Best way to use UA FF miles SFO to SYD?

Mar 31st, 2012, 10:07 AM
  #1  
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Best way to use UA FF miles SFO to SYD?

This forum has always been very helpful when I've had airline questions, so I'm again requesting help from you experienced and resourceful flyers. We (two of us) want to fly one-way non-stop from SFO to SYD in the third or fourth week of March 2013 on UA in Business Class. I've been checking the website daily and will be ready to pounce when our dates open up for booking. On many days (mid-week), there's a Saver Award for 67,500 miles each for Business Class, which I would love to be able to access.

Here's my question: Would it be a better use of the FF miles to look for an upgrade or a partner airline for this trip? I'm totally mystified about how to do this. We would like confirmed Business Class seats for this trip and the 67.5K miles seems very reasonable. But if there's a way to use fewer FF miles by using a confirmed upgrade or partner airline, I'm willing to climb the learning curve. I've tried using the website to figure out how to do this, but the combo of flight class, status, etc. is so confusing. We have over 300K miles but no status, if that helps. Heaven help me if I would need to phone UA.

Thanks so much for your input. I promise to "pay it forward."
Betsy is offline  
Mar 31st, 2012, 10:40 AM
  #2  
 
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I've also been looking at FF tkts to SYD (but from ORD). ONE time, I saw a routing via Singapore that sounded interesting (albeit LONG) but did not jump on the chance, and have not seen it again! Right now I'm only seeing the UA options, and they are the non-stops from either LAX or SFO for my dates. My trip is not 100% a sure thing yet, so I've hesitated thus far. I'm a 1K with United so I do see more availability than the general member of the UA FF program.
simpsonc510 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2012, 12:11 PM
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if you can get Biz class for 67K do it. An upgrade will not be GUARANTEED, will involve a co pay, will not be that many less miles and goes by fare class and status.

If you want a partner award you might try air canada unless you want to fly to Auckland first and then Sydney...and it would likely be more miles.

given ho hard upgrades are for this route I'd book a Biz award if you want to guarantee a biz seat.
mztery is offline  
Mar 31st, 2012, 12:28 PM
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If you're just flying one way, then an upgrade would require an underlying coach ticket; my hunch is that you would be shocked to see the price of an upgrade-eligible one way ticket to Oz.

In any event, in my experience 67,500 miles for a one-way business class flight to Australia is very good value.

Don't expect to see too many business class award seats appear right when the booking window opens (although there might be a few.) Airlines release seats into award inventory on a rolling basis, based on the various black arts practiced by the denizens of their "yield management" departments (Hogwarts graduates all.)

It looks like UA's online award booking now includes partner airlines when available; e.g. I can see itineraries to Sydney that would involve both United and Air New Zealand.

I'm also pretty certain that with the current "one way only" bookings (i.e., all awards are for one direction; if you want a round trip it's just two one-way awards) connecting via a third region will mean two separate mileage amounts for one trip. For example connecting in Singapore would require a US > Singapore award, followed by a Singapore > Oz award, since Singapore is in the "South Asia" region. The total miles needed would therefore go up big time.
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 1st, 2012, 06:38 AM
  #5  
 
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FWIW, I've just booked 2 O/W trips on United website:

Trip 1:

Corpus Christi to Houston (United economy)
Houston to Frankfurt (Lufthansa business)
Frankfurt to Bangalore (Lufthansa business)
60,000 ff miles
It's considered "mixed class" because the CC to Houston leg only has economy. This is for February, 2013.

Trip 2:

Colombo, Sri Lanka to Bangkok (Thai business)
Bangkok to Narita (Thai economy)
Narita to Houston (United first)
Houston to Corpus Christi (United economy)

60,000 ff miles. Also "mixed class".
This is for March 2, 2013

Total taxes and fees for 2 persons = $214.
JaneB is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 02:41 PM
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Taxes and fees were $77 (Trip 1) + $214 (Trip 2)
JaneB is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2012, 09:58 PM
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I agree that getting a one-way saver award is the best way to go.

It would cost you 67,500 miles whether you fly on United or on a partner. It would be the same number of miles for a nonstop from SFO as it would be for a connecting flight.

