As most of you know, United is devaluing their mileage program pretty significantly in the next few days. Most travel bloggers have recommended burning any stray United miles now, especially in international business and first class cabins. Here is the way I did it and also some tips on maximizing the value of your award:
1. Get the best relative deal – I've always been a value oriented person and I consider myself pretty knowledgeable when it comes to getting good deals. Certain awards such as domestic economy awards and flights from North America to South America aren't going up very much at all. However, other flights (first class to the Middle East, Central Asia and India) are going up by almost double! If you're like me and get a thrill out of maximizing your purchases, consider first class redemptions on Star Alliance Partners to pretty much anywhere international with the exception of South America.
2. Go somewhere you've always wanted to go – Having made my previous point of maximizing miles, don't just go to places just because you're going to get the most monetary "value" out of your miles. I've been to Dubai a few times and although I think it's a fascinating culture, I'm not just going to go there because it's going to be roughly 90% more expensive to get there in the next few days.
3. Be creative with routings – I just booked a trip yesterday using 70,000 of my pre-devalued United miles from Los Angeles to Singapore in premium cabins. Although there were some relatively direct routings, being an airline enthusiast, I thought it'd be fun to try some new premium cabins, especially before they become so expensive that I'll likely never fly them again. Hence my itinerary was a positioning Los Angeles to Chicago flight on United domestic first class, Chicago to Tokyo Narita in the new ANA Square First class cabin, and then finally Tokyo Narita to Singapore on ANA's 787. I've never flown with ANA (much less their new Square First Class configuration) or on a 787 before, so this was a great opportunity to try these cabins and save 50,000 miles in the process one way.
4. Consider one way tickets – As noted in point three, I ended up booking a one way award from Los Angeles to Singapore. The reason I did this is because I only had access to enough miles for a first class ticket. However, with the new 100,000 mile bonus that Torsten talked about here, I'll have enough miles to comfortably get me back from Singapore on a Oneworld partner. Since the trip is in November, I'm confident I'll be able to make the spend on the card, get the bonus and still have time to book an amazing trip back on a premium cabin on Cathay Pacific.