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Little-Known Way to Book a United Airlines Business or First Class Saver Award Seat

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Little-Known Way to Book a United Airlines Business or First Class Saver Award Seat

Million Mile SecretsLittle-Known Way to Book a United Airlines Business or First Class Saver Award SeatMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Folks wanting to redeem miles to fly in Business or First Class on United Airlines typically look for low-level Saver award seats.  Because you use ~50% fewer miles for these discounted award seats compared to booking “Standard” or “Everyday” awards.

United Airlines usually only releases a limited number of low-level award seats.  And on certain routes, Saver award seats aren’t available until the last minute.  This is NOT ideal for folks who like to plan ahead.

But there’s a booking strategy that can increase your chances of securing a Business Class or First Class Saver award seat.  You can get a confirmed coach seat and be on the top of the waitlist if Saver award seats open up.

Waitlist For United Airlines Business Class Award Seat
There’s a Booking Method to Increase Your Chances of Getting a Business Class or First Class Saver Award Seat!

I’ll share how you can waitlist for a United Airlines Business Class or First Class Saver award seat.

This United Airlines Booking Strategy Requires Patience!

Link:   Changes to United Airlines Awards – What You Need to Know

Link:   How to Navigate United.com Award Calendar

If you don’t see any Business Class or First Class Saver award seats available when booking a flight with United Airlines miles, there’s still hope.

Because United Airlines allows you to book a coach award seat.  Then, you can get on a waitlist should a Business or First Class Saver award seat become available before your flight.

This booking method requires a lot of patience!  Team member Keith recently used this strategy to waitlist for 6 Business Class award seats from Sydney to Los Angeles.  And he spent 2+ hours on the phone with United Airlines because they have to manually process the tickets!

Waitlist For United Airlines Business Class Award Seat
To Waitlist for a United Airlines Business or First Class Saver Award Seat, You Must Call United Airlines! Be Prepared to Spend a Long Time on the Phone!

Here’s a step-by-step guide to using United Airlines miles to waitlist for a Business or First Class award seat.

1.   Search and Book a Coach Award Flight

First, search for an award flight on United.com and enter your desired travel dates.

For example, I searched for a one-way award flight from Sydney to Los Angeles in September 2017.  There’s a coach Saver award seat available for 40,000 United Airlines miles.  But there’s no Business Class Saver award seat available.

Waitlist For United Airlines Business Class Award Seat
You Might Get Lucky and Find a Business Class Saver Award, Which Means You Won’t Have to Call United Airlines and Get on the Waitlist!

From experience, I know Business and First Class award seats on this flight open up at the very last minute.  Because I booked this same flight 3 days before I went to surprise my mom in Australia for her 60th birthday.

At this point, you can use miles to book the coach award seat online.  You have the option to book over the phone in a later step.  But you can avoid any ticketing fees by booking online.

Keep in mind, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a Business Class or First Class seat.  So I’d only move forward with this step if you’re comfortable flying coach.

2.   Check the Airline Seat Map

Checking the seat map is an optional step.  But I think it’s helpful when you’re using this booking method.

Within the award flight search, click on “Seats.”  Then, you’ll see a layout of the airplane.  In the below example, the orange seats mean there are 13 Business Class seats still available.

Waitlist For United Airlines Business Class Award Seat
Checking the Seat Map Can Give You an Idea of How Many Business Class Seats Are Still Available

Just because there are Business Class seats available in the seat map does NOT mean you can book one as a low-level Saver award.  United Airlines usually tries to sell many of these seats to folks paying cash.

But seeing how many seats are available can help you decide if it’s worth it to waitlist for multiple travelers.

For example, if the seat maps show only 1 Business Class seat available, it’s unlikely you’ll have success getting multiple award tickets for the discounted award flight price.

3.   Call United Airlines to Waitlist for a Business Class or First Class Saver Award Seat

Now, the step that requires patience!

Call United Airlines at 800-864-8331 and request to waitlist for a Business Class or First Class Saver award seat.  At this point, you must have enough United Airlines miles in your account to cover the cost of the award ticket in Business or First Class.

In the earlier example, the coach award seat from Sydney to Los Angeles costs 40,000 United Airlines miles.  And a Business Class Saver award seat for this route costs 70,000 United Airlines miles.

So if you already booked the coach ticket for 40,000 miles, you must have an additional 30,000 miles in your account to waitlist for the Business Class seat (70,000 miles for Business Class Saver ticket – 40,000 miles for coach ticket).  Then, United Airlines will deduct miles from your account as if you booked the Business or First Class ticket.