Singapore and SYD are in different regions, but it would still be the same price in miles. The way it is priced in miles, at least in the old United rules, is that you pay the higher of the two regions.

(so SFO-SYD-SIN sh/would be priced at 67,500 miles because it is going via the higher priced Australia region but SFO-NRT-SIN would be 60,000 miles - this would be two regions but both the Japan and South Asia regions are the same price)

When you do your search, select one-way of course, but then select Search Specific Dates (not the flexible option - you can use the calendar to select dates). Don't trust the color coding 100% - definitely click on the date you want even if it is white (you want to see green, like on March 5, in the result below.

Go here to do a search:
http://www.united.com/web/en-US/apps...chOW.aspx?CS=N

Enter SFO and SYD as From/To and then select the travel date as March 3, 2012. Scroll down and click Search.

RIGHT NOW, the results for March 3 show Saver awards available in all classes (the blue buttons) on the United nonstop. In the middle, under Business/Saver it shows the miles required (67,500) and taxes ($29.40) Notice on the right that flight time is 14 hr 37 min.

Below that nonstop option, under the banner "United Flights with stops" there are several United connecting options. They are listed in total travel time order 17 hr 20 min via the firest SFO-LAX-SYD option. All of the United-only options will be either SFO-SYD or SFO-LAX-SYD (maybe SFO-HOU-SYD, if that is possible).

Scroll down some more, and under the blue banner labeled "Partner Flights with stops". All parter flights will be there (no partner nonstops for SFO-SYD).

Scroll down past that banner to find the business class options on partners - Asiana via Seoul. Seoul is in North Asia region but see that the miles required is still 67,500 and it costs a few more dollars.

But, look to the right at the total travel times: 27 hr 25 min is the shortest connection available on partner airlines.

I've searched LAX-SYD and seen results with connections in Vancouver on AC, the Thai nonstop to Bangkok and connect there to SYD, and the Asiana connections. Haven't seen Auckland yet.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2012, 10:05 PM
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Geez. That post reflects the amount of time that I have spent searching on the Continental (now United) website over the past year.

My short answer is that it will cost you the 67,500 miles whether you use United or a partner. United, thoough, has the only *A carrier with nonstops and that is what you really want. But you might find reasonable connections at LAX or Vancouver, instead of Asia.

Search by specific dates, but be flexible on your date is best. Use the calendar to choose date(s) that are acceptable, but don't assume that the color coding on the calendar is 100% accurate.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2012, 10:08 PM
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I wasn't able to actually post the search result for March 5. But it is March 3 that is green and has the several United options. March 5 is yellow and has less availability. The color codes look accurate.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2012, 10:20 PM
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I would choose the first class option at only 12,500 more miles, if that was available.

On connecting flights, watch out for the "Mixed Cabin" alert. This would be on connecting flights, of course. If you select one of those Mixed Cabin! results, then make sure it is the class you want on the long-haul segment (the class of service on each segment is shown after you Select a flight).
mrwunrfl is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 02:32 PM
  #11  
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Thank you, thank you for your very valuable input for using UA FF miles. I think I've learned what I need to know to get the flight we want if it's available. We'll be flying one way business class the last week of March, 2013 and cruising back from Sydney. We can be a little flexible with dates, and hope to get out of SFO on 24 or 25 March, 2013 Thanks to you, I'm no longer considering the option of upgrading as the base ticket would be over $1K, and with no status (but lots of FF miles) we wouldn't be likely to be upgraded. We'd like to do the frequently offered non-stop UA flight from SFO to SYD for 67.5K miles. If we have to, we will consider flying through LAX, but not through Asia because the duration of the trip is so long.

I've been watching the FF inventory daily for March, 2013 as it comes onto the UA website. The 67.5K-mile award is usually there, excepting some weekends; it may not appear the first day of FF availability, but in shows up a few days later for the previous couple of days.

I have two other additional questions: 1) mrwunrfl above suggests springing for the extra 12.5K option to fly first class instead of business if offered. Aside from the differences highlighted on the UA site, what is the most important difference between the two classes? As I understand it all the UA 747s have flat beds in busines, which is really important to us, as the plane leaves SFO about 10:30 pm. We've flown either business or first class to Europe a couple of times. 2) Is seatguru.com the most reliable site to check for the best seats? Are there other sites you'd recommend? We're hoping to fly in the "bubble" of the 747. Haven't done that since we went with TWA to Europe eons and eons ago.

Thanks again for your kind and very helpful replies.
Betsy is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 06:22 PM
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If you want to fly in the upstairs cabin then choose business class. In case you didn't notice: scroll down on the seatguru seat map, past economy, to see the upper deck map.

seatguru shows two pairs of seats in the middle in first class. They are colored yellow, but there is no explanation what the drawbacks are to those seats. I haven't flown in the new United international first class.

My comment on flying in first class was based on me traveling solo, as I usually do. And I was thinking about my F trip on Asiana (10 F seats vs 12 on United, is one difference).

In business class, you would have plenty of options for sitting together and having a window. And you would save the 12,500 x 2 miles.

I've been watching the inventory for your trip, too. It does appear that, at least for SFO/LAX (where I am) -SYD, it is a very good idea to start looking 330-325 days out.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 10:02 PM
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From the comments on Flyertalk, there is no horrible seat upstairs, and it's much prefered over downstairs. Biggest question is whether to face forward or back. Some like facing backwards with the view of the wings and engines. I was researching this as my mom just got cleared on a mileage upgrade for SFO-HKG later this month. This will be her first time upstairs on a 747.
rkkwan is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 10:11 PM
  #14  
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Thanks again, mrwunrufl. Appreciate your following our itinerary. Please let me know of any strategies I may have overlooked. Just checked the UA site. It's currently showing one business class FF saver award SF through Asia to SYD on April 8 an 9, 2013. But saver awards for business class on April 4, 5, 6, 7 at 67.5K on the non-stop have popped into the inventory, so I'm holding my breath that the pattern continues.
Betsy is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 10:14 PM
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rkkwan, we'll choose to fly facing forward, if at all possible. I get a little disoriented just thinking about flying backward.
Betsy is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 10:16 PM
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I figured upstairs would be preferable, mostly because there are fewer passengers up there with less movement in the cabin.
Betsy is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 04:40 AM
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I've flown in the backward facing seats a number of times now. It was a little weird at take-off the first time, as I was looking right out at the wing (that was on a 767). Once in the air, I usually forget I'm facing backward--I notice no difference.

Definitely pick a seat upstairs if you can. In addition to fewer passengers, .. there's no floor storage in the business class seats during take-off and landing, but the window seats have some small storage cabinets so you don't have to put everything up.
ms_go is online now  
Apr 7th, 2012, 01:55 PM
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I agree with flying in the upper deck, First class is great also, but the upper deck is nice and quiet.

I'm looking at the following trip for this July (about 2 weeks... that's all I can muster) and will make two stops on a 3-leg (3 one way tickets) journey in 1st class.

UA...ORD-HKG and then TG onto Bangkok (spend 5-6 days) and then TG from BKK to SYD (spend 5-6 days) and then UA back to ORD from SYD. All in first class. All on saver awards. Total cost is 210k miles and $147.50. Pretty tough to beat!!

I'm not quite ready to book it yet, but being a 1K on UA I can see saver inventory that general frequent fliers do not see. I can afford to wait a bit.

One thing I really like about flying first class is access to the international first class lounges along the way. A biz ticket will get you into the regular star alliance lounges; but there's something special about visiting the 1st class lounges instead...
simpsonc510 is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 03:47 PM
  #19  
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Thanks for your comments about business vs. first, simpsonc510. Are you able to check, via your status ability, to see inventory for the itinerary I'm waiting to book? We have no status at all. It's SFO to SYD on the one daily non-stop flight, two pax traveling March 24, 25, or 26 2013. From time to time (as I explained above), UA is showing 67.5K miles in business. amd that's the one I'm hoping for. Thank you for checking!
Betsy is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 04:05 PM
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I am not able to 'click' on any date past March 7 right now. I am not up on how many days out you can book award travel. Maybe March 7 is as far out as it goes today???
simpsonc510 is offline  

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