first leg, or it may occur, as Martin experienced, after picking the first two legs. In most cases, there is no way to get around the error, and you should call United to book. I want to save the $25 phone fee as much as anyone, but sometimes it worth it to pay the $25 and get the oneway added.

The error is caused because United’s search engine doesn’t show all the results that it should when you search multicity. From my experience, it will only show the first few results that I found by searching each leg oneway when I repeat the exact same search as part of a multicity search. The cause of this glitch is unclear.

The only way I’ve ever remedied this glitch online is to search each leg oneway and find dates that have availability for my desired cities, preferably availability on the shortest itinerary (the one on top). But in most cases, if the glitch strikes, booking online is impossible.

When the online booking doesn’t work, just call United. Adding a oneway trip is almost certainly worth the $25. I haven’t tried to get them to waive the fee in these cases, but even that might be possible. I invite readers to try to get the fee waived and post the results here. My attempt would be along the lines of, “I wanted to book online. I tried to book online. Your computer system produced an error that instructed me to call, so I don’t think it’s fair to have to pay for your error.”

When you call up, it’s easy to book the award because free oneways are completely within the routing rules of United awards. However, to avoid confusing the agent or drawing scrutiny, I wouldn’t say “free oneway.” In Martin’s case, I would say, “On the return I want to fly BRU-IAD on flight XXX on day YY/ZZ. There, I want to have a stopover. I will continue IAD-LAX on flight XXX on day YY/ZZ.”

Thanks for the question, Martin, and best of luck!


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60 COMMENTS

  1. Does United still let you change award tickets for free? I’m planning on booking a roundtrip plus a one-way in mid July, and I was planning on booking whichever legs show up, and then giving United a call to modify the flight. Would I avoid the ticketing fee that way? I know I would have with Continental, I just haven’t familiarized myself with United yet.

    • United will charge you if the change is 21 days or less to flight time, if it changes the origin or departure, if it changes cabin, or if it changes airline. But other than that, free changes, so you can add/delete connections for free.

  2. I have only had this problem since the computer systems of United & Cont were merged. Anyone else notice this too?

  3. I was getting an error trying to book my flight and thought I was confused on the rules. Was trying to go ATL-MDE on 8/30(open jaw), Bog-Lim on 9/4, Lim-ATL on 9/12.

    If I understand correctly, I should have a stopover left to add a free one-way. The flight will book without the one-way or give me the one way when I go straight ATL-LIM-ATL, but adding the open jaw give an error.

    Is my booking within the rules?

  4. thanks for sharing this topic, as i have experienced more or less the same difficulty.

    i’d like to do NYC-PVG//PVG-TPE//HKG-NYC ….i am based in nyc. tpe would be my free stopover and the ticket would be considered open jaw since i am coming back from hk to nyc.
    i tried playing around with the dates and if i type all those pairs into the multi city search it always comes up with some error, or there isn’t award availability. however when i separately type in the search for pairs there appears to be plenty of availability like searching RT NYC-PVG//HKG-NYC, and then separately search one way PVG-TPE (also plenty of seats pop up). but once i add in my free stopover PVG-TPE into the trip as a whole, it seems to not allow me to see those availabilities anymore! (i am sure i am using the same dates!) do you know if this a glitch or does united have different availablity levels for one-way travelers, and roundtrip goers? please do share! thanks!

    • It’s just a glitch. Call up, and you can book the availability you’ve found through one way searches without issue.

        • I was able to book after the rep confirmed it himself that my routing was legal and just didn’t work on united. Also didn’t have to pay the $25 fee for 4 ppl! Thanks!

  5. You can try by telling them that you got an error message directing you to call up, so you don’t think it’s fair to have to pay $25 for their web site’s error. I can’t guarantee success though.

    • Invalid. MPM for TPE-HNL is 6,193, which you can exceed by 15%, so you can fly 7,121 miles getting from TPE to HNL. But TPE-SFO-HNL is 8,867 miles.

      • Thanks for your reply! I always have some difficulty figuring out MPM – perhaps a post would be helpful. One of the confusing aspects – an example in your past post shows sba – lim – sba – ewr as a valid routing. How does this not exceed MPM? I know it doesn’t but couldn’t quite figure out calcs. Thanks as always and keep up the good work!

  6. Thanks for the info.
    is it one free stopover and two free open jaws? if so, is below itinerary under this rule? please clarify this.
    NYC->OGG
    OGG->ITO (stopover)
    KOA->LIH (first openjaw)
    LIH->NYC (2nd openjaw)
    NYC->MIA (free oneway)

    • check today’s post (in an hour or so) that might clear up what an open jaw is. this itinerary would take several awards.

  7. United’s fee chart says “changing the departure to a date/time 21 days away or more” is no fee. What if I book the free one-way on the real dates I want when I find saver space, and in order to get all saver awards I book the RT way earlier than I want then move that RT back 2 months? That sounds like a free change, right? Also, the RT is to Canada, so that won’t work since it is the same region as the US, rght?

    • You’re right that changing the dates would be free. You’re also right that an award from the US mainland to Canada is not eligible for any stopovers, so no free oneway.

      • Thanks, great post. One more question, pretty sure I know the answer. Can you change a saver award date to a date where I have yet to see a saver award? I’m kinda locked into a trip LNK-RTB RTB-OMA OMA-YVR then YVR-OMA ow with little flexibility and am about to pull the trigger on what would ultimately cost me 210k UA miles… really don’t want to…

  8. Great post, thanks! Are you able to change the last section (the “free” one) after beginning travel? In other words, I book MSN-MUC-MSN-ANYWR, fly the MSN-MUC-MSN and then at a later time change the last MSN-ANYWR segment to MSN-SFO or something. Of course I would change that last one before the date it was originally booked to happen 😉 (I assume if there is a booking fee, Plat would waive it?)

