I asked last week for readers to send me their questions. Some can be lumped together, but a few make for good posts by themselves. Here’s my first reply. Austin and MS wrote to ask how they would modify their existing award itineraries, including changing their dates of travel and the possibility of adding a “free one-way.”
Austin: I currently have a United award ticket booked to southeast Asia with an open jaw between Bangkok and Singapore (currently booked as PDX-BKK//SIN-PDX). I am looking to add an extra domestic one-way after a stopover in Portland as I believe the award rules allow it. I see Saver Award availability for all the domestic flights I want but there is not currently Saver Award availability for the flights I already have booked. Is it possible to add the additional segment without affecting the existing segments? If so, how? The website won’t price it out.
You already have an open jaw, but United’s rules for award tickets say you are permitted both an open jaw and a stopover (actually two open jaws and a stop over, but you only need one of each for a “free one-way”). You could thus make the stopover at your home airport (PDX) and then continue on with a “free one-way” at some point in the future. Travis from Extra Pack of Peanuts wrote a great post on my blog about this topic last year.
It is possible to add or remove segments from an award itinerary at any time without affecting the remainder of the reservation, at least as long as it still conforms to the rules for booking award travel — meaning you can’t add two stopovers and tell the agent you’ll “deal with it later.” However, making these changes online can be more difficult than booking an award in the first place.
You will likely need to call the reservations desk and explain you want to modify an existing itinerary. Tell them you want to add a stopover at Portland and give them the flight you want to add on to the end. They should be able to do so and reprice the award, letting you know if the number of miles or the cost of taxes have changed.
If you don’t have sufficient elite status with MileagePlus, then there will be a charge for the phone call ($25), as well as a charge for changing the destination of your award ($25-75). These fees are waived for Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members. You might be able to wiggle out of the phone fee if you explain that you were unable to make the change online.
MS: I’m currently booked from Los Angeles to Bangkok on an award flight in October using American Airlines miles. I was told I could make any changes to dates without penalties. I would like to extend my trip by a week, so do you have any suggestions when new award flights might become available or how to search for them online?
If you’re booked from Los Angeles to Bangkok, I’m guessing you are on a partner award, possibly with Cathay. You can search for award space using tools from British Airways or from Qantas. Click those links for more detailed instructions on using each tool. If the seats are available to their members, then they are likely also available to American Airlines members.
As for when that award space will become available, it’s a mystery to me. Others with direct experience may be able to give you a guess, but flights are often made available as awards only when the airline has a reasonable suspicion that it won’t be able to sell those seats. That verdict could be made several months out or several days.
Even if award space doesn’t open up earlier, a lot can change in the last week or two, sometimes even days before the flight you want. Since you only want to change the return date and not your outbound flight, this means you may find the award space you want right before or during your trip. It is free to change the return portion, even after travel begins, as long as the itinerary remains the same. However, ticketing fees ($75 per person) will apply if you make changes to the outbound journey less than 21 days before travel.
Make sure you have access to the Internet while you travel and fund your Skype account so you can make a low-cost call to American’s reservations department once you find the flight you want. Changing an itinerary is often much easier over the phone instead of online.