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As an added bonus, this award actually dovetails nicely with one of my other favorite value ideas for first class: Etihad First Class for 40k American Airlines miles.
Can you guess the routing? Can you come up with even more first class for fewer miles?
A few months ago I shared a very valuable fact about United awards in a post about booking myself an award in Thai First Class: United awards allow a routing from Asia to the Middle East via Europe.
That’s significant because United charges more on awards from Asia to Europe than awards to the Middle East.
In the post, I gave an example of booking Thai First Class from Bangkok. If I just flew directly to Paris, the award would cost 80k miles. If, instead, I added two more segments and backtracked to Tel Aviv, the award cost 15,000 miles less!
I wanted to know if I could also route from India (Central Asia) to the Abu Dhabi (Middle East) via Europe. Why?
- United charges 20k/35k/45k each way in economy/business/first between Central Asia and the Middle East
- United charges 30k/50k/60k each way in economy/business/first between Central Asia and Europe
- Backtracking and adding a leg to the Middle East saves 10k/15k/15k and enables more flying.
So if United allowed me to route Delhi to Frankfurt to Abu Dhabi on a single award in Lufthansa First Class, not only would I save 15k miles compared to a simpler Delhi to Frankfurt award, but I would also get 10 hrs of Lufthansa First Class + access to the First Class Terminal for only 45k United miles!
First I had to find suitable flights from Delhi to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Abu Dhabi.
Lufthansa First Class is searchable on united.com, but United only gets access to Lufthansa First Class 15 days before departure.
I had to search each segment individually because united.com won’t suggest Frankfurt as a connection point between the two cities. (United.com did suggest Istanbul as a connection point and priced that award at the normal Central Asia to Middle East price, which got me excited.)
These were the flights I found–obviously this test was performed a few days ago when these flights were in the future.
These two flights had one First Class seat each, so I called United at 800-UNITED-1 to see if I could ticket the award. I fed the agent each segment by date, cabin, and flight number, since I knew the connection wouldn’t come up for her if she searched DEL-AUH on her computer.
She had no trouble piecing the award together and informed me it would cost 45k United miles + $76.43 in taxes + a $75 close in ticketing fee + a $25 phone fee. I would ordinarily have gotten around the phone fee if I really wanted to ticket this. Plus I have United Silver Status, meaning the close in ticketing fee is reduced to $50.
For me, the total cost would actually be 45k United miles + $126.43, a steal for 14hr20min in Lufthansa First Class and five hours at the First Class Terminal! And I haven’t even mentioned that over eight hours of the flying are on a 747-8, Lufthansa’s newest plane.
Ending up in Abu Dhabi is a pretty good destination if you want your next flight to be in luxury also. From Abu Dhabi, you can fly to Paris or London in Etihad First Class for only 40k American Airlines miles or all the way back to the US for 90k American Airlines miles. Check out this First Class product.
For only 45k United miles–less than the sign up bonus of several credit card offer, you can fly 14 hours in Lufthansa First Class, eight hours in First Class on a 747-8, and spend five hours in the First Class Terminal in Frankurt.
When you end up in Abu Dhabi, use some American Airlines miles to get to your next stop in Etihad Diamond First Class.
You can get the United miles you need from the Sapphire Preferred, United card (if you find the 50k offer), Ink Bold, or Ink Plus.
You can get the American Airlines miles you need from the Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard® with 30,000 American Airlines miles after spending $3k in three months.