United Airlines: Award Flights For 5,000 MIles Make Triumphant Return

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Over the past few months, we’ve seen many airlines scramble to fill seats. Most of their ideas were not creative nor successful.

In mid-April when the amount of passengers passing through TSA check points bottomed out (95% less passengers than in 2019), we saw many airlines attempt to counteract the trend by offering rock-bottom deals including transcontinental flights for $30 one-way.

I trust the idea placed a few additional people on the plane but when airlines realized that passengers were genuinely not interested and a low price was no longer a motivator, they eliminated many other motivators including the reduced award tickets.


In late 2019, United started down the path towards dynamic award pricing by removing its own award chart and confusing everyone that was not familiar with what the “real price” should be. Then in early 2020, United removed partner award charts while everyone was distracted with COVID-19.

One bright spot among this chaos was a phenomenal motivator to fly with United…. reduced award tickets but United also eliminated these when they discovered people were not flying.

When reduced award tickets were available, they could be had for between 5,000-7,000 miles. These specific award tickets were not highly advertised but they could be found with a bit of research.

Well, there’s good news. Reduced award tickets are back and I’ve found quite a bit of availability.


I want to be clear by saying that I am not encouraging anyone to travel simply because the prices are low(er). I am simply highlighting what is available should you need/want to travel.

Most of the tickets that I found were in late Fall, a few during Winter, and then increasing again (in availability, not in price) in early Spring. But the only way to know if they are available is to search for a specific city pair.

Generally, when searching on United, it shows results in 7-day increments. I recommend viewing the 30-day calendar as it will make your search 10 times easier.

It’s also worth noting that as of early April 2020, United is now eliminating all the fees associated with redepositing your miles for the remainder of 2020 as long as you cancel your flight more than 30 days before departure. And yes, that’s for ALL MileagePlus members not just elites.


For those not familiar with what the “normal price” is because United eliminated its award chart, typically, a saver award ticket cost 12,500 miles, however, I’ve found a number of routes that have reduced pricing.

I began my search with United Airlines’ hubs:

  • Chicago–O’Hare (ORD)
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Guam (GUM)
  • Houston–Intercontinental (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington–Dulles (IAD)

…and searched random big cities. Unfortunately, there is no quick way to find these awards. Here are few city pairs that I found:

  • Newark (EWR) – Houston (IAH): 5,000 miles
  • Denver (DEN) – Washington D.C. (IAD): 6,500 miles (with several non-stop options)
  • Newark (EWR) – San Francisco (SFO): 7,500 miles
  • Chicago (ORD) – Orlando (MCO): 5,000 miles

I think you get the idea! 😉


United miles are fairly easy to obtain. Chase and United have several co-branded cards but I recommend obtaining one of the two following cards:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – This is my favorite beginners travel rewards card which has a welcome bonus of 60,000 points (highest ever) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. But the points can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards a travel purchase.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card – The current welcome bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. But the points can be redeemed for 1.50 cents each towards a travel purchase.

Pro-Tip: Chase points transfer to United Airlines at 1:1 therefore…50,000 Chase Points = 50,000 United Miles.

I enjoy the flexibility of transferrable points so just in case you change your mind, those same points are also:
50,000 Chase Points = 50,000 Hyatt Points
50,000 Chase Points = 50,000 British Airway Miles


I admit that I have not searched every city pair but if you have plans to travel on United, I would recommend taking a quick look at the United Award calendar to see if any reduced awards are being offered. It’s hard to beat 7,500 miles for a transcontinental flight.

If you’re searching for additional city pairs, here is some additional inspiration:

  • Newark (EWR) – Miami (MIA): 5,000 miles
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Denver (DEN): 6,000 miles
  • Denver (DEN) – Seattle (SEA): 6,000 miles
  • Chicago (ORD) – Boston (BOS): 7,500 miles
  • Newark (EWR) – Dallas (DFW): 7,500 miles
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Newark (EWR): 7,500 miles

Is anyone planning to take advantage of the reduced award tickets for upcoming travel?

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