United MileagePlus miles are back on sale until the 15th of August. The maximum bonus is 100% and this promotion is open for all MileagePlus members.
The promotion is tiered but the maximum bonus kicks in at 30k and there aren’t too many uses for UA miles that would require a purchase of less than that. With a 100% bonus, the cost per mile works out to be about US$0.019 including tax.
MileagePlus redemptions allow one stopover on return award tickets and I had always assumed that the stopover would need to be in a hub city. It turns out that assumption was wrong! I haven’t had time to fully pin down all the parameters around it but it seems as though you can pretty much have a stopover wherever you want as long as there’s award availability and some sort of logic to the itinerary, enough at least that the booking engine can put it together.
When you combine this with the awesome award rates for travel to South East Asia from Australia, 30k in business class or 40k in first per direction, you can put together a pretty epic itinerary for peanuts.
As an example, if you were looking at using Thai Airways to Bali in business class from Sydney, I would have assumed that Bangkok would be the only option for a stopover on that award ticket. Actually, you can just as easily have Phuket as the stopover for no additional miles!
This award return ticket from Sydney to Bali actually goes SYD-BKK-HKT-BKK-DPS-BKK-SYD all in business class! As you can see, you can still squeeze in overnight stops in Bangkok as long as they are under 24hrs.
With a bonus of 100%, the cost to purchase enough miles for this itinerary would be US$1128.75 plus AU$165 taxes making a total of about AU$1647 all in!!!
There are heaps of other opportunities using these stopovers as well. ANA who fly between Sydney and Tokyo and Asiana who fly between Sydney and Seoul, both offer quite a bit of partner award availability between Australia and Asia. Thai Airways are by far the most generous though. They’re also really good when it comes to first class award availability and at a marginal cost of 10k miles per direction, as if you wouldn’t!
I would never recommend speculatively buying miles. Purchasing United miles can be a fantastic way to secure cheap flights, particularly in business and first class cabins, but I would suggest only doing so when you have firm travel plans and have already confirmed there is award availability on your dates/routes.