Exploit The “Excursionist” United Airlines Loophole for Free Segments: Part 4 – 5 Crazy Ways to Use the Excursionist Perk for Big Travel

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I’ve asked Million Mile Secrets contributor Jake to show y’all more advanced ways to get Big Travel from the United Airlines Excursionist Perk!

Jake:   United Airlines recently changed their MileagePlus program, including some of their award flight booking rules.  For some folks, booking award flights has become trickier and even more expensive.

But for others, via Travel is Free, United Airlines’ new policies will provide great value.

This is due to a new rule under the United Airlines award program called Excursionist Perk.  The Excursionist Perk is a free one-way flight you can book in addition to a round-trip or multi-city itinerary.

Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Use These 5 Strategies to Get Incredible Deals From United Airlines’ Excursionist Perk

In this 4-part series, I’m teaching you how to use the Excursionist Perk to get Big Travel with Small Money!

Exploit the “Excursionist” United Airlines Loophole for Free Segments: Series Index

In Part 3, I showed you practical tips for using the United Airlines’ Excursionist Perk to extend your vacation or save miles.  In this post, I’ll outline 5 ways to use the free one-way flight to get huge savings!

Some of these itineraries may not fit into your travel plans.  But if you can make them work, you can stretch your United Airlines miles to get Big Travel for a great price!

1.   Start in Hawaii for a Free Domestic US Flight

Remember, the rules for the United Airlines Excursionist free one-way flight state that travel must originate and conclude in the same region.  This means that finding a region with cheap flights can make the Excursionist Perk’s free flight even more valuable!

For example, consider the following itinerary departing from Honolulu:

  • Honolulu to Maui (6,000 United Airlines miles in coach)
  • Los Angeles to Newark (Free one-way flight!)
  • Maui to Honolulu (6,000 United Airlines miles in coach)
Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Use Your Free One-Way Flight to Save Over 50% of Your Miles!

So your total cost would be 12,000 United Airlines miles for 3 flights.  And you would get the one-way flight from Los Angeles to Newark for free, saving you 12,500 United Airlines miles.  That’s over 50% off the normal booking price!

Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Fly Across the US for Free in Conjunction With Your Round-Trip Intra-Hawaii Flights

Note:   Even if you don’t use your final flight from Maui to Honolulu, this booking strategy still saves you miles!  If you only booked the flights from Honolulu to Maui and Los Angeles to Newark, your total would be 18,500 United Airlines miles.

2.   Start in Hawaii for a Free One-Way Flight in Any Region

For most folks, using a free one-way flight within the Continental US will be the most practical.  But based on the above strategy, you could use a Hawaii booking to get a free one-way flight within any region in the world!  Remember, these are subject to United Airlines’ region definitions.

The key to this strategy is that United Airlines only charges 6,000 miles for one-way coach flights within Hawaii.  And since you can use your free one-way flight in conjunction with any other 2 flights, it makes sense to book the cheapest 2 flights you can find.  Then, you can use your free one-way flight on a much more expensive flight, while only paying for 2 very cheap flights!

Note:   United Airlines does not actually fly within Hawaii.  All intra-Hawaii flights booked with United Airlines miles will be operated by Hawaiian Airlines.

Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Use Hawaii as Your Origin to Get Free and Cheap One-Way Flights!

For example, you could save 20,000 United Airlines miles by using your free one-way flight within the “Middle East” region.

Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Use Your Free One-Way Flight in the Middle East to Save 20,000 United Airlines Miles

Or, save 17,500 United Airlines miles by using your free one-way flight within the “South Asia” region.

Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Or, Save 17,500 United Airlines Miles by Using Your Free One-Way Flight Between Hong Kong and Thailand

Remember that the free one-way Excursionist Perk flight can be booked up to 1 year in advance, but must be in between the dates of your 1st and 2nd booked flights.  So if you are planning to travel to Hawaii anyway, try to make use of this awesome perk!

Note:   You can NOT “throw away” both of your intra-Hawaii flights in order to get a free one-way flight for only 12,000 United Airlines miles total.  This is because United Airlines will cancel the remainder of your itinerary if you fail to board the first flight.  So you can “throw away” your final flight, but you must take your first flight in order to get the free one-way with the Excursionist Perk.

3.   Cheap Business Class Flights Throughout Asia and Oceania

You could also use the United Airlines Excursionist Perk in conjunction with longer flights.  For example, the following itinerary from Australia to Asia would cost only 47,500 United Airlines miles.

Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Save Even More Miles When Booking Business Class Flights

Your routing could look like:

  • Sydney to Hong Kong (30,000 United Airlines miles in Business Class)
  • Hong Kong to Bali, Indonesia (Free one-way flight in Business Class)
  • Auckland to Melbourne (17,500 United Airlines miles in coach)

You can book the free one-way flight in Business Class because the one-way flight preceding it is in Business Class.  Or, your free one-way flight could be in coach, because it is a lower class of service.

But remember that your free one-way flight must be within a single “award region.”  So you can book your free one-way flight between Hong Kong and Bali because both cities are within United Airlines’ “South Asia” region.

