I frequent United Airlines as I really like their award redemptions and service. You can fly most Star Alliance airlines anywhere around the world but foreign carriers are not allowed to fly between points in the United States as it is considered a violation of Cabotage Rules.
Most airline frequent flyer programs consider award chart redemption based on regions. The United States is a region, as is Asia, Australia, Europe, Middle East and so on. Some US based airlines even break down the USA into the 48 States and Alaska/Hawaii. Foreign carriers typically will not break up the US into regions. There are many US Territories in the world and you can click here for a complete list.
So thinking outside of the box you will find that the island Territory of Guam is considered part of the United States. You can fly to Guam via Japan, Hong Kong, Honolulu and Taiwan. You HAVE to connect, but you don’t have to make the connection. United Airlines considers this an international USA-Asia redemption.
Using the above example to fly business class redeeming United Airlines Mileage Plus miles it would cost you 60,000 mile each way to Guam (or Tokyo if you just left the airport).
But by using another Star Alliance carrier’s frequent flyer program, Avianca Taca LifeMiles allows you to book the same flights and you can reduce the miles required to between 10,000-25,000 per person one way depending on how much cash you are willing to co-pay for the award ticket plus taxes and booking fees. Below is a search on the LifeMiles award booking site and you will find similar flights from Newark to Guam via Tokyo Narita Airport.
The redemption rate for this business class flight is oneway 25,000 LifeMiles and no cash (except for booking fees and taxes) verses United Airlines MileagePluse rate of 60,000 miles plus USD$99.90.
Using the toggle at the bottom of the above image you can adjust the whether you want to pay more money or more miles. Dropping the miles down the lowest level is 10,000 miles one way plus USD$236.40.
A round trip ticket will just be double the one way ticket price. If you only want to go to Tokyo or other connection location you would want to get a one-way ticket for each direction separately and use something like Avios or a paid ticket to get from you from the connecting location back to Guam for the return ticket home.
There are reports that using the Avianca Taca LifeMiles website you can book to Asia via three different airlines. The website it very temperamental and you will often have errors and timeouts. There is a pretty indepth forum on the Australian Frequent Flyer Forum that openly discusses this.
You can also get a US Bank LifeMiles Visa credit card that has 20,000 bonus miles on first use and earn more miles with the card. I am not an affiliate of this card. LifeMiles is not an affiliate of Starwood or American Express Membership Rewards for transfer purposes.
Booking this award with LifeMiles and flying USA-Taipei-Guam on EVA Airlines creates the Cabotage situation and is an illegal routing. There have been many reports of this being bookable. Oh, and if you decide to leave the plane at a connection city you want to make sure you do not have any checked baggage as they will continue on to the final destination.
And one more thing, many bloggers HAVE written about this for over a year but I don’t feel like tipping the hat today.
And for @flyertalkerinA2, the short version of this post: Use LifeMile to get to Asia for a cheap redemption to Guam. No ads below this post!
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UPDATE: 09/22/13 Comments closed. 11/18/13 Comments opened.