Here's Part 1 of the Award Redemption, where I showed how you can save 30,000 miles from a business class redemption and get a free one way trip from the Carribean, Mexico or Central America to the US. Here's the booking again:
LAX – SJD (Los Cabos International) One way paid flight for $129 – Economy
SJD-LAX (Stopover) – First
LAX-BKK/Bangkok (Destination) – Business
BKK-LAX (Return) – Business
LAX-SJD (Throwaway) – Economy
To elaborate, I first booked a very cheap one-way flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Cabo San Lucas Mexico (SJD) for $129 as a paid fare. After relaxing in the sun for a few days, for my return, I started my US Airways award redemption from Mexico to Los Angeles on United, a Star Alliance partner. This allowed me to start the award in Mexico, which is essential to getting the 30,000 mile discount to South Asia. Remember, North America to South Asia is 120k miles in business, but Mexico to South Asia is 90k miles.
US Airways redemptions allow either one stopover or an open jaw. To take full advantage of this loophole, I used LAX as my "stopover". This also added the benefit of giving me time to "stopover" in my hometown for anywhere up to 12 months. This is particularly useful for me because I can usually only get 7-10 days off from work at a time. Being away for 3 days in Cabo San Lucas would've eaten into my time in South Asia. This particular LA "stopover" was for 3 months which gave me enough time in between my mini-vacation in Cabo and my main vacation in Thailand.
For the next segment, I booked a business class seat from LAX to Bangkok (BKK) on Thai Airways (another Star Alliance partner) as my main "destination". At the time, Thai Airways had a nonstop option from LAX to BKK, but they've since discontinued this flight. However, there are plentiful options from LAX to BKK with Seoul and now Osaka as stops that usually have good availability. What awaited me in Bangkok was a weeklong celebration of Siamese food, Muay Thai matches and the infamous Bangkok nightlife.
Finally, on the return flight, I booked a business class flight from Bangkok back to Los Angeles. This is the trickiest part of the itinerary: LA is effectively my final destination but to construct a valid award booking, I needed to book a final segment from LAX back to Cabo San Lucas (SJD), the airport from where I started this itinerary. This is due to the fact that I already used my "stopover" in LA three months prior and had no open jaw option left.
Not wanting to go back to Cabo, I merely booked a "throwaway" segment from LAX-SJD with the intention of not getting on the flight at all. The only requirement was that it had to be within 24 hours of arriving in LA from Bangkok. In fact, I knew I wasn't going to fly on that segment, so I booked the final leg of the trip in Economy. I guess if I had a common name I could give away the flight for free, although I don't know how the TSA would feel about such generosity.
To summarize, using this loophole, I paid $129 for my one way fare to Cabo, $162 for the taxes and fees to travel from Mexico to LA to Bangkok and back and 90,000 US Airways miles. In doing this, I effectively redeemed a roundtrip flight to Cabo, a long haul business class flight to Thailand and saved 30,000 US Airways miles which I conservatively value at $600. In my estimation, the 30,000 miles alone were worth the $129 fare, and I also got a mini vacation to Mexico out of this great loophole.
Although I wanted to go over other sample itineraries in this post, I feel that there's enough detail here to justify starting a Part III. In that post, I'll detail different permutations, such as using your stopover for another vacation destination instead of at home. I'll also elaborate on some tips and warnings for these types of bookings.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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