Can I Use Partners To Book United's Expanded Award Availability?
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"Reader Questions" are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.
One of the best and most unique features of the United credit cards is expanded award availability. But TPG reader Christopher wants to know if it might be possible to book that extra space using miles from someone else...
[pullquote source="TPG Reader Christopher"]If I have a United credit card which opens up more award options, will I be able to use Singapore KrisFlyer miles to book that space?[/pullquote]
Unlike some credit card perks which might not be as good as advertised, United honestly does open up more award space to elite members and people who carry either the United MileagePlus Explorer Card or the United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card, and sometimes in significant amounts. If you have one of these two United credit cards, you can easily see the difference by doing the same award search at united.com twice — the first time not signed into your MileagePlus account and then a second time while signed in. The increased space on United flights is thanks to your United card.
So how can you book this space? Obviously you can use miles in your United MileagePlus account, or since United is one of Chase's 11 travel partners, you can instantly transfer points from Ultimate Rewards to your MileagePlus account and book an expanded award that way. But since the extra space shows up as additional "Saver" level award space, you would think you should be able to book those seats with miles from any of United's Star Alliance partners as well, right?
Unfortunately, though, that isn't the case. Even though United's expanded award space looks like it's coming from the same fare bucket, it's actually loaded into a separate fare bucket (which you can see using United's "expert mode"). For instance, regular United economy award space is in the "X" fare class, while the expanded economy award space is in the "XN" fare class.
What this means is that when you go to book an award on United using another airline's miles, not only can that airline only book awards using United's low-level award space, it can only book into United's regular low-level award space. So any extra space you see when you're searching on United while signed into your MileagePlus account can only be booked with United MileagePlus miles.
So if you're searching United for award space with the intention of booking using another airline's miles and you have one of the United credit cards, it's important to make sure you are not signed into your MileagePlus account. That way you'll know you're only seeing space that is actually bookable by the partner airline.
Sorry for the bad news, Christopher, but hopefully this helps you avoid chasing space you can't use. Thanks for the question, and if you're a TPG reader who'd like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.