Use United Free One Ways to Maximize Your Award
Hilary Stockton

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TravelSort reader Jeff writes "In an earlier post Maximizing the Value of Your Award Ticket with Stopovers and Open Jaws it mentions 'United actually offers two open jaws on roundtrips, which enables you to tack on a free one way after an international roundtrip'--can you please explain?"
Great question Jeff. Earlier in that same post we mention how you can tack on a free one way to Hawaii after an international award on American Airlines if you're returning to an American Airlines hub such as Chicago, since Hawaii is included together with the continental U.S. on American's award chart and American allows stopovers at their domestic (but not international) hubs. (Update: Unfortunately as of 4/8/14 there are no more AA free one ways as American AAdvantage, with no notice, has eliminated free North American hub stopovers on award tickets. See No More Free AA One Ways)
With United, it's a bit different. Here are the relevant rules:
  • Two open jaws are allowed per roundtrip award
  • One stopover is allowed per roundtrip award
  • No stopovers or open jaws are allowed on a one way award
United Free One Way - Award Rules
So what does this mean? In the United award rules above, the example of two open jaws is:
Depart City A (NYC Newark)
Arrive City B (London)
Depart City C (Paris = Open Jaw 1)
Arrive City D (Washington Dulles = Open Jaw 2)
But that example doesn't make use of a stopover. Instead of the above, you could:
Depart City A (e.g. NYC Newark)
Arrive City B (e.g. Munich)
Depart City C (e.g. Frankfurt = Open Jaw 1)
Arrive City A (e.g. NYC Newark)
Depart City A (e.g. NYC Newark)
Arrive City D (e.g. San Francisco = Open Jaw 2)
As you you can see, instead of just going from the U.S. to Europe and back, in this use of 1 stopover and 2 open jaws, we also get a trip at a later date from NYC to San Francisco, in the same class as whatever we booked the original trip in (assuming award availability exists).
Here are screenshots of the above. As you can see, I couldn't find first class availability from Frankfurt back to EWR, so I chose business class. The EWR-SFO segment is in BusinessFirst, and is included at no extra cost, for a total of 117,500 United miles = 67,500 for outbound first class + 50,000 return in business class
United Free One Way - Free One Way NYC - SFO
United Free One Way
But, you may be asking, what about Hawaii? Well, as noted above, United's award chart separates Hawaii from the Continental U.S., so it won't be a completely free one way. Also keep in mind that United has some three class flights to Honolulu from San Francisco and Houston, so on those three class flights, if you choose first class to Honolulu but had a business class award on the international return, that bumps the return flight up to the first class award price.
That's what happened here, with the same example as above, except Honolulu instead of San Francisco, which causes it to be priced as 135,000 United miles (67,500 x2):
Free United One Way - 17,500 More Miles for First Class to HNL
United Free One Way NYC - HNL 17,500 More
If instead of IAH-HNL in first class we chose business class, the itinerary prices at 125,000 United miles. That's 7500 more for the entire EWR-HNL flight vs. the EWR-SFO flight, which is still quite good considering you're adding on the equivalent of a transcontinental flight when you go to Hawaii instead of the West Coasthnn.
Can I Get a Free One Way with a One Way United Award?
No; as per the award rules mentioned above, United only allows the two open jaws and one stopover on a roundtrip award.
Can I Get a Free One Way When Booking a Roundtrip to Hawaii?
Yes; keep in mind that if you're in United BusinessFirst in one direction and United Economy on the other, you want to add the free one way to the direction you're traveling in United BusinessFirst, so that your free one way can also be in United BusinessFirst.
Can the United Free One Way be International?
Sure, although you can't exceed the maximum permitted mileage (MPM) by more than 15%. You could, in the above example, go to Cancun, Mexico instead of SFO for example, or a number of other cities while staying within the MPM + 15% threshold.
I have an Existing United One Way Award; Can I Change it into a Roundtrip Award in Order to Get a Free One Way?
Since you'd be changing your origin and destination, you'd have to pay the applicable fee, unless you're a Global Services, Premier 1K or Premier Platinum member. See United Award Fees. Also, if you're booking your award by phone, refrain from referring to a "free one way." Just provide the flights to the agent and verify it prices the way you expect it to. Do your research ahead of time to make sure there is saver availability on each leg, and make sure you're not looking at phantom Lufthansa award availability. You can check true Lufthansa availability by using ANA to search for Star Alliance Award Space.
I want to book United roundtrip awards now to take advantage of this. What's the fastest way to earn more United miles? 

Even if you don't do any flying on United, you can still earn United miles.
1. See if you're targeted for the 65,000 offer for the United MileagePlus Explorer, if you don't already have it
2. Apply for the Sapphire Preferred (40,000 points transfer 1:1 to United)
3. Apply for the Ink Plus (50,000 points transfer 1:1 to United)
4. Leverage category bonuses: 2X on all travel and dining for the Sapphire Preferred, 5X for office supply store, cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services spend for the Ink Bold and Ink Plus
Have you taken advantage of free United one way flights on roundtrip awards, or have any questions? 
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Avatar_60_matt Matt B. commented 05 Nov 2012
I think I understand how this works. My question is whether there is some maximum time for the stopover-- in other words, how long an interval can there be between returning to Newark and commencing your 1-way flight to Hawaii?
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 05 Nov 2012
Matt, you can actually stopover as long as you want, as long as the one-way is still within the 1 year from the date of issue, typically your booking date.
User_avatar_default Khalid D. commented 06 Jan 2013
I really enjoyed reading through this, thank you. I tried calling United earlier to book something similar but was told that my stop over couldn't be done the way you suggested. I tried to do the following: Huntsville, AL to Beijing, China Shanghai, China (Jaw 1) to Huntsville, AL Stopover: Huntsville, AL to Manchester, UK (Jaw 2) I was told that I had to do it instead like this: Huntsville to Beijing Shangahi to Manchester Manchester to Huntsville They told me that the stopover had to be on the way back. Did I misunderstand your tutorial? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. :)
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 06 Jan 2013
Khalid, the free one way works for itineraries within the same region, that is, within the mainland U.S. and Canada in the case of United. Hawaii isn't free, since it's a different region, but there are still savings to be had. But what you can't do is get a free one way from the U.S. to Europe, as you're attempting to do with that itinerary. You should however be able to get a free one way within the U.S., U.S. to Canada, and save miles when adding on a nearby region such as Hawaii, Caribbean and South America. Hope this helps!
Picture?type=large Steven H. commented 31 Jan 2013
Good explanation, this opens up a whole new world! I'm still confused about one part. In your example, you added an extra NYC->SF (jaw2) leg. However, your initial departing city was NYC... they'll let you fly back to NYC, THEN fly to SF? This also seems to be way over the 15% MPM threshold. Can you please clarify?
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 31 Jan 2013
Steven, great catch--I didn't actually look up the MPM when writing, but unlike Cancun, which is well within 15%, EWR-SFO is a bit over the 15% over MPM. It does work as a United free one way price-wise, so the "within 15% over MPM" seems to be too conservative in this case. Actually you don't have to put the United free one way after your international trip; you could put it before, say if you're already in SF, originate there, "stopover" for a few months in NYC, then have the international trip.
User_avatar_default Helga O. commented 25 Mar 2013
Hello, I am looking to go to Europe in the next couple months (leaving end of April, coming back beginning of may) for about 10 to 12 days and I am lost when it comes to maximizing my miles to book an award. I am a hotel points millionaire so my lodging is taken care of but now I need to figure out how to get there. I would like to get the most of my miles and I don't have many of them My balances: 125k ultimate rewards points, 63k us airways, 44k AA, 50K MR I would like to use as little and see as much as possible, also traveling coach is more than fine! I must go to Paris and would love to have a stopover and/or open jaw if possible. Anywhere in Europe, but preferably Prague, Spain, Italy (somewhere like that). I have also read about the free one ways in some airlines?? I would love to have one of those for Hawaii sometime in the future I know it's a lot to ask but if someone can help me or guide me in a better direction it would be much appreciated!!
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 15 May 2013
Helga, unfortunately just saw your comment now, but hope you were able to figure out your award. If you ever need help for a specific itinerary in the future, feel free to use our award booking service. It is $150 if you aren't booking hotels with us:
User_avatar_default Fred S. commented 15 May 2013
I try this now and again. The first leg goes through, then I get "error".
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 15 May 2013
Which routing are you trying Fred? It helps to make sure there's space on each of the individual segments first before putting it all together.
Picture?type=large Zoe P. commented 04 Aug 2014
Hi, first of all, thanks for this great info. I tried to use this tip to book me a free one-way to Anchorage but it continues to show "We were not able to find any available flights for award travel meeting your requirements." Here' what I want to do: LAX-KIX HND-TSA TPE-LAX LAX-ANC In the beginning I could find flight to TSA, but then it disappeared after a day (though it showed the same error message). So I changed to: LAX-KIX NRT-TPE TPE-LAX SNA-ANC but still no luck. Can you help me? Thanks!
Picture?type=large Zoe P. commented 04 Aug 2014
Also, when I tried a different approach, without attempting to get ANC, it shows the result of the first part: LAX-KIX NRT-TPE TPE-LAX After I chose LAX-KIX airline and time and went to the following step, the error message showed again...
Picture?type=large Jana P. commented 10 Apr 2015
Hi Hillary, I booked award tickets SEA-PRG-SEA, changing planes in FRA for this summer. I am now trying to figure out this "Stopover". We'd like to go to San Diego or LA for a week or so at Thanksgiving to see family and do fun things. I cannot figure out how to "go back into the booking and change the destination to be SAN or LAX and then. If I understand this right, once that is done, I should go back after that and change date for the SEA-SAN (or LAX) trip. Where can I find this on the United web site? I hope I am getting this right. Or do I need to call in to do that?
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