a seat in an airplane

First things first- this is sort of complicated. But it’s also fully awesome. In recent years, United’s loyalty program has undergone changes, and some of them have created new opportunities. If you’d enjoy tacking on a free flight in any cabin- just for booking flights using points cleverly- tune in. And maybe grab a cup of coffee, this will take a bit- and our advertisers would love it.

a seat with a stack of towels on itBuy Three Get One Free

In it’s simplest form: this is a three one way flights using points, get one free. Unfortunately, the stipulations and rules convolute it all a bit- but that’s what it is. Dubbed the “excursionist” perk, this is a wonderful way to see more destinations on a single trip, while perhaps tagging on a completely unrelated- but free one way flight somewhere else.

a sunset over a beachSame Finish

To be eligible for the “buy three, get one free” excursionist perk- you’ll need to start and finish your trip in the same region. In other words- if you start in the U.S, your final one way flight must end in the U.S. It doesn’t have to be the same city, though. If you do so- your three one way flights will make you eligible for the free one. We all like freebies.

Amalfi Coast on a hill by the water

Free Anywhere

Your freebie doesn’t have to be related to the other flights you’re taking- as long as it’s not the last one in the booking. So yeah, if your main trip is from the US to Asia, it’s totally ok to add in a one way flight within South America at some time in between. The only rule is that your freebie must start and end in the same region, and it cannot take place in the location you start. Luckily, many regions are quite large (and worth exploring!).

a seat in an airplane

Example Time

This is an exciting opportunity because there’s no real time limit, and there’s no advantage to booking round trip, anyway. Here’s an example that would work using the excursionist perk, potentially saving you 30k miles. The key is booking them all in one sitting, likely over the phone.

Business Class- New York to Tokyo in January – 80,000 Points.

Business Class- Tokyo to Hong Kong in January- 35,000 Points.

Business Class- Hong Kong to Singapore In January- 0 Points (Excursionist). 

Business Class- Singapore To Los Angeles in February- 75,000 points. 

This is a pretty standard example, but if you have your segments spaced out over months, you could add in a free segment somewhere in the middle- anywhere on earth. You can also over course weave in other trips in between the segments booked with United and it’s partners here.


a city skyline with a body of waterThe Takeaways

For such a numbers and figures “game”, creativity is kinda the key here. The takeaway is- if you plan to book a round trip flight using United MileagePlus miles, you may do much better making it a multi city trip. By adding just one segment to your flight, you can get a free extra flight segment anywhere in the world in the same class. Other than the freebie not taking place in the region you start in, there aren’t too many other rules. Cool by us!


Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. “…….many regions are quiet (sic) large…..” I recently traveled throughout southeast Asia. While it was quite large, it wasn’t all that quiet.

  2. I used this in May to deplete my UA miles…NYC – AMS J class on UA, AMS – VIE J class on Austrian (free segment), and VIE – NYC on Austrian J class. 127.5K points RT. That’s a lot of points to go to Europe, but it was a really good use of UA points. The real trick in doing this, however, is managing to get direct flights. UA is horrible with awards, often routing you on lower end products to other places with layovers instead of your destination.

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