I’ve been working on a post for the past few days that I intended to schedule tomorrow with a nugget of wisdom within about increased United business class availability in April and May of next year. Then, this morning, we saw that Million Mile Secrets posted about successfully booking a ticket between Newark and Honolulu using Turkish Miles and Smiles to fly on United in business class and I realized it was only a matter of time before another blog picks up on the availability and reports it. A longer post is coming about my own trials and tribulations booking United awards with Turkish miles (short story: I successfully booked 3 seats in lie-flats on the nonstop flight from Newark to Honolulu for travel next spring, but it wasn’t easy). In the meantime, I wanted to alert readers before the cat inevitably comes out of the bag on the award space: in April and May 2021, there is decent award availability in lie-flat United business class on transcontinental flights and flights to/from Hawaii. Much of the transcon space is easily bookable on the Turkish website.
- Very good business class space in lie-flat seats on United on both transcontinental flights and flights to/from Hawaii in April and May 2021
- Book via United for 35K miles one-way on transcons or 50K one-way to Hawaii
- Book via LifeMiles for 40K one-way to Hawaii (there is a 25% Citi transfer bonus)
- Book via Turkish Miles & Smiles for 12.5K miles each way
- Note my adjective choice — “very good”. That’s not “amazing”, not “phenomenal” — but any nonstop award space is better than usual and this much is good. It’s not going to be the best flight times or days in most cases.
I’ve been running searches constantly this week ever since I noticed that United is showing saver availability on nonstop flights between Newark and Honolulu in April and May 2021. On some dates, I found three seats on the nonstop. However, I couldn’t get those flights to show up at the Turkish Airlines website and phone agents weren’t finding them, either. More on that in the next post. The short story is that it won’t be easy to book the direct flights from Newark to/from Honolulu.
However, you can easily find dates with seats in lie-flat business class between Newark and San Francisco or Los Angeles.
As you can see above, that space is by and large bookable online at TurkishAirlines.com. And in some cases there are as many as three seats available.
And if you don’t mind connecting to get to/from Hawaii, you can easily find availability between Honolulu and Newark that connects on the west coast.
It’s not just San Francisco that has the transcontinental flights available. This is a look at Los Angeles to Newark in business class — again, the dotted lines indicate dates with nonstop saver availability that should at least in theory be bookable via Turkish (and it mostly is).
As a reminder, you’ll need to save additional passengers to your account in order to book for others (and I believe that the Miles & Smiles member using his/her miles to ticket the flight needs to be on the reservation when you book online, whereas you can book seats for others over the phone or via email).
To book online, don’t forget that you have to click your name, then “Miles Transactions”, then use the Star Alliance booking tool.
Searching from the home page will not work. See our Guide to booking United flights with Turkish Miles & Smiles for more detail.
If you don’t yet have the miles in your account to book, you’ll want to call Turkish to get a hold on the dates/flights you want (again, see that guide to booking United flights with Turkish for details on how to do it). I was given a hold of three days.
As noted above, don’t get your hopes up on the long-haul to Hawaii, but if you’re looking for the transcons or either west coast or Denver to Hawaii, you are at least fairly likely to be able to either book online or over the phone without too much difficulty (Though YMMV — I ran into one agent this week who told me that I could definitely use my Turkish miles to book a flight on United, but he insisted that I had to contact United to do that and there was no way Turkish could do it. If you get that guy on your first call, just hang up and call again. Trust me.).
Note that I didn’t see any flights showing new Polaris business class. I haven’t tracked which airlines are flying which aircraft on which route in light of hugely decreased demand. I’m not sure whether United is no longer flying planes configured with the newer Polaris business class domestically or there just wasn’t availability on those flights. I’m not sure it would matter what you booked, anyway. Anybody who claims to know which of these flights will really be operated and with which equipment in April or May of 2021 has a crystal ball that is better than mine.
