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How to Create Your Own Continental One Way Award

by on January 27, 2011 · 10 comments

in Continental, How To Guides, Points Guy Pointers

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UPDATE: Continental is now part of United.

Of all the US legacy carriers, I think Continental.com is the best when searching for award tickets. It’s a pretty shrewd engine that smartly searches award availability on United and US Airways as well as a host of other Star Alliance carriers like Lufthansa, Air Canada, LOT, TAP, BMI and Virgin Atlantic (note: Virgin Atlantic isn’t a Star Alliance partner, but a special Continental Onepass partner).

While Continental has a great award search engine, my single main issue with the program is that it charges the same price for a one way award as it does for a roundtrip. However,  they are very flexible with award pricing, which you can use to your benefit. Continental’s award system prices an award based on two portions: outbound and return, whereas unfriendly engines, like US Airways, will charge you for a first class award, even if the return is in coach. NOTE: Sometimes continental.com will code a multi-stop option as business class when the longest portion is actually in coach, so read my post on “sneaky” pricing before you do any continental.com bookings.

For example, if you only needed a one way North America to Europe award in business class, instead of paying 105,000 for a round-trip business class award (which is what a phone rep would quote you), you could book a multi-city itinerary that looks like this:
Leg 1- The trip you want to take, for ex JFK-FRA in business class (105,000 /2 = 52,500
Leg 2- FRA- MUC This leg would be included in the pricing of leg 1 because it would count as a stopover
Leg 3- MUC- LHR This leg is your “return” so choose a coach level intra-continental award (25,000 / 2)= 12,500

Total price of itinerary: 65,000 miles. While not 52,500, its definitely better than paying 105,000. Below is a screen shot of my fake example. While I included “fake” intra-european legs, you can also tack on domestic US flights that you may actually use in the future.  I’m pretty sure Continental wouldn’t support this method of ticketing, but until Onepass merges with United, or Continental decides to allow one-ways, it is an effective way to create your own quasi one way awards (at least for international trips).

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Jim Koenig

    This is a great post! I did this last week.Booked business Tpa-LHR on Virgin Atlantic (52,500) and a return Houston-Tpa coach (12,500) I just told them I was on a transatlantic cruise, and needed to get back to Tpa.

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  • AS

    Is there no requirement that the open jaw be the shortest segment? I’ve run into that issue before.

  • Eli

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but this would never ticket properly. The picture you have above is just the website telling you you can reserve it but if you tried ticketing it it would tell you to contact the helpdesk. It is not a legal trip. The JAW needs to be less mileage than BOTH the outbound AND the inbound (individually). In this cae the JAW (JFK-MUC) is more than the MUC-LHR flight.

  • The Points Guy

    Eli- hate to burst your bubble, but you are wrong. I have ticketed these online and even over the phone many times. While I’m sure there is the open jaw rule that AS mentioned, rules and reality are two very different things- especially when dealing with frequent flyer programs

  • Sanjay Sharma

    Question – how do you get an agent to agree to routing you as you suggest above. Is there something in the onepass award policy that I can point to “prove” that this is a valid routing.

    What I’m trying to do is the following

    Leg 1: BOM – EWR – SNA (stopover) – SFO
    Leg 2: SNA – EWR

    If I have to I’ll drop the SNA – EWR in leg 2 and make SNA – SFO my return leg (in case returning to EWR causes a problem).

    Alternatively – I’m open to the idea of making Leg 2 a SNA – EWR – somewhere in Europe. What I don’t want to do is to have to return to BOM.

    Would love any advice on how to convince CO agents that this is valid. When I try booking the flights as a multicity reward ticket, the engine freaks out and tells me to call CO.

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  • The Points Guy

    I’d try ticketing over the phone. Otherwise I’d just book BOM-EWR-SNA one way award by transferring your miles to United and then a 25k SNA-SFO (stop), SNA-EWR award

  • AS

    To Sanjay Sharma’s comment, I believe the problem you are experiencing is that the award engine sees you trying to take a stopover (SNA) and a double open jaw (fly BOM-SFO, return SNA-EWR).

    If you tried to make your return SFO-EWR you might have more luck since you are supposed to be able to issue a stopover and an open jaw but not a stopover and 2 open jaws. I would be curious to know how this plays out for you.

  • sanjay

    I’ll try SFO-EWR. The first agent I spoke to insisted I had to return to either BOM or DEL for her system to price it out. I’ll try again and see if I get a more helpful agent. If that doesn’t work, I’ll just do a BOM-EWR-SNA one way using United.

    Thanks for your suggestions. I’ll let you know what ends up working out.

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