United Slashes 20% off Award Redemption to Europe: A Silver Lining?

United Airlines A320-232 cabin Iwelumo
Ken Iwelumo / Foter.com / GNU Free Documentation License

It seems United wants to make amends. And in the process re-train us to fly in economy class to Europe. What a daunting task!

Here is the United offer in its entirety. I took a liberty to highlight things I find important.

Save 20% on a MileagePlus Saver Award to Europe

Valid  Thu., Nov. 7, 2013 – Tue., Nov. 19, 2013  (Time Remaining: 13 days)
Posted  Wed., Nov. 6, 2013

Take advantage of this special offer on a United Economy® roundtrip Saver Award to Europe.

Whether you choose to retreat to a cozy resort in the Swiss Alps or enjoy Spanish cuisine and architecture in beautiful Barcelona, United Saver Awards make your dreams come true with a limited-time 20% discount.

Book: November 6 – November 19, 2013
Travel: January 13 – March 11, 2014

Book now

Terms and conditions

  • Saver Awards discount valid only for air travel. Promotion period ends 11:59 p.m. (CT) on November 19, 2013.
  • Offer is valid for travel completed between January 13, 2014, and March 11, 2014.
  • Discount on Saver Awards to Europe is valid only for travel on United- and United Express®-operated flights and is not valid on United-marketed codeshare flights operated by other carriers.
  • Discounted Saver Award is valid only for travel between the U.S. (excluding Hawaii) or Canada, and Europe.
  • Discount is valid only for roundtrip travel in United Economy.
  • For this offer, a roundtrip is defined as travel from an origin city to a destination city with return travel beginning in the outbound destination city back to the first origin city with all segments on flights operated by United or United Express. A segment is defined as one takeoff and one landing. Stopovers do not qualify for this offer.
  • Tickets must be purchased at least 21 days in advance to qualify for this discount.
  • Open jaw itineraries within the same region do qualify for the Saver Award discount to Europe (e.g., fly into Chicago O’Hare and out of New York/Newark).
  • This offer cannot be applied to previously issued tickets.
  • Passenger is responsible for all taxes, fees, baggage fees and surcharges applicable to award travel, including, with respect to government-imposed taxes and fees; passenger facility charges (PFCs) of up to $18 per roundtrip; September 11th Security Fee of up to $10 per roundtrip (one-way travel may incur fees in excess of $5); U.S. segment tax of $3.90 for each domestic segment (takeoff and landing); U.S. excise tax of $17.20 for each international arrival and departure in the U.S.; U.S. inspection fees of up to $17.20 for each arrival in the U.S.; and non-U.S. government ticket taxes, fees and airport charges. As of June 1, 2013, all taxes, fees and surcharges may add up to $265 per ticket. Such taxes, fees and surcharges must be paid at the time of ticketing and are subject to change. Any valid, unused award ticket may be returned to the MileagePlus Service Center for a refund, subject to a service charge, up to one year from the date of issue. Award seats are subject to availability and capacity-control restrictions. For more information on MileagePlus award travel, visit united.com/awards.
  • Travel on award tickets is not eligible for mileage accrual in United MileagePlus or any other loyalty program.
  • Not combinable with other offers.
  • Combinable with other award types (e.g., member can redeem Standard Awards one way and Saver Awards one way) but only the flight segment purchased with a Saver Award will be eligible for discount.
  • Only members with Global ServicesSM status and primary cardholders of select MileagePlus Credit Cards issued by Chase are eligible for upgrades on award tickets.
  • Changes to travel dates are permitted in advance by calling United Reservations. Changes may be subject to additional service fees of up to $200 per ticket (based on account status at time that miles were redeemed):
    • Applicable service charges may be imposed for each requested change that necessitates the re-issuance of the ticket.
    • If a wholly unused ticket is exchanged for travel outside of the promotion period, the mileage will be credited back into the member’s account, subject to an applicable service charge, and a new ticket will be issued at the mileage-redemption rate commensurate with the new award.
  • If the value of a partially used ticket is applied to travel outside of the promotion period, a new one-way ticket must be purchased or a new one-way award at the applicable mileage-redemption rate must be redeemed. The unused return portion of the ticket is not valid for travel and cannot be credited back into the member’s account.
  • Redemption of additional award miles may be required if any portion of the itinerary is outside of the promotion period.

    Additional terms and conditions

    • Miles accrued, awards, and benefits issued are subject to change and are subject to the rules of the United MileagePlus program. United may change the MileagePlus program including, but not limited to, rules, regulations, travel awards and special offers or terminate the MileagePlus program at any time and without notice. United and its subsidiaries, affiliates and agents are not responsible for any products and services of other participating companies and partners.

    • United and MileagePlus are registered service marks. For complete details about the MileagePlus program, go to united.com.

    • Additional MileagePlus terms and conditions apply.

United Airlines – Offer

What comes to mind when you see this offer? Well, it’s decent. Flying to Europe for 48,000 MileagePlus miles in Economy can only be beat by flying to Europe for 40,000 AAdvantage miles in economy (till May 15), or flying from Boston to Dublin for 25,000 Avios in Economy (50,000 in business), or flying to Europe pretty much at any time of the year for 43,000 ANA miles in economy (68,000 in business). So, yeah, this offer can be beat, but it’s still good enough if you actually do want to go to Europe in winter anyway.

Here are a few pointers.

1. You must fly all the way down to your destination and back on United or United Express. Trickery won’t work (I tried).

2. You can’t fly between Hawaii and Europe, but Alaska is OK.

3. You can’t have a stopover, but can have an open jaw. Use cheap Avios, trains, or low-fare European airlines if United can’t get you where you want to go on their own metal.

Here are the examples of what will work with this offer. (click to enlarge). First example is is an open-jaw flight: NYC-ZRH, and FRA-NYC.

United ZRH FRA

And the second is the simplest direct flight to Europe on United you will find. Both qualify for the low 48,000-mile award.

United ZRH

Of course, to a cynical mind it would seem that United is throwing us a bone to compensate (somewhat) for their Halloween Night massacre, and well, what do you know–my cynical mind is fine with that.


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