Master Thread: United Three One Ways Awards

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On roundtrip United awards, you get one free stopover in addition to your destination and up to two open jaws. I’ve given a few examples of how permissive United is in allowing us to combine these rules (1, 2, and 3).

I want to give a lot more examples and a clear structure of how and why to book what I’ll call “Three One Ways Awards.”

What are United Three One Ways Awards?

Imagine a roundtrip United award with a stopover.

  • New York to Frankfurt (stopover)
  • Frankfurt to Delhi (destination)
  • Delhi to New York

This is legal, and a little bit interesting. You get to see Europe for zero extra miles on your award to India. Now imagine that there is an open jaw between the origin (New York) and the final destination.

  • New York to Frankfurt
  • Frankfurt to Delhi
  • Delhi to Los Angeles

This is legal and a little more interesting, but you probably either live in New York or Los Angeles, so there’s little practical benefit.

Now imagine that you keep this structure of a stopover and an open jaw, but throw the idea of flying anything like a roundtrip out the window.

  • New York to Frankfurt
  • Frankfurt to Delhi
  • Delhi to Bangkok

Amazingly this too is legal. And it’s very interesting because it can be part of a New Yorker’s round-the-world or other very BIG trip. This map should make it clear why I call this a Three One Ways Award.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.48.49 AM

The trick is that we book it as a single United “roundtrip” award and not as three one ways. Why?

Well in this example, if you booked all three segments as one way awards, you would pay 90,000 United miles in economy:

  • New York to Frankfurt (30,000)
  • Frankfurt to Delhi (25,000)
  • Delhi to Bangkok (35,000)

If you book the one ways as a single “roundtrip,” you pay 77,500 United miles.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.48.42 AM

  • New York to Frankfurt to Delhi (42,500 with free stopover)
  • Delhi to Bangkok (35,000)

And we can find even bigger discounts and sweeter spots on the United chart.

How to Book a Three One Ways Award

You book Three One Ways Awards on united.com’s advanced search page by selecting “Yes” and “Multi-city” for the second and third questions.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 7.06.55 PM

You may want to select three suitable one ways by using the United award chart . A United Three One Ways Award will touch up to four regions on the chart. Of those four regions, you are specifically looking for three regions such that a one way between A and C is way cheaper than A to B plus B to C.

For instance:

  • A = Japan
  • B = Australia/New Zealand
  • C = Oceania

A to B is 22,500 miles. B to C is 22,500 miles. So A to B plus B to C is 45,000 miles. A to C is only 12,500 miles, so getting a free stopover in B as part of a Three One Ways Award would be a huge savings.

Unfortunately you don’t decide on a Three One Ways Award what is the destination and what is the stopover. I tried to book Seoul to Tokyo to Auckland to the Cook Islands to take advantage of the huge discount I just mentioned between Japan and Oceania.

If I could choose the stopover, I’d make it Auckland and have the destination be Tokyo. Then the award would be 27,500 miles (Seoul to Tokyo is 15,000 and Tokyo to Cook Islands is 12,500.)copy

Unfortunately United’s computer made Auckland the destination and Tokyo the stopover. That made the award 42,500 miles (Seoul to Auckland is 20,000 and Auckland to Cook Islands is 22,500.)

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 2.45.11 AM

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 8.06.28 PM

United open jaws can only be at the destination or origin, so I tried to force the destination to be in Japan by changing the award to:

  • Seoul to Fukuoka (open jaw in Japan to force it to be the destination)
  • Tokyo to Auckland
  • Auckland to Cook Islands

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 2.52.06 AM

Unfortunately I got an error online. I need to call in to attempt to book this award. When I call in, I’ll either be told the award is illegal or costs 27,500 miles I believe.
Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 8.07.23 PM

Weird Prices During Booking

The final miles price of the entire roundtrip award will always make sense as the sum of two one way awards, but while booking, some funny award prices will show up. Like this part of the award pricing at 21.3k miles or another time I saw awards listed for 0 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.46.49 AM

Those are caused by United arbitrarily assigning a portion of a one way award price to the parts before and after the stopover. The above screenshot is taken from the New York to Frankfurt to Delhi to Bangkok example. The 21.3k miles represents 21,250 or half of the 42,500 mile price from the United States to India.

The Rest of Your Trip

Three One Way Awards should be part of a bigger, perhaps round-the-world, trip. You can fly the three one ways to your home airport, from your home airport, or somewhere in the middle.

These awards should be combined with other sweet spot awards that I’ve compiled in this post.

Examples

Los Angeles to Honolulu to Bangkok to Sydney

United’s computer sees this as Los Angeles to Bangkok (stopover in Honolulu) with a return of Bangkok to Sydney. It is 17,500 miles cheaper to book all of this as a roundtrip award in economy than as three separate awards.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.44.55 AM

Since the award breaks in Bangkok, that means you can take advantage of the way-too-cheap United awards from Southeast Asia to Australia: Thai First Class for 40,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.43.49 AM

Economy for the first two thirds and First Class to Australia is 80,000 miles total.Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.44.21 AMNew York to Munich to Kigali to Sao Paulo

In economy, this would be 90,000 United miles as three one ways or 70,000 miles as a Three One Ways Award.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.44.20 AM

Because Africa to South America is such a steal in Business Class (45k miles one way), I decided to book that leg in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.45.22 AM The first two thirds of the trip in economy and the last third in Business Class is just 85,000 United miles. Booking as one award saves 20,000 miles.Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.45.42 AM Houston to Panama City to Lima to Buenos Aires

Just booking Houston to Buenos Aires is 30,000 miles in economy. Booking each leg individually would be 47,500 miles. Book all this as a Three One Ways Award for 37,500 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.47.26 AM

United considers the destination on this award to be Panama City.Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.48.49 AM It’s a little more expensive if you get United to consider the destination to be Peru, which you can do by adding an open jaw there.Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.51.39 AM The price jumps to 40,000 miles if the destination is Cuzco.
Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.51.49 AM

Failed Online Attempts

Sometimes throwing an open jaw into the award in an attempt to pick the destination caused an error that looked like this.
Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.55.36 AM I failed to book Los Angeles to Guam, Tokyo to Auckland to Fiji online.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.55.56 AM
I also failed to book New York to Munich to Zurich, Brussels to Kigali online.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.41.56 AM

I think these awards would be bookable by phone. More research is needed.

Bottom Line

You can use the free stopover on roundtrip United awards as intended for an en route stopover, to set up a free one way, or as part of a Three One Ways Award.

The Three One Ways Award is a useful way to string together three one ways onto a single award for massive miles savings.

Post some great Three One Way Award opportunities in the comments. Make sure to include:

  1. The cities involved
  2. How many miles total in the cabin you’d want to fly
  3. How many miles you’d save over booking three awards
  4. Whether your dummy booking on united.com was successful
  5. What united.com chose as the destination and the stopover

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27 COMMENTS

  1. “New York to Munich to Kigali to Sao Paulo: The first two thirds of the trip in economy and the last third in Business Class is just 85,000 United miles. Booking as one award saves 20,000 miles.”

    I’m a little confused about this one. I thought if one leg of an award trip is in business class, then entire trip priced out as business class? If you got the first segments in business class instead of economy, would the price increase to something more than 85,000 total?

    • No, if one leg is in Business Class, that entire DIRECTION (not the entire AWARD) is at the Business Class price. For instance:

      NYC-LHR in economy
      CDG-NYC in Business

      would price at 87,500 miles not 115,000 miles (the roundtrip Business Class price).

      In the award you mention, United sees New York to Kigali as one direction and Kigali to Sao Paulo as the other direction. All roundtrip awards have two directions separated by the destination.

  2. Last year on a trip to Asia, I used a UA award as 3 one ways with mixed business and economy class. My wife and I flew from Hong Kong to Bali to Shanghai in Singapore Air business class and to Osaka in economy on ANA. It priced out as 32,500 points a ticket: 22,500 for HKG-SIN-DPS(Stopover)-SIN-PVG (business North Asia to North Asia award) and 10,000 for PVG-KIX (economy North Asia to Japan award). I’m especially proud of that redemption considering I tricked the system to let us fly to Bali which is nowhere near North Asia.

    • HKG and Bali are in the same region, so that’s probably why the system didn’t mind being tricked. Great award!

  3. Not sure why my comment not posted to I post again:
    I just did my first ever redemption using united miles. Booked in award saver economy as roundtrip with one free stopover.
    SFO-FRA (layover 12 hrs)-MXP (stopover ) on Lufthansa
    MXP – AMS (destination) on Lufthansa
    DUB (open jaw) – SFO on Aer Lingus

    Cost 60k UA miles. Am I doing it right? After I read this post I’m a bit regret because I think I can throw in a country in Asia or Middle East as part of open jaw instead of back to SFO?

    • Because, as the page after you posted says, the comment is in moderation. Moderation is not manual not automatic.

      You booked a fantastic award. Your award is not like those discussed in this post, but maybe your award is better suited for your travel goal than those in this post. There is no value in tricking out awards for the sake of tricks–only if you want to fly a big trip. Enjoy the trip!

      • I see now, thanks Scott! I am soooo relieved to hear that I did it right, it’s all because your quality blog post and I thank you ! Will continue to share your blog with family and friends so they can apply credit cards through your blog!

        By the way, I don’t quite understand the process of moderation, since you said “Moderation is not manual not automatic.”, so is it manual or automatic?

        • Typo. It is manual. I need to approve or delete comments held for moderation. Comments are always held for moderation when from a new IP and sometimes in other cases.

  4. It’s funny reading this today. I was just looking at this yesterday. Was looking at flights for spring break(late March) EWR>BRU 15k, BRU>FCO 15k, CDG>EWR 30k. The CDG>EWR had also a stop and was trying to turn that into another 2 day tour.

    • That’s just a standard roundtrip with a stopover and an open jaw. It’s a great award, but not exactly like the ones in this post. The ones in this post would be something like making the last leg Paris to Asia or Africa.

  5. Great post! Needed to wait a few days until I had time to really process it in my mind. I’ll definitely use these ideas for future bookings. I love to get as many places as I can into an award ticket.

    • It is valid on any airline that allows stopovers on roundtrip awards and open jaws this big. That doesn’t describe Avianca, which doesn’t allow stopovers.

  6. […] I want to get from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires by mid-February. I am considering stops in Guatemala (Semuc Champey), Colombia (five day hike to the Lost City), Chile (Santiago + Patagonia), and Salvador, Brazil (Carnaval + Chapada Diamantina National Park). I’ll pick one or two of those stops soon and possibly book the way down as a Three One Way award. […]

  7. Great post! I’m looking for ideas, and perhaps I can incorporate United’s 3 one ways into a future trip. For the summer of 2017, my family of 4 are heading to Aus/NZ from NYC. I was thinking to trying United’s plan B for a comfortable flight to Sydney, then stop at NZ, a Pacific Island (Fiji?), HNL or Maui, then home. I have United, Alaska, and AA miles to work with. My current plan is NYC to SYD using United, NZ to Fiji to HNL using Alaska, then HNL to NYC with AA. Any suggestions? Anything more efficient?

    • That sounds efficient as you have it. AA miles aren’t the best from Hawaii to New York, maybe get some Singapore miles for that part instead (transfer partner of Citi, Chase, AMEX, and SPG.)

  8. I am saving this page. Excellent!

    I though I was a pro for recently booking a free one way to Boston for my wife a few months after a round trip from lax to Cancun.

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