And that leads to an important point: if United has some significant schedule change, you may be in for a headache. Turkish charges a change or cancellation fee of $25 in advance of departure or $50 to redeposit if you no-show. We had one reader who recently reported that he was quoted $200 per passenger to cancel and despite his protests pointing to the online terms that state $25 per passenger, phone agents only reduced the fee to $150 per passenger. That seems like a poorly-informed agent rather than policy — I was quoted the $25 change fee policy on the phone once again earlier today, so that is both the policy in writing and the one being quoted by agents during the booking process. The last time I canceled an award, the miles instantly redeposited and I was able to use them to ticket another award on the same phone call — but, again, we’ve had some reports recently from readers whose miles didn’t appear immediately after canceling. YMMV given the current state of affairs.
Still, I was able to put all that aside and give this a go. I figured there just aren’t many times when I’ll get a chance to book domestic lie-flat United space for three passengers. I don’t expect to travel without my kids any time soon, so I had to jump on this while I could and just hope for the best that life is something resembling “normal” eight months from now.
On that note, along with being unsure of the flight schedule, we obviously don’t know what the situation will be like in terms of quarantines / travel restrictions. I know that Hawaii has seen an increase in COVID cases recently and there is talk of accepting visitors but keeping them within a “resort bubble”. That wouldn’t appeal to me, so I realize I am taking a chance on this that I may be able to go but not want to go when the time comes. Somewhat as a hedge, I booked a nonstop from Newark to Hawaii but booked my return from the west coast to Newark – I’ll book a separate flight from Hawaii back to the west coast using miles or a United voucher that I have. That’ll enable me to break up the trip and visit family in the Bay Area on the way back — or, if Hawaii doesn’t come together, I still have half a trip booked.
Again, I’ll have an additional post coming about my recent frustrations with Turkish, but I wanted to give readers a crack at this award space given the increased attention there might be on United searches after the Million Mile Secrets post. If you have Turkish miles in your account, it certainly may be worth using them now. For those transferring, it really makes sense to call and get a hold first. My recent transfers took less than 24 hours, but you want to have a hold on the space so that it doesn’t disappear.
Just wanted to give a data point about what happens in the case of a schedule change in case it’s helpful. So United cancelled my direct EWR to HNL flight in business class (received no email, just decided to check my reservation on United’s website). United reconfirmed the flight into non direct flights, and fortunately I remained in business class (3 out of the 4 segments were still lie flat in their better Polaris product fortunately! One 5hr segment was traditional domestic first class). When I called United to see if I could better optimize the flights, they informed me that I could only select other flights with award availability, of which there were none (I figured I might have additional flexibility given that they cancelled the flight, but alas). If I wanted to keep the reassignments they had given me, they said I needed to call Turkish Airlines to reissue the ticket. I got very sad upon hearing this news, given my initial experience trying to book the flight. Anyway, I called Turkish Airlines, and after waiting on hold for 10 mins (despite their automated system persistently saying saying there would only be a 1 minute wait), I connected to an agent who promptly transferred me to another number upon hearing the reason for my call. After waiting another 15 mins (despite their system saying it was a 2 minute wait), the second agent informed me that I had been transferred to the wrong place (think it was something like a customer complaint department). He transferred me again (another 15 mins wait despite the system saying 5 minutes), and I finally got an agent who seemed to know what he was doing. He tried twice to reissue the ticket, but was unable to do so. He said I would need to go to a Turkish office to get it reissued (which is 2 hrs away!), or he said I could try emailing the ticket office in NY. I sent the email yesterday afternoon, and I am awaiting a response. The saga continues…hoping they can reissue the ticket so we can finally go on vacation!
Ugh. That stinks. I recommend emailing several offices. I’d recommend trying a few foreign offices. I’ve only once ever gotten a response out of the NY office.
Thanks Nick. Any recommendations on particular ones you have had good success with? Guess it doesn’t hurt to try a few in parallel. Thanks again!
One of the smaller international offices came through and reissued the ticket (emailed virtually every office in the US and never got a response). My new itinerary is EWR – DEN – HNL on the way out, and HNL – SFO – EWR on the way back. Not sure if I should be reading into this, but when I view the reservation on the United website, it seems to list the DEN – HNL and HNL – SFO together as a single segment, with a 213h “layover”. Is this typical for United? I don’t recall seeing it this way before Turkish Airlines reissued the ticket, but I could be mistaken. Is this something that needs to be sorted out? The biggest risk is that my bags would be checked through to SFO, even though they’re supposed to stop in HNL (which would be a major problem!).
