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Maximizing United Miles: An Award to Asia and Free Long Stop in Hawaii

One of my favorite current features of United Airlines miles is the ability to have stopovers on award tickets between different regions. If I have the time, I like scheduling a long stopover on my vacation as it lets me visit two destinations for the price of one. When I visited Kenya in 2012, I made a 3 day stop in Copenhagen flying in Business and First class all the way! On my recent trip to Asia, I was able to stop in Hawaii along the way and spend a week enjoying Maui and Kauai! The award ticket was still priced at a single round-trip price.

I got to enjoy sunsets from the pool for a week in Hawaii en route to Asia

I got to enjoy sunsets from the pool for a week in Hawaii en route to Asia

Schedule Stopovers to Asia in Europe or Hawaii

When traveling to Asia, Hawaii is completely on the way if you go over the Pacific Ocean. On the other hand, if you go over the Atlantic, Europe is completely on the way. You can schedule a stopover for several days, a week, a month in Hawaii or Europe on the way to Asia and not have to pay any extra miles for the privilege.

What is a stopover?

A stopover is a location where one stops for more than 24 hours on the way to the destination. Any stopovers under 24 hours don’t count and are free.

United allows a stopover and two open jaws on it’s round-trip award tickets between different regions. So if you’re flying to Japan, for example, a stop in Hawaii is completely free and can be used as the one stopover. The following route would cost right now according to the United Airlines Interactive Award Chart:

  • 65,000 miles round-trip total in economy
  • 120,000 miles round-trip total in business class

Of course, United Airlines is scheduled to change its award chart and devaluate at the end of the month and this trip will cost 70,000 miles in economy and 130,000 – 150,000 in business class depending on whether partner flights are involved.

A stopover in Hawaii on the way to Tokyo

A stopover in Hawaii on the way to Tokyo

My Trip: A Stopover in Hawaii and an Open-Jaw in Asia

Since I actually wanted to visit more cities, I had a more complex itinerary than just a single stopover. My plan was to stop in Hawaii for a week and then spend another 10 days flying around Asia visiting Singapore, Phuket and Tokyo.

What is an open-jaw?

An open jaw can occur at three points: origin (leaving from one city and returning to another), stopover (stopping in one city and continuing from another), destination (flying into one city and returning from another).

Because I had already used up my one stopover in Hawaii, I could not have any more stopovers in Asia. But I did create an open-jaw between Singapore and Tokyo in Asia. I flew into Singapore and returned from Tokyo. In addition, because I wanted to visit both Maui and Kauai, I created an open-jaw at my stopover too. Now I had:

  • Stopover at Maui
  • Open-jaw at the stopover between Maui and Kauai
  • Open-jaw at the destination between Singapore and Tokyo

The whole thing cost me 125,000 miles round-trip flying business class and here is what my route looked like. Of course, I was still responsible for inter-island flights and flights within Asia, but I did cover a lot of my trip with the 125,000 miles! Of, course there is no non-stop flight from Kauai to Singapore (I wish – that was a long journey!) so I did have a few more connections along the way!

Flying into Singapore and back from Tokyo with a stop in Hawaii along the way

Flying into Singapore and back from Tokyo with a stop in Hawaii along the way

A round-trip to Asia in business class normally costs 120,000 miles and I will explain where the extra 5,000 miles came from. When traveling from Kauai to Singapore, I had to take an interisland flight from Kauai to Oahu to connect to my flight to Tokyo. As that flight is on Hawaiian Airways, United charges an additional 5,000 miles for such flights.

Booking the Award

Most of the award space can be searched right on United Airlines’ website except for Singapore Airlines’ award space, which is no longer shown. You will have to call United Airlines customer service at 1-800-UNITED1 for that.

Otherwise, I recommend searching a single leg at a time for award availability. The United multi-city search engine is a little bit quirky and not all the routes always come up. In fact, it rejects routes that are completely valid. Searching a single leg means breaking up your trip into its individual portions. If you want to visit Tokyo and stop in Honolulu, then you should search:

  • New York to Honolulu
  • Honolulu to Tokyo
  • Tokyo to New York

Find what’s available (Saver awards are in Blue, not Yellow!), write down all the flight numbers and then go to United Airlines Multiple Destinations Search Engine.

United Airlines Award Availability

United Airlines Award Availability

If all your flights come up, great! You can book it right online. If not, don’t worry. Just call United Airlines Customer Service at 1-800-UNITED1 and have an agent book it for you online. Just make sure to already be prepared with all your flights numbers and award availability so you get the exact flights you want!

Who else has had exciting stopovers on the way to Asia? Or on the way to other destinations?

