Whenever I add a new airline, hotel chain or rental car company to my growing list of programs to which I have affiliation, I need some time to learn about the new program. Last month was my introduction to United Airlines. Just as I started to have some basic understanding of Continental Airlines they merged with United and this resulted in changes in the rules for award tickets. Before the merger we had booked our trip to Hawaii and used all of our Continental miles. At first I did not think that I was that interested in earning United miles until I saw the great availability on the United website for award tickets. This started because of the large number of US Airways Dividend miles I have and had some trouble using.
One of the best free ways to check for award availability using US Airways Dividend miles is on the United Airlines website. Since both US Airways and United are members of the Star Alliance link you can earn and redeem miles from these partners. So you can use United miles to fly on US Airways or the other way around. But there are many differences between the programs. The program where you take the miles from not the airline you fly are the rules you must follow for award tickets.
Using United miles has to two big benefits:
1-No award booking fees
2-One way award tickets
Without status US Airways charges the following award processing fees per ticket-$25 continental U.S./Alaska/Canada, $35 Latin America/Caribbean, $50 Hawaii/Europe/Middle East/South America. United does not charge these fees. One of the big negatives about United that you may not put an award ticket on hold. United does have a 24 cancellation policy from time of booking which avoids cancellation fees.
Booking an award ticket using United miles is much easier than it seems. I mistakenly thought once I had a confirmation number my award tickets were booked as with other airlines. No you have to wait days to find out if you really have a ticket.
I used a telephone agent for booking, because I was making changes to my Continental award tickets and I wanted to avoid the change fees. My original flights numbers and times had been changed, so waiving the fees was not a problem. Finding an agent with the knowledge to assist me was very difficult. It took me four tries to finally get a hold of someone to book the flights I needed. The agent advised me I would receive an email confirmation within 72 hours, but I received no confirmation. So on the fourth day after attempting to make my reservation, I tried several times before I again found a knowledgeable agent. She was able to correct the problems with my reservation. Since one of the legs of our flights is on US Airways, I confirmed with them that our flight had actually been ticketed.
So if you book an award ticket on United check and double check your reservation. You save the US Airways booking fee, but expect to put in much more time. I hate paying award booking fees, but booking an award on United with a stopover is much more time consuming than I had ever imagined.