The dust has settled and new pricing is in effect at United MileagePlus. I dragged my feet in booking and ended up with three award reservations at the last minute. I won’t keep them all, but I’d rather pay a $25 redeposit fee (for Gold members) than pay 20-25K more miles for the identical one-way trip later on.
Lately, my travel has tended to be less about destination and more about product. With the exception of two trips to Germany each year with my family, I have not been able to justify the time to actually take a trip purely for the destination. There always has to be an underlying product to justify it.
My last-minute bookings with United continue that trend.
Trip One: Thai First Class Sydney to Bangkok to Hong Kong – 40K miles
I was foolish for procrastinating, but I was genuinely surprised at how almost all of the Thai First Class space dried up the day before the devaluation. I don’t believe Thai pulled the space, even though there was ample first class space available just two days before. Instead, I think people just booked it up.
I’ve flown Thai First Class before–many, many times–but figured this may be my last chance in several years to try it.
Trip Two: Thai 787-8 + A350 Business Class Hanoi to Melbourne – 30K miles
In terms of choosing the most helpful product reviews for the blog, I figure business class is going to be more valuable than first class. I wanted an itinerary with both the 787-9 and A350, but had to settle for a 787-8 (which has a 2-2-2 business class product rather than 1-2-1 reverse herringbone product). The trip starts in Hanoi, which is a city I have wanted to visit more than a decade.
Trip Three: Thai 787-9 Business Class Hong Kong to Queenstown – 30K miles
Perhaps the single most valuable product I can review is the Thai 787-9. I love the A350 in almost all ways more than the 787-9, but Thai’s 787-9 has a much better seat. Hong Kong to Bangkok is a 777-300 which I’ve flown before several times and I added Auckland to Queenstown for the heck of it — it would be nice if I can work in the time to visit, but can always end the trip in Auckland.
Exploiting the Excursionist Perk
Above is what I initially booked, but then it dawned on me at the absolute last moment…why not use the Excursionist Perk?
United now calls stopovers an “Excursionist Perk”. I’ve outlined details here. Put simply, the Excursionist Perk is a free one-way trip within a single region that is not the region you started it. It’s complicated…
For Trip One, I added a free segment from Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia to Guangzhou, China. I figure that rather than spending time in Hong Kong, I’ll head up to Mongolia but need to get back to take the second ticket from Hong Kong to either Melbourne or Queenstown.
Why didn’t I book it from Ulaanbaatar to Hong Kong? Because Mainland China and Mongolia are in North Asia and Hong Kong is classified in South Asia.
That normally would have added 22.5K additional miles, but because I also added an 8K segment from Queenstown to Auckland, the 22.5K price tag was zeroed. How? In order to get the free Excuristionst Perk, you must simply have a segment that ends the trip in your region of departure.
So my trip started in Sydney (Australia/New Zealand region) and ends in Auckland (same region).
Trip Two + Three
For Trip Two, I added a free segment from Johannesburg to Dakkar in business class, normally 30K miles. To get the 30K segment for “free” I also had to add a domestic one-way segment on Thai from Bangkok to Koh Samui.
Yes, there is no georgprahic restriction of any kind on the Excursitionst Perk–it just must be a one-way award within a single region. I figured this would give me a chance test out South African’s new A330 business class at a later date.
For the third trip, since I do not plan to fly both Trip Tw0 and Trip Three, I booked an identical Excursionist Perk from Johannesburg to Dakar.
If you’re unclear what exactly the Excursionist Perk, come hear my talk on it at FTU Expo in a few weeks in Chicago.
I am amused by my last-minute redemptions and hope to ultimately fly on at least two of the tickets. Of course the positioning costs on a trip like this have the chance to become enormous…but maybe it will lead to other opportunities, like TAAG Angola Airlines.
Did you book anything crazy before the devaluation?