All-New Ultimate Guide to United Airlines Miles: Part 5 – How to Unlock More Available Award Seats

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All-New Ultimate Guide to United Airlines Miles: Part 5 – How to Unlock More Available Award Seats

Million Mile SecretsAll-New Ultimate Guide to United Airlines Miles: Part 5 – How to Unlock More Available Award SeatsMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Expanded Award Availability With United Airlines Cards

One of the best perks of certain United Airlines credit cards is access to more available award seats on United Airlines.  These cards include:

This means that if you have one of these cards, you will see more available Saver award seats than if you didn’t have the credit card!  And often, there are extra award seats are available during peak travel times, on popular routes, and routes with limited flights.

Additionally, with these cards you get access to all Everyday (standard) awards, meaning you can use their miles to book seats on any United Airlines flight, even if it’s the last seat on the plane.  However, you will be charged double the amount of points of a Saver award.

Expanded Award Availability With United Cards
Folks With Chase United MileagePlus Explorer or Chase United Club Cards Can Unlock MORE Available Award Seats – Even the Last Seat on the Plane

But does this really work?  We checked it out!

All-New Ultimate Guide to United Airlines Miles Series Index

How Do You Know If You’re Seeing Extra Award Seats?

Link:   United Airlines

Link:   How to Search for and Book Award Seats Online

To see expanded available award seats, you must first sign into your United Airlines account (free to join!).  And the frequent flyer number on your United Airlines account must match the one attached to your United Airlines credit card.

Once you’ve logged-in, you can search for award flights as usual.  United Airlines marks flights that are only available to cardholders.  After searching for a flight, check your flight options.

Flights only available to cardholders will show “Exclusively available to you as a MileagePlus Chase Cardmember” under the flight details.

Expanded Award Availability With United Cards
If Your United Airlines Credit Card Is Giving You Extra Award Seats, You’ll See a Note Indicating That on Your Flight Choice

But do these extra award seats really make a difference for travelers?  We’ll show you a few examples of expanded award availability that comes with the United℠ Explorer Card, United MileagePlus® Explorer Business CardUnited MileagePlus® Club Card, and United MileagePlus® Club Business Card

Note:   For the more serious travel geeks out there, United Airlines books these awards into “XN” class.   These are the awards only available to cardholders and folks with Premier elite status.  🙂

Which Flights Have More Award Seats for Cardholders?

In our experience, we’ve only been able to find more available awards on coach flights, though theoretically it could apply to Business Class flights as well.  Additionally, we’ve seen more expanded availability on domestic flights, but have found a number of international flights too.

Remember, you’ll only find extra available award seats on flights operated by United Airlines and United Express planes, NOT partner flights.  However, this is often helpful for connecting on to partner flights, even if the partner flight is in Business Class.

1.   Chicago to Tokyo Over Summer Break

What better time to go to Tokyo than over summer break?  United Airlines cardholders get nearly double the dates for available Saver award seats on United Airlines’ non-stop Chicago to Tokyo route.

Expanded Award Availability With United Cards
If You Have a United Airlines Card, There Are Many Available Saver Award Dates on This Sample Search From Chicago to Tokyo

While you’d be able to find a seat with or without the card, having more non-stop Saver award flexibility is never a bad thing!

Expanded Award Availability With United Cards
Without a United Airlines Card, Fewer Days Offer Available Saver Awards From Chicago to Tokyo

Truthfully, though, this is a pretty minor difference.  Let’s dive deeper and see if we can find a more drastic change in available seats.

2.   New York City to Los Angeles on Labor Day

New York City to Los Angeles is one of the busiest routes in the US, and Saver award seats can be especially tricky to find during peak travel times, like Labor Day weekend.

With an eligible United Airlines card, there are plenty of available Saver award seats for 12,500 United Airlines miles one-way.

Expanded Award Availability With United Cards
United Airlines Cardholders Will See 2 Saver Award Flights for 12,500 United Airlines Miles One-Way on This Sample Search

If you don’t have an eligible United Airlines card, award seats are still available, but you’ll pay more miles.  The lowest priced one-way awards on some dates cost 15,000 United Airlines miles.

Expanded Award Availability With United Cards
The Lowest Priced Flight on the Same Date Without a United Airlines Card Is 15,000 United Airlines Miles

That’s a nice savings, especially if you’re traveling with a pal.  And, if you can take advantage of this perk regularly, it’s a good way to offset the annual fee on these cards.

3.   Chicago to Orange County On Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend, another peak travel time, is a notoriously hard time to find available award seats anywhere, especially if you’re headed to the beach.

However, if you an eligible card, you can find available Saver seats without an issue.  On some dates, you’ll save 12,500 United Airlines miles one-way.

Expanded Award Availability With United Cards
On This Sample Search, There Were Available Award Seats for 12,500 United Airlines Miles for United Airlines Cardholders

If you didn’t have an eligible card, you’d be stuck paying 25,000 United Airlines miles one-way for the same flight!