But you can NOT book your free one-way between Hong Kong and Shanghai, because Shanghai is part of United Airlines’ “North Asia” region.  So be sure to reference United Airlines’ region chart before trying to book your free one-way flight.

Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Use the Free One-Way Flight to Explore Asia and Oceania on One Award Ticket

This would also give you the chance to fly Thai Airways Business Class on a few different airplanes, such as the 747, 777, and A380!  In total, you would get ~20 hours in Business Class for less than 50,000 United Airlines miles!

4.   Free One-Way Flights Within Africa

United Airlines divides Africa into the 2 “regions” of Northern Africa and Central & Southern Africa.  But Central & Southern Africa covers some very far distances!

So you could add on a free flight between Johannesburg and the Seychelles, or between Cape Town and Nairobi, Kenya.  This could be especially useful for folks traveling to Europe or the Middle East who want to explore Africa as well.

Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Use Your Free One-Way Flight to Explore Different Parts of Africa

Your itinerary could be:

  • Dublin to Istanbul (15,000 United Airlines miles one-way in coach)
  • Johannesburg to Mauritius (Free one-way flight!)
  • Istanbul to Athens (15,000 United Airlines miles one-way in coach)

Note:   You still have to pay the taxes and fees on your “free” one-way flight!  Only the cost in miles is truly free.

Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Remember You Will Pay the Taxes on Your Free One-Way Flight!

Or, folks might consider booking this award in conjunction with a cheap round-trip fare from Europe or the Middle East.

5.   Explore the Caribbean and Latin America on One Itinerary

For folks based in the continental US, some of the above options require lots of travel.  More practically, you could use the free one-way flight with the United Airlines Excursionist Perk to visit additional cities in Central America and the Caribbean.

Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Use Your Free One-Way Flight to Save Miles and Explore More Cities in the Caribbean

For example, you could book the following itinerary:

  • Aruba to San Juan, Puerto Rico (10,000 United Airlines miles in coach)
  • San Jose, Costa Rica to Panama City (Free one-way flight!)
  • Belize City to Nassau, Bahamas (10,000 United Airlines miles in coach)

This itinerary would save you 10,000 United Airlines miles when booked in coach.  You can also stop in each destination for as long as you want, up to one year.  But remember that you would need to make other plans to travel to Aruba, from San Juan to San Jose, from Panama City to Belize City, and home from Nassau!

Exploit The Excursionist United Airlines Loophole For Free Segments Part 4 5 Crazy Ways To Use The Excursionist Perk For Big Travel

Use Any of the Above Flights as Your Free One-Way to Explore More of the Caribbean and Central America

For a family who wants to see a few different cities in the Caribbean, this strategy could be a great way to save miles!  This could be especially valuable in conjunction with the Southwest Companion PassBecause Southwest offers non-stop flights to Aruba, Belize City, Nassau, San Juan, and San Jose!

Bottom Line

By using the free one-way flight in creative ways, you can save tons of miles with the United Airlines Excursionist perk.  For many folks, the basic strategy of booking 2 one-way flights within Hawaii with a free one-way in another region can lead to big savings!

And using the Excursionist Perk in Business or First Class can lead to even more savings!  But remember that your free one-way flight can not be in a class of service higher than the flight preceding it.

Most importantly, remember that your free one-way flight must be within a single United Airlines award region.  So use your free flight in an expensive region if you want to get the best value!

Though incredibly valuable, the free one-way flight with the United Airlines Excursionist perk can be very confusing!  Leave any questions or comments below and I’ll try to help with the answers.

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10 responses to “Exploit The “Excursionist” United Airlines Loophole for Free Segments: Part 4 – 5 Crazy Ways to Use the Excursionist Perk for Big Travel

  1. if you need to change the free one way later, does that option exist, and if so, at what cost?

  2. these articles have been incredibly useful and informative. awesome. thanks!

  3. Not seeing any business seats option in Hawaii island hopping, is it all coach, so, any ‘Excursionist’ would be coach as well? Any suggestions for the best way to coordinate this efficiently with Business being the goal for the level of service?
    Thanks again,
    E

    • Million Mile Secrets

      @ Eric: Unfortunately, United Airlines only has access to coach award seats on partner Hawaiian Airlines. But you can still use the Excursionist Perk in Business Class if you plan carefully (most likely on two different trips)!

      For example:
      (March 1st) HNL-SFO: one-way Business Class award
      (April 1st) SFO-EWR: one-way Business Class (free Excursionist Perk flight)
      (August 1st) OGG-HNL: one-way coach award (consider “throwing away” this portion of the ticket)

      Hope that helps!

  4. If two one-way tickets to/from Italy have already been booked, can a perk ticket be issued afterwards (between the to/from flight dates)? Is there a time limit in which the perk ticket has to be arranged?

  5. If I am traveling to Hawaii anyway and island hopping, I was going to have 3 one way flights anyway…Honollulu – Kona, then Kona to Lihue….and finally #3 Lihue back to Honolulu…..with this deal can I get the middle flight for free? If so how, I cannot figure out how to make the United website show this?

    • Million Mile Secrets

      @ Justin: Unfortunately, you cannot use the free one-way flight in the award region where your travel originates (in this case, Hawaii). Sorry!