Waitlist For United Airlines Business Class Award Seat
You Must Have the Required Number of Miles in Your United Airlines Account in Order to Waitlist for a Business or First Class Saver Award Seat

Note:   Effective November 1, 2017, United Airlines will introduce new award pricing.

Keep in mind, not all United Airlines customer service agents are familiar with the waitlist booking process.  Be sure to explain that you already booked a coach ticket with miles and just want to waitlist for a Business or First Class Saver award seat.

4.   Check Your Reservation for the Waitlist Designation

United Airlines will manually process your request to waitlist for a Saver award seat in Business Class or First Class.

To confirm you’re on the waitlist, you can log-in to your frequent flyer account.  Then, go to your reservations.  You should see “I class requested” within your flight details.

Waitlist For United Airlines Business Class Award Seat
You’ll See “I Class Requested” in Your Reservation Details, Which Means You’re on the Waitlist

5.   Wait for the Business Class or First Class Award Seat to Become Available

At this point, you’re automatically on the waitlist to fly in Business or First Class should a saver award seat open up prior to departure.

One of the benefits of booking this way is you’ll at least have a confirmed coach seat.  So you don’t have to wait until the last minute to book an award flight, which is good for folks who like to plan ahead.

And if a discounted Business or First Class Saver award seat doesn’t become available before your flight, you’ll receive a refund of the additional miles you paid.

Bottom Line

It’s possible to get on a waitlist for a discounted Business Class or First Class United Airlines Saver award ticket.

You can book a coach award ticket online.  Then, call United Airlines at 800-864-8331 to get on the waitlist for a Business or First Class Saver award seat.  If a Saver award seat becomes available before your flight, you’ll automatically get it!

Keep in mind, you must have enough United Airlines miles in your account to cover the cost of the Business or First Class award ticket.  There’s no guarantee a Business Class or First Class Saver award seat will open up.  But often times, United Airlines doesn’t release these seats until the last minute.

Have you tried this booking method?  I’d love to hear your experience!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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I guess this route/method does not work anymore to waitlist for Business or First Saver award seat?

Is an X/XN – “I requested” higher or lower prioritized than a paid fare with a mileage upgrade request?

I recently tried the method (which I used successfully many many times !) but they told me that they rolled out a new computer system and this is no longer possible !!!!! 🙁

I have done this several times in the past. I was also just told that the new computer system does not allow them to do this anymore. They said even if i request I class and deduct miles, the computer system will not even read it. Bummer.

I tried this strategy earlier this year for flights to and from HI and it didn’t work. I believe the order of clearing the biz class seats no longer gives priority to higher mileage usage or time of request. The most important criteria is MP status. I am gold and when I booked it there were tons of seats available. The front ended up full — families, kids. I suspect the platinum and 1K passengers got priority even tho we were 1 & 2 on the “upgrade list”.

Hi Abby – the waitlist strategy is most useful on routes where United Airlines releases Saver award seats prior to departure vs. using this method to guarantee an upgrade on the day of departure. In your case, it sounds like United Airlines didn’t make any Saver award seats available and priority for upgrades was given to folks with elite status, which makes sense.

Hi Keith —I agree. However, the lack of transparency in the process makes me question whether ANY saver seats are ever open anymore on popular routes that lots of high status passengers fly. I search and search far in advance and all the biz/first saver awards come up as “waitlist”. ‍♀️

Something happened 4-5 years ago with the availability of First Class saver awards. From 2006 to approximately 2015′ I flew on United from PHL to NRT (Tokyo) with either paid Business Class (and upgrade to First) or saver award First Class. I would search and book the saver First Class usually 2-3 weeks in advance and I ALWAYS found one. Since then they ARE NOT opened up anymore. I have switched to American and can usually find a saver Business Class seat (it’s like First Class on United because their are no First Class seats and the bed is just as good as the United First Class.). Note that I hold million mile status on United and have been Global Service between (2008-2014), but because of the exorbitant prices for First Class (used to be round trip for $6500, now over $16,000, whereas equivalent Business Class on American I can always get for approximately $7,000, basically same seat as United First.) I still have over 500,000 miles in my United account but now fly to Tokyo 5 times a year using American Business Class, either using saver awards or paying roundtrip price of $7,000. I will not fly coach anymore unless domestic USA.

I am traveling from ATL to MEL and SYD to ATL on a business class saver ticket. The routing to MEL is thru Houston and LA. The Houston and LA segments are in coach and the LA to MEL is in Polaris. The return is similar, Syd to Houston in Polaris and Houston to ATL in coach. Would calling United and asking to get waitlisted work for this scenario also?

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