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United Offers Award Flights for Just 20,000 Miles

For the sixth time this year, United is discounting award travel to one or more regions.

In this case, the discount is 5,000 miles—so 20,000 miles instead of the 25,000 normally required—for coach flights within the U.S. and to Canada. Reservations must be made between October 12 and October 19, for travel between January 10 and April 30 of next year.

Deal or No Deal

A 20 percent discount on the most popular award type is an attention-getter, certainly.

But there is a nasty aspect to this offer: the very narrow window to book at the discounted rates. Giving your customers just one week to commit to trips three or more months in the future is a significant disincentive.

As a travel company, United presumably knows that. So perhaps it’s the airline’s way of keeping the increase in demand for award travel within limits. Perhaps.

If I were a cynic—and let’s face it, most travelers are—I’d suspect that United was counting on customers later having to change or cancel their discounted bookings, both of which generate, ta-da!, fees for United.

Warts and dark intentions aside, this is an offer that provides real value for those who are prepared to book now, and are confident their travel plans won’t change.

Reality Check

Question for Mileage Plus members: Is the snooze-you-lose aspect of this a deal-breaker for you? How far in advance are you comfortable booking your flights?

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