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  1. Robert says

    Was I wrong in my thinking or just not educated enough? Last week, I booked two business tickets for my parents who are about to visit us in NYC. However, I was told that my itinerary is against the rules thus there are 2 separate tickets purchased for them., i.e. GDN-MUC on May 10 (20K miles) from where we’d go to LHR with BA and return 2 days later also with BA but to FRA, thus finally we got FRA-JFK (2-week stay) and returning flight JFK-FRA-GDN (100K miles).

    • says

      It’s not clear which miles you used for the long segments and how long you stayed in each city, but basically here is the breakdown:

      With United miles, you can fly GDN-JFK round-trip and schedule a free stopover in a city along the way for as long as you like (up to a year from the date of ticket issue). This can be LHR or FRA depending on which was the point you wanted as a stopover, but you can only choose one as a stopover.

      With American Airlines miles, all tickets are booked as one-ways and no stopovers are permitted outside the US. You do get a free stopover in your international gateway city in North America, but this is JFK in your case and going elsewhere in North America wasn’t in your plans. Thus, with American Airlines miles, if you want to have stopovers in Europe, you’d need to book separate tickets.

      • Robert says

        Sorry for the confusion. Let me give you some more details on the flights. First of all, we’re about to fly with my wife to LHR, thus our initial itinerary was: JFK-MUC, one night with friends, MUC-LHR, a weekend stay in London and then returning flight LHR-FRA-JFK. In the meantime, my parents would have the following plan: LHR-MUC-LHR (we’d meet at MUC in order to go to London) and finally, LHR-FRA-JFK (for two weeks) in order to return JFK-FRA-GDN. Everything was perfect, except for the fact that we ended up paying around $1900 in taxes for 4 persons!!
        As an alternative, we’ll have such plan: JFK-FRA-MUC and returning flight LHR-FRA-JFK which turns out to cost us 300-smth for 2 and 100K UA miles. My parents, on the other hands had to get 2 separates tickets EACH respectively. Once agian, GDN-MUC plus later FRA-JFK and JFK-FRA-GDN for another less than $300.
        As for the flights to and from LHR we used 36K Avios and $220 in taxes for all 4 of us. It let us save some $900!
        But again, is such itinerary not allowed, i.e. GDN-MUC, FRA-JFK-FRA-GDN??

        • says

          The itinerary GDN-MUC, FRA-JFK, JFK-FRA-GDN is allowed as that’s one stopover and one open jaw (at the stopover). Having an open jaw at the stopover can be done, but I’ve found some agents are reluctant to book it claiming that it’s not allowed so it sometimes takes a bit more work and some “hang up, call again”.

          Alternately, you can definitely book MUC-LHR (stop), LHR-JFK, JFK-FRA-GDN if that would work for your itinerary as there’s no longer an open jaw at the stopover.

          • Robert says

            Thank you, but going through LHR has already been excluded, as per my indicated cost analysis :) The very first part of your detailed answer proves me I was not wrong. Now, after the tickets have been confirmed I have nothing else left but to send them a complaint hopping they may return some of the miles redeemed.

  2. Dave says

    One thing to note I just ran into. It appears you need to head back in the direction you came. Going out over the Pacific and returning over the Atlantic wants to price out as a round-the-world, even when following the rules.

    I’m currently scheduled to go IAD-NRT (stopover) – BKK (openjaw) HKT-ICN-ORD-IAD. I was hoping to get an interesting 23 hour connection someplace, and tried to change my return to HKT-BKK-SIN-ADD-IAD. It would have only been four flights, without backtracking, and 15 hours in ADD. Should have been a legal routing, but the rep said she tried everything but it kept on trying to price it out as a round-the-world because I’m not headed back the same direction I came.

    Have you heard of this issue before, or should I just try again?

  3. Peter says

    Hi – Is ITO-HKG-(open jaw)-TPE-LIH-SFO valid routing on UA for an award flight?

    I’m able to book ITO-HKG-TPE-LIH at 67,000, but ITO-HKG-(open jaw)-TPE-LIH is 75,000 miles, and ITO-HKG-(open jaw)-TPE-LIH-SFO is 121,000. I can’t figure out why the flight options are different between TPE-LIH (same dates) for different search parameters, and why I’m not able to see the same flight options between LIH-SFO as I do when just searching for the LIH-SFO segment as a one-way.



  1. […] This ticket cost me 120,000 miles and about $50 in taxes. This ticket allowed me to fly all my large segments in business class. United Airlines allows a stopover and two-open jaws so this was a legal routing on United Airlines and a great way to maximize miles! For full details on how I planned and booked this ticket, read my post: Maximizing United Miles: An Award to Asia and Free Long Stop in Hawaii. […]

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