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Team member Keith accomplished the near-impossible. He flew his friends and family home — all together in Business Class — after a 2-week trip to New Zealand and Australia paying very little out of pocket.
Folks, THIS is the power of Big Travel with Small Money! Keith, please explain your strategy and how our Million Mile Secret Agents can do the same!
Keith: Thanks, Daraius! I know how frustrating it can be to find open award seats for multiple passengers. That’s why I was thrilled to redeem miles for 6 United Airlines Business Class Saver award seats.
My wife, in-laws, and family friends loved the comfortable lie-flat seats for the ~14 hour flight home.
Paying cash for the same 6 seats would have cost nearly $45,000! But by using miles, I only had to pay ~$540 out-of-pocket to cover the taxes & fees for all 6 award tickets.
The United Airlines Waitlist Strategy Actually Works!
Daraius recently shared a step-by-step guide to redeeming United Airlines miles to waitlist for Business Class or First Class award seats. I followed the guide and these exact steps for my successful award booking:
- Search and book a coach award flight on your desired route on United.com
- Check the airline seat map for available Business Class award seats on the same flight
- Call United Airlines to waitlist for a Business Class or First Class Saver award seat
- Wait (patiently) for the Business Class or First Class award seats to become available
This booking strategy does NOT guarantee you’ll secure Business Class or First Class award seats. But based on my experience (this was my first time), I think booking this way increases the odds significantly, especially on otherwise expensive long-haul routes. Plus, you’re not required to have elite status to book this way!
This strategy made sense for our trip because I was able to confirm 6 coach award seats ~7 months before our departure date. So I knew if the waitlist strategy didn’t work out, at least we’d still have flights home.
But thankfully it did work out! In total, my wife and I used 420,000 United Airlines miles (70,000 miles per person) and paid ~$540 in taxes & fees for all the Business Class award seats.
Note: Starting November 1, 2017, United Airlines will introduce new award pricing. One-way Business Class Saver award seats between the US and Australia will increase to 80,000 United Airlines miles.
Here are some tips and takeaways from my experience using the waitlist booking method.
1. Get Different Reservation Confirmation Numbers for Each Passenger
If you have one reservation confirmation for 6 passengers, the upgrades to Business Class or First Class will only clear if 6 Saver award seats become available at the same time. But if you book 6 individual reservations, the upgrades will clear one at a time and you’ll have a better chance at getting more seats.
That said, you could end up not having a 100% success rate and only 1 or 2 passengers could end up in Business Class or First Class. And keep in mind, your success with this strategy can vary depending on the route and number of open Business Class seats.
For example, if you use this strategy for a domestic flight, it’s highly unlikely you’ll secure Business Class award seats for a large group. United Airlines might never release Business Class Saver award seats because they’d rather try to sell the seats for cash. And if the seats don’t sell, folks with elite status will likely be the first to get an upgrade.
2. Patience, Patience, Patience!
I learned not all United Airlines customer service agents are familiar with the waitlist booking process. This means you could be on the phone for a long time.
I called 2 times and spent ~2 hours on the phone. Also, the airline has to process the waitlist manually, which takes some time if you’re doing this for multiple passengers.
3. You Must Have the Required Number of United Airlines Miles in Your Account to Book
When you call United Airlines to request to waitlist, you must have enough United Airlines miles in your account to cover the cost of the Saver level award ticket in Business Class or First Class.
For example, say you book a coach award ticket online for 40,000 United Airlines miles. If a Business Class award seat on the same route costs 70,000 United Airlines miles, you need 30,000 miles in your account to get on the waitlist.
And United Airlines will deduct these miles from your account, so you can’t use them for another flight while you wait to see if your upgrade is a success.
How Do You Earn 420,000 United Airlines Miles?
My wife and I take advantage of the best credit card deals to earn lucrative sign-up bonuses. And we each submit separate applications, so we both earn the sign-up bonus.
And we focus on collecting transferable points (especially Chase Ultimate Rewards points) because they give us the most travel flexibility. For this award booking, my wife and I combined Chase Ultimate Rewards points and transferred them directly to my United Airlines frequent flyer account.
These are excellent card offers that can earn you valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points!
|Card Name||Sign-Up Bonus|
|Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card||80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $800 in cash back or $1,000 in travel) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $500 in cash back or $625 in travel) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve℠||50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $500 in cash back or $750 in travel) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening|
And check out this post for all the ways to earn United Airlines miles!
Team member Keith used a United Airlines waitlist booking strategy to secure 6 Business Class Saver award seats home from Sydney. Paying cash for the same tickets would have cost nearly $45,000!
This booking method doesn’t guarantee you’ll fly in Business Class or First Class. But it’s a great option if you’re booking award flights for multiple passengers and have the miles in your account.