This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
When United MileagePlus changed its award routing and booking rules a few weeks ago
many of us were sad at the loss of the “free one way” flight that was possible if you maximized United’s zones, stopovers, and open-jaw award booking rules. We knew that United would be introducing a new “Excursionist Perk” instead of the old stopover and open-jaw rules, but we didn’t know exactly what that would translate to in practice…in other words, we didn’t yet know how to push the boundaries and maximize our miles to the fullest extent of the rules and United computers.
Fortunately it didn’t take too long for some folks to start really testing what is possible, so I wanted to share a little bit about what is known about maximizing United’s new rules and new free segment/Excursionist Perk based both on my own searches as well as reviewing some very detailed posts from Travel is Free, One Mile at a Time, and MileValue.
While I will review a few points about the new United award rules that you need to understand, really maximizing the new United award rules, to me, requires a certain state of mind and the ability to plan a couple trips at once. This won’t be helpful for everyone, but it has many uses even if your family doesn’t frequently transit far off corners of the world. Trust me.
United Free Segment/Excursionist Perk Rules….Written and Unwritten
- You can get up to one free segment on multi-city award trips with at least three segments. The free segment is called the Excursionist Perk.
- The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates. This means you need to understand how they define regions. You can get the country specific breakdown here, but the 17 regions are: Mainland US/Canada/Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, Northern South America, Southern South America, Europe, Middle East, Northern Africa, Central & Southern Africa, North Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Japan, Oceania, Australia & New Zealand.
- The Excursionist Perk can be in any other region than where your travel originates as long as it doesn’t cross back into/connect in other regions.
- Travel must end in the same MileagePlus defined region where travel originates according to the actual rules…only that isn’t totally accurate in practice. It just must go back to that region. It can actually end in a different region as you will see in some examples.
- The cabin of service and award type of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it. In other words, business/first on the free segment is still free as long as the segment before it is in business/first.
- If two or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit, only the first occurrence will be free so the order of your flights matters.
- The Excursionist Perk/free segment can actually be the most expensive mileage segment in your award…before it becomes free anyway.
You are going to have to use the Multi-City tool to book awards with the Excursionist Perk. You are going to also have to include travel that is in at least two different zones, though the Excursionist Perk does not have to occur in the same zones as any of the rest of your travel. For example, you can have a standard US – Europe round trip in business class for 115,000 miles round trip and then add on a free Excursionist Perk in business class from say Singapore – Vietnam.
You also opt to utilize the cheapest United award flights within Hawaii via intra-island hops that cost you 6,000 miles each, but then have your free Excursionist Perk be a trans-con flight within the lower 48 from New York to San Francisco that normally costs 12,500 miles, and ultimately would have cost more than the two flights you are paying for combined.
Booked individually these flights would have cost 24,500 instead of the 12,000. Via the Excursionist Perk it can cost you less to book more. Go figure.
Also of note is that your Excursionist Perk apparently can be the only part of your itinerary that is in a different zone….
Below is another example of an award that does not end in the same zone it starts in. Normally the Sydney – Auckland award on Air New Zealand costs 17,500, but thanks to it being the Excursionist Perk in this example it also happens to come with a round trip from Houston to Kansas for just a few more miles. Normally this would all ring in at 37,500 miles, but booked together here you only pay 20,000 + taxes/fees.
This isn’t a US specific thing either. You can do something like an intra-Europe round trip and then add on a free segment within another region afterwards. Or in the middle. Or almost anywhere but the beginning.
Honestly once you get the hang of this, it is almost like the free segment just pops up in all your searches as long as it is outside your original region, you have at least three total segments, and the free segment is wholly within a different region (doesn’t cross into another region via connections).
I could give more extreme examples of all of this, but I encourage you to just start playing with it once you sort of grasp the written and unwritten basics. Have you been able to put the new United Excursionist Perk/free segment award to use?
Know before you go.
News and deals straight to your inbox every day.
NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel