Hidden gem on United's devaluing award chart

It has already been more difficult to find good value out of United MileagePlus miles with all the devaluations over the past few years.  And United miles are about to kick the bucket again come November 15th when they move towards dynamic award pricing, which is what Delta "Skypesos" currently uses.  However, there are still some good values to be found on their award chart, and they continue to be one of the only carriers that imposes zero fuel surcharges period on all award redemptions.

One of the lesser known gems on their current chart is domestic flights in Japan with Star Alliance partner ANA.  For as little as 5k miles each way, you can book an array of ANA domestic flights up to 800 miles in distance, which covers almost all destinations out of Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita.  Flights over 800 miles in distance, like a 4-hour flight from Okinawa to Sapporo, come in at a measly 8k United miles.  To put that into perspective, United charges 10k award miles for flights under 700 miles in distance in the continental U.S.

Plenty of award availability for only 5k miles on Japan's most popular domestic route, Tokyo to Sapporo.

Before their recent devaluation, British Airways Avios was the favored heavyweight in Japan with OneWorld partner Japan Airlines nonstop domestic flights coming in at 4.5k Avios for flights of <650 miles and 7.5k for flights of up to 1,150 miles.  Those same flights now would run you 6k and 11k Avios and a couple of bucks in fees, which is still quite reasonable.  But where United shines is the ability to book connecting flights such as Sapporo to Naha (capitol of Okinawa) and connecting onto neighboring islands like Ishigaki for just 8k miles for 5 hours of flying.  BA charges per segment, so if you were to connect with JAL, it could cost you double the Avios.

Bottom line

It still remains a mystery as to what United's dynamic award pricing will look like come November 15th.  If you have any leisure travel planned in the future, especially domestic Japan flights, it may be a good idea to burn your miles before the impending devaluation.  Hopefully, we'll still see great redemption values for domestic Japan flights, but anything and everything could change at this point.


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