[…] week, we reported the increased business class availability in April and May 2021 on United transcontinent…. I followed that up with the story about booking a trip to Hawaii for next year — including […]
[…] get a hold of 24hrs for an itinerary booked within 7 days of departure. That said, we had a reader who was quoted a hold time of 2 hours yesterday, so YMMV in the craziness that is […]
(Though YMMV — I ran into one agent this week who told me that I could definitely use my Turkish miles to book a flight on United, but he insisted that I had to contact United to do that and there was no way Turkish could do it. If you get that guy on your first call, just hang up and call again. Trust me.).
I hope you recorded that. That is quite the claim ( I guess he needs to spend some more time on FM)
I literally laughed. I don’t think he did. I couldn’t help it.
I was able to put the reservation on hold, but they told me the hold only lasts for 2hrs. Have you encountered this? Any way to extend? I tried calling again, and they told me it was not possible to change.
No, that’s the first I’ve heard of anything like that. I’m betting they were wrong.
The shortest hold I’ve gotten was 24hrs when booking fewer than 7 days in advance.
The agents always seem to not know how long the hold will be before the system issues it — they always say the system will generate it and tell us how long I have to pay for the ticket. It always seems to be a surprise for the agent, but I’m not sure why. It’s consistently been 72hrs for flights booked more than 7 days in advance and 24hrs for flights within 7 days. I’d be very surprised if it was really 2hrs. I don’t think an agent could mess it up even if they tried to because the system generates it.
When I go into the reservation on the website, it does in fact say 2 hrs! That’s not much of a hold!
Well that’s awful. The Turkish system is befuddling.
“It’s consistently been 72hrs for flights booked more than 24 hours in advance”
I am confused about this. Maybe 24 days in advance?
Sorry, what it should have said is:
Book 7 or more days in advance = 72 hour hold
Book within 7 days of departure = 24 hour hold
That’s been the case for me, anyway.
Thank you for the follow up.
Has anyone else had trouble searching for more than one seat? I added a companion to my profile, but am still getting an error message when searching for two seats.
If you get an error message, that would normally mean there is no availability on the date you tried. Did you find saver space for two on United.com first?
I am also getting this error, even after adding companions. My error appears before it even searches for anything (immediately after selecting >1 in the drop down).
Yup, it’s happening before I even search a route.
did you find any solution?
Unfortunately, I called in 5 times… the only agent who could see the non-stop was adamant that I can only put flights on hold online (which is not possible).
Yeah, that’s difficult. I haven’t had anyone who saw the availability and couldn’t put a hold on it, but given the range of incompetence / inconsistency, I don’t doubt that this could happen.
Actually, during the award I ticketed today, the agent asked me if I put it on hold online. Is there a button somewhere we’re missing to do that? Because that would be nice…..
Update. found someone, she said she can’t put it on hold BUT
you can book and pay later. I think it’s just they don’t understand the term hold. The price is the same I asked to proceed with booking and pay later and she said that worked. and she gave me a PNR.
Going to transfer miles now. Thanks a lot, this is awesome, going to hawaii for 15 days in may for my bday for 25,000 RT in biz!
Awesome! Congrats. That’s an exciting feeling, isn’t it? Here’s hoping for the best!
For the record, every agent I’ve dealt with so far seems to understand the concept of a hold, but given the way they set these reservations up (giving you a PNR that you can look up on United and use to select seats even before you’ve paid for it), it totally makes sense why explaining it that way might make sense.
Where did you find Star Alliance booking tool after clicking Miles Transactions?
Never mind. I had to complete my profile for it to appear.
Interesting! I didn’t know that. You learn something new about Turkish every day.
MMS actually writes things? I honestly thought it was a bunch of bots collecting conversions & ad revenue or whatever. I’m not joking.
Yup. The last I knew, they had a staff of writers. I don’t know much about the inner workings, but they do have people writing stuff :-).
Till this Mess is over (years) your better dealing with US metal .I canceled United ,AA and Singapore points on a United Flt .
Aruba or Bust !!