  9. Hi! I am currently booked in March for CLE- MAD and return BCN-CLE

    I wanted to change my ticket to CLE-MAD and return AMS-CLE stopover then on to LAX.

    I think this is legal to do, but am wondering how long can my stopover in CLE be? Can i fly AMS-CLE and stopover for say 9 or 12 months before continuing on to LAX?

    THanks

    • Your stopover in CLE can be as long as you want except all travel must be completed within one year of ticketing the award, so CLE-LAX must be within one year of when you ticketed it.

  10. Great blog – I read it daily. I’d appreciate your expertise – is this valid?

    IAD –> CDG (stopover)
    CDG –> BKK
    BKK –> FRA
    FRA –> IAD

  11. United waived the fee for me at my request and explanation that the multi-city booking tool doesn’t show the flights I wanted, and we were able to arrange on the phone.

  12. I am trying to do following

    SFO-BOM(Stopover)-ZRH (Dest)
    BERLIN- SFO (open jaw)

    Is this valid?

    United representative is not able to get me this one saying to many stop over. Suggesting SFO-BOM and BER-SFO as round trip and buy additional leg BOM-ZRH, which cost me 30k more miles per person.

    Any suggestions and help appreciated..

  13. Can I book the following?
    HNL-Narita-HNL Roundtrip in October 2013, then add a free oneway from HNL-LAX in March 2014?
    Thanks! Love the website, info and that you’re from here!

  14. Hi:
    I booked two tickets from Atlanta to Sydney, Melbourne to Auckland and Auckland to Atlanta with saver award miles of 80000 each. I tried to add Atlanta to Austin as free one way a month later and got an error so I booked the above itinerary which cost 160000 miles and $350. All I need to do now is fly from SYD to MEL on my own.Did I miss the one way free by booking this way? Is there a way I could have gotten a better deal? You have great tips and a wonderful site. Thank you for all the information.

    DV

  15. Are there any problems checking luggage on an award with a free one way?
    On one of your other posts, someone commented that they were told they couldn’t check their bags because they weren’t going to their final destination.

  16. Can I do this using one United round trip award?

    LAX – Milan
    London – New York (stopover)
    New York – LAX

  17. i held ticket from IAD>>ICN, ICN>>MUC//MUC>>YYZ>>CLE, MUC stop over. then i called to united to book flight with my booking records( multiple records locator) , agent said if i release that seat on my side she may be loose the seat. What is the best way deal with this issue??? i have total 5 passengers.

    • Nothing you can go except release the seats and hope for the best. Next time get everything on separate locators.

  18. Great blog. Can you please tell me if this itinerary will work for RT using United miles.
    1st One way segment:
    LAX-HKG (destination)
    HKG-SIN I’ll pay cash or points
    2nd One way segment
    SIN-Tokyo (stopover) NRT
    Tokyo ( can I fly back from HAN or Kyoto or must I fly back from NRT)-LAX
    On my 2nd one way, would I be able to add multiple intra-flights to other cities in Japan, as long as my stop is less than 24 hrs?
    Thanks Scott.

  19. Hello, I am going to the Park Hyatt vendome next week and I am trying to get as much out of my miles as possible.
    I am trying to do FLL-BCN-CDG-FLL, can I add an one way to hawaii or the Caribbean from FLL? I’ve tried many times and it isn’t letting me.
    Thanks

  20. Is it possible to book LAX – IST open jaw
    MAD – LAX stopover
    LAX – NRT?? Doesn’t look like it is and I read something about not crossing two oceans on another blog. If not, is the free one-way limited to only Carribean, Central and Northern South America? Thanks for your help!

  21. I’m headed to China to visit a niece in May. If I do a 70,000 United award, what stopovers are possible? Does it have to be a stopover on a scheduled flight, like ORD-FRA-PEK (or IST, MUC, VIE, ZRH, etc. instead of FRA) that continues to PEK? Is it possible to fly into a non-hub (VCE) and connect on to PEK? I would guess that does not work on United, right? Thanks for a very unique and helpful blog.

  22. Scott,
    Thanks for all you do on this site, its such a great resource. I have a question that adds on to this. I found and pieced together award space on United’s engine in Biz from Wash-Rome, Rome-Wash, and then a free one way of Wash-HNL (connecting thru Newark). I called United to verify it was valid and it was and priced out at 145K, miles per person so the 1 way only cost me 5K extra miles per person (And a data point, since I had added a 3rd leg when searching united.com, it wouldnt show me any of the available saver flights on the 2nd leg back from Rome so thats why i had to call)…..Can I now then call in to Asiana and give them the same flight numbers and info, and do this award with a free one way so I can get it thru them at a lot cheaper rate. (since their chart would only charge me 80K miles per person in biz). I guess what I am basically asking is if I can still get this exact ticket with a free one way going thru Asiana using their partner space since theyd be calling from the same Star* award space? Thanks!

    • Asiana has access to all the Saver award space you see on united.com BEFORE SIGNING IN to united.com. Signing in can cause some extra Saver space to show that Asiana will not have access to.

      • Thanks. The Was-Rome and Rome-Was did in fact price out at the 80K in biz when I called Asiana but as a data point the free one way from Was-HNL thru EWR made the ticket 120K miles so it looks like that leg got added on. The Was-EWR leg was in coach, but the EWR-HNL was in business so it wasn’t an upgrade in class. Perhaps I need to play around more with it, or maybe Asiana has different routing rules when booking Star* space when it pertains to adding a free 1 way? I know they allow 7 stopovers on Asiana tickets so wouldn’t think it was a problem.

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