9+ Business Class Award Seats Open On United’s Toughest-To-Get International Flights Through 12/6/21

On Monday I woke up to the CEO of Qantas says he expected Australia to re-open to international travel in July, so I booked award seats to visit my family there. Anything international is speculative at this point, but miles are great for their flexibility. I can cancel and redeposit those miles at no cost.

In case the trip I booked doesn’t work out, I’ve gone ahead and booked a couple more sets of 3 business class award roundtrips for later in 2021 thanks to United opening up award seats across the board on many of its toughest to get routes like Houston – Sydney and San Francisco – Singapore.

United Airlines, Houston – Sydney for 3 Passengers

Zach Honig at The Points Guy reports on this phenomenon and flags destinations like San Francisco – Bangalore, San Francisco – Tel Aviv, and Newark – Venice (albeit this last with only modest availability).

I’m sufficiently starved for international travel that I’ll even take United’s old business class, if it turns out they don’t swap in a Boeing 787-9 with Polaris seats for my flights, though they’re making progress with retrofits so hopefully I’ll luck out.

I especially like San Francisco – Singapore as a gateway to additional destinations in Asia, like Bali or the Maldives (connecting on United’s Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines).

This is unlikely to last long. You can book this with programs including:

  • Aeroplan (Amex transfer partner)
  • ANA (Amex transfer partner, but takes ~ 48 hours and no award holds)
  • Avianca LifeMiles (sells miles cheap and partners with Citibank, Amex, and Capital One)
  • Turkish (Citi transfer partner, often pricing is cheapest but can be difficult to work with)

However I made my own bookings using a stash of United miles I’ve held for quite some time. That’s because:

  1. These are speculative bookings, so I didn’t really want to transfer a bank currency and give up the flexibility for where I’ll move points later.

  2. Schedules are in flux, if my flights cancel I can get United to open up space on other flights rather than being constrained to what’s available on points.

  3. Their pricing for Australia in particular at 80,000 miles per person each way (including my domestic connecting flights) is non-crazy.

If you’ve got your eye on any destination United serves, or can get you to a gateway for, now is a good time to search for award space.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Great news. I was blown away back in February last year when I found last minute saver award space on that IAH-SYD UA101 flight. I was originally booked through Tokyo but flight was cancelled. AUS-IAH-SYD was perfect although that IAH-SYD was 17hrs50mins but in sitting in J made it much more tolerable

  2. My guess is that AU/NZ will require vaccination. And that’s why family planning will be a challenge.

  3. Alas I’ve lost my GS/1K status and now am a lowly Gold. If I book an award now, can I cancel/refund/redeposit later with no fee? (Miles back to the account, taxes to the credit card — none of this ETC nonsense which they still owe me from March on a paid ticket)

  4. SFO-SIN is good for going on to MLE but it’s less than optimal for DSP. TPE is the better option there.

    I’m tempted. I’ve never been to Singapore and I want to go. But I want to do it right and fly SQ not United.

  5. I think the family planning comment is related to the fact that children can’t get the vaccine but adults can. This can make a family trip challenging if the country requires proof of vaccination and not just negative PCR. But in these times, I suppose it could be a sterilization conspiracy comment.

  6. Let’s not discourage the crazy anti-vaxxers from their senseless skepticism. My sincere hope is that they will remain steadfast in their refusal to get the vaccine which in turn help minimise the waiting time for one for the rest of us.

    Darwin will continue to be proven correct when we see what eventually happens to some of these anti-vaxxers

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