How To Use And Decrypt United’s Powerful Expert Mode

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United.com’s Expert Mode can tell you a lot about a flight. Here’s how to use it.

Step 1: Enable it by clicking this link, logging into your United account, checking to enable expert mode, and then saving your preferences. You’ll only have to do this once though you will always have to be logged into your United account to access Expert mode results.

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Step 2: Search for a paid flight and then click on “Fare Class” which should be highlighted in blue once you enable expert mode.  In this example I searched yesterday for a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv on 08/04/14:

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Let’s zoom in a bit on those expert mode results:

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Here’s what that alphabet soup means for United flight 84:
J9: Paid bucket. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to sell at full fