What good are miles you can't use?

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by Scottrick, Jun 1, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    I try not to cross post from FT, but I didn't see this video here. Many thanks to UALsandiego over there for brightening my day. I think the best part is: "You do not currently have enough miles for this level of award, but I can sell you the additional miles you need for just slightly more than the cost of purchasing tickets outright."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAXAUWnBv3c&feature=related

    Personally I have never faced this level of frustration, but I am sitting on 400K miles that I am unable (at the moment) to redeem for anything worth the effort of accumulating them.
     
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  2. thegrailer
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    thegrailer Silver Member

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    There is always bragging rights.
     
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  3. jwsky
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    jwsky Silver Member

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    Thanks for that. I got a good laugh.
     
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  4. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Is it because there is nowhere you want to go or because you cannot find the seats? I've been redeeming points like crazy and haven't really had too much trouble with it - all at saver/low levels - to just about anywhere I want to go when I want to do it. Yes, there is a bit of flexibility in my scheduling and I'm willing to do silly things like BKK-BOM-JNB instead of BKK-JNB but that was as much for the better timing of the flights as it was for the availability.

    Redeeming points just doesn't seem that hard to me, especially within *A.
     
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  5. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I think flexibility is an important factor. Most people I know have jobs that don't give them a lot of flexibility.

    Also, you (and many here) clearly know the system much better, and you have the tools to find routes and seats. Most people like, uh, the ones in the video don't have that benefit and probably don't want to spend a lot of time becoming mileage experts for their once-every-few-year dream vacation to Paris.

    That's where those award booking services that some knowledgable folks offer come in handy.
     
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  6. ssullivan
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    ssullivan Gold Member

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    Yep. I've redeemed millions of miles in the last 15 years, and rarely had much trouble finding awards for what we wanted, at low levels, sometimes even on short notice to popular destinations at peak times of year.
     
  7. Black Cloud
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    Black Cloud Gold Member

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    My wife and I take one "big" vacation a year during the last two weeks in August on points. I've never had a problem with using the points for premium cabin awards on Star Alliance carriers and we've taken some outstanding vacations that we could have never afforded if paying cash.

    On points, we've been to:
    • Greece
    • Spain / Canary Islands
    • Maldives
    • Paris
    • Thailand
    • Australia
    • New Zealand
    • Hawaii
    • And this summer we're booked for London, South Africa, Mauritius, and the Seychelles.
    I'm far from an expert on using points. I just have patience and persistence.
     
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  8. travelinmike33
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    travelinmike33 Silver Member

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    Not to get too far off topic, but are you trying to do all that in the last two weeks of August?
     
  9. Black Cloud
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    Black Cloud Gold Member

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    Technically two and a half weeks...

    London for a day which is a "layover." CPT for four days as a stopover. Final destination is SEZ, for 7 days (had to pay for HM flights between SEZ and MRU). Stopping in MRU for 2 nights on the way back due to flight timing. JNB for a night. And then fly home via ZRH/GVA.

    The crux of the trip is CPT / SEZ. Everything else is just fun additions due to flight schedules.

    Last summer did MRS for 6 days, CDG for 3, DXB for 1, MLE for 7, then SIN for 1.
     
  10. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Actually, I do find a lot of opportunities to redeem them. But I am still a relative novice at accumulating and redeeming miles (I have only ever earned about 600K, and I've spent about 200K on domestic Y and upgrades, so, 400K left). At the moment I have a particular goal in mind, and even though I think I'm being flexible, I am either still too restrictive in what I want or just too inexperienced to find it. I could pay someone for help (like Lucky or Gleff), but I would rather learn how to do it so I could do it again on my own in the future. So I plod along learning what I can... but time is running out.

    Maybe some of you have a pointer or two and are willing to offer a suggestion for how to make my proposed trip work:

    (1) I am looking for two tickets in F for SFO-ZRH this fall, preferably the non-stop on LX. I can't afford standard awards with my measly 400K even if I were willing to fly UA, but I would really rather it be an international carrier. I have found nothing on LX. My understanding is that LX is stingy this far out, but even on LH I have had little luck. I have also looked for business class, but I would really rather just pay cash for Y or redeem miles for F.
    (2) I am very flexible on dates. I am looking for a 2-4 week trip, departing in September or October and returning in October or November. Weekends, weekdays, no preference.
    (3) Although I would prefer the nonstop LX flight I mentioned above, I can deal with 1 or 2 stops. For example, I've found space on the outbound SEA-FRA in F on LH, which would then require segments for SFO-SEA and FRA-ZRH. But I never found space for the return. I've heard that space is more plentiful if you look for departures from the east coast, like IAD-FRA, but I don't want to redeem a ton of miles for international first class only to spend half of the trip in domestic F on UA. Ideally the middle segment would be departing SFO, SEA, or LAX.

    My hierarchy of preferences (most to least important):
    (1) first class
    (2) minimal stops
    (3) international carrier
    Dates, as I said, are about as flexible as can be, and it can even be a single or double open-jaw if necessary.

    I have heard of things like going through BKK to get to Europe, but I have no idea how that works. It seems counterintuitive and may involve a loophole in the rules I am not aware of. Anyway, I am hoping that things open up more in the next month or two because I will probably break down and pay cash for Y once we get to September. Any advice from those more experienced would be much appreciated.
     
  11. sparxe
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    sparxe Silver Member

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    So true. I think with most jobs it's difficult to book vacation time 1 year out or 1 month out, which is apparently the best times to find award tickets.
     
  12. sparxe
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    sparxe Silver Member

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    You might have luck posting a new thread on this specific topic asking for a little guidance. I find the people here very helpful. :)
     
  13. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    First off, before you resort to paying anyone it is good to ask questions here. No sense spending money you don't have to. Second off, those two guys aren't the only options available who do that sort of work. ;)

    As to your trip desires, TATL F is getting harder to find these days, especially from the west coast. LH put the A380 on the SFO-FRA route so the 16 747 seats that then were 8 are now 0. And they apparently do sell some of them from time to time. Similarly, as you noted. LX is somewhat stingy with their F seats until a few days out. There are a couple things you can look at to try to find seats that work.

    • First, you note that you've looked at SFO, LAX and SEA. Also look at YVR and YYC. Also look at MUC on the far end.
    • Trying to keep the international segment as long as possible, a secondary set of searches should cover IAH, DFW & DEN, though that will eat into your F time.
    • If you've got the status such that changes are free, book what you can find and play the game. Obviously this is harder if you're paying per change.
    • Because UA allows the one-way awards it is only a small risk to lock in what you can find now and hope for the return later, especially if you are flexible. On the CO side, until they change in 2 weeks, I'd probably find any return with the correct O/D pair and then keep trying to change it to something closer in since those changes are free for anyone 21+ days out from travel, even if you've already flown the outbound.

    I'll take a look and see if I can find anything in the date range you're looking for.
     
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  14. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Very generous, thank you!

    I was planning to ask eventually, but like I said, I think poking around on my own sometimes leads to more information than I would get from being told. It just happens to have become more difficult than I expected. ...And the original post was never meant to be a complaint or a plea for help, just happened to turn out that way :rolleyes: Spring has been busy and I have to submit a manuscript this weekend, but after that I should be able to take a good thorough look at what my options are.
     
  15. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    For me it's all about traveling in reasonable comfort. I can do Y (especially E+) across the ocean -- did it often enough before I became a FT addict. But I'd much rather fly business class or First. Assuming I don't need the EQM and Y isn't dirt cheap, I'd always prefer a C saver award over a paid Y seat. Call me cheap, but if I can choose between saver C and saver F, on UA I'd pick C and use the difference in miles for another trip.

    (I realize that everyone's priorities and preferences are different... I mostly fly to get to a destination and would like to do that comfortably)

    Given the excellent train system in many parts of Europe, other destinatins might be viable for you, too, and allow for a bit of extra exploration of the continent. My flights on UA in and out of BRU recently seemed to leave with open C and F seats, for example.

    I have some upcoming trips to Europe where I, too, have difficulty finding perfect award seats. I am doing what Wandering Aramean suggested -- book what I can get and what sort-of fits, and then I'll refactor until the day of departure. One of the main reasons why I am still considering renewing 1K this year... The award rebooking capability is worth quite a bit in $$$ to me.
     
  16. Misplaced Texan
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    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

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    The Wandering one is better at this than I am, but a few thoughts if you want to try doing it yourself...
    1. While a lot of people love the ANA tool for searches, I've found aeroplan.com to be mostly as good and it doesn't require the same work-around to use.
    2. Don't forget that CO gives you VS as an option in combination with other partners on one award and that UA miles can be transferred to CO instantly. VS gives you some more options for the trans-Atlantic leg.
    3. To that end, try the co.com search as well. It still doesn't include some partners (notably, LX) but does include non *A options that you can book with CO miles.
    4. Always start by searching for your long legs and then figure out how to get to the gateway. You can often dream up combinations that the airline search engine won't return.
    5. If you're a 1K/Plat and get free award changes, don't be afraid to grab something even if it is one F and one J or a connection you don't love and then make changes later. Availability often opens up very late for exactly the flights you want, but it's a lot less stressful if you have something in place that will at least get you there and then use your free changes to refine it as you get closer. My last award ran DCA-BOS-LHR (stop) ZRH (12 hours) BKK (10 hours) DPS-BKK-CDG-FRA-IAD all in the best cabin on the leg and on very specific dates to align with JQ flights to DRW for the OZFest 8 DO, but I was making changes to the outbound right up to about a week before departure and made the final tweeks to the return while in DPS.
     
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