Expanded Award Availability With United Cards
Without an Eligible Card, You’d Pay Double the Miles

It’s times like this where having a United Airlines card really saves the day.

4.   Dallas to Fort Lauderdale for a Long Columbus Day Weekend

Taking the kids to Fort Lauderdale on Columbus Day?  United Airlines credit cards make it possible!  Dallas to Fort Lauderdale (connecting in Houston) costs only 12,500 United Airlines miles for a one-way Saver award when you have an eligible card.

Expanded Award Availability With United Cards
On This Sample Flight Search, You Can Fly for Only 12,500 Miles If You’re a Cardholder

On the other hand, folks without the card will pay 7,500 more United Airlines miles for the exact same flights!

Expanded Award Availability With United Cards
Without a Card, You’d Pay Much More for the Same Flights!

This can translate into huge savings if you’re traveling with your family or a group of friends.  For example, a family of 4 would save 30,000 United Airlines miles (7,500 miles per ticket X 4 people).  That’s more than enough for a one-way coach flight to Europe!

Is It Worth Getting a United Airlines Card Just for This Perk?

Yes and no.

While the United Airlines credit cards do offer some extra award seats, it’s not as drastic of a change as we wish it was.  On many searches, we simply saw more open flight times or different routings.  But if you don’t have a lot of flexibility when you travel, or often book trips last minute, this can be huge!

Keep in mind, United Airlines usually offers a decent number of available award seats if you book far enough in advance.  For example, we were able to find many Saver award tickets around the US during Thanksgiving (this post was written in April).

Expanded Award Availability With United Cards
Need to Get on a Last-Minute United Airlines Flight? These Cards Could Make a Huge Difference for You

So, your mileage may vary.  Available award seats change daily, so some days United Airlines may have more open seats than others.  This is especially true when booking international tickets at the last minute.

But one great perk of increased (even if minor) availability is connecting domestically to international hubs, even in Business Class.  Often,  United Airlines will open up a mixed-cabin award with the short domestic leg in coach, and the international segment in Business Class.  This saves you from having to buy an extra domestic leg with your ticket.

And if you collect United Airlines miles, these cards, and others, are good to consider for their sign-up bonuses and earning from ongoing spending.  You can check out all the best airline credit cards here.

Bottom Line

Folks with certain United Airlines credit cards get access to more available award seats on United Airlines (not partners), just like Premier elite members do.  These cards include:

This is a tremendous perk if you fly during peak travel times, like holidays and school breaks.  Or folks who often book last minute award flights.  You’ll see more Saver award seats (which can save you thousands of miles), and get access to all Everyday (standard) award seats (even if it’s the only seat left on the plane).

But this benefit is only useful on United Airlines and United Express planes.  If you’re looking for the best airline credit cards for your travel goals, consider your travel style and airline preferences before you pull the trigger on these cards.

Has your United Airlines credit card made a difference in your award travel bookings?  Let us know in the comments!

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“Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available.”

Hi can you specify which one(s) does not offer the Expanded Award Availability anymore?

My family and I currently live in Sydney, NSW and still have/generate UR points back in the states. Seeing as the Aus-USA routes are notoriously horrible for saver awards do you see value (more inventory) for any of the star alliance routes back to the US? Ive been looking for anything in April 2019 via expertflyer and found nothing to SYD – SFO/LAX/IAH even 337 days out.

Does “Additionally, with these cards you get access to all Everyday (standard) awards, meaning you can use their miles to book seats on any United Airlines flight, even if it’s the last seat on the plane.” mean:

“All Everyday award seats” is the same thing as “every seat on the plane”?

Yes, if you have the card you can book any open seat with United Airlines miles at the higher standard award price.

Thanks, Jason. Considering how difficult it can be to get an award seat with a reasonable itinerary/connection on American Airlines, that is truly a deal-breaker feature of United’s frequent flyer program.

Agreed, for me it’s actually the biggest reason to keep the card. It also gives you access to more Saver level awards as well, just like United Airlines elite status does.

Hi Keith – Great series on United! Will be covering in a future chapter upgrades using miles? And also, obtaining seats and upgrades when booking with United miles on the United website for a partner airline. Thanks.

Hi, CB, we’ve got a post on upgrading with United Airlines miles here:

https://millionmilesecrets.com/guides/the-everyday-persons-guide-to-upgrading-with-miles/

Which is the better United Business card and do either impact 5/24 rule? Thanks so much!

I like the United MileagePlus Explorer small business card because it offers a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus. You can read our full review of the card here:

https://millionmilesecrets.com/2016/11/08/united-small-business-credit-card/

Chase small business cards do not appear on your personal credit report, so they don’t count toward your “5/24” card limit. But if you’re already over 5/24, it’s unlikely you’ll be approved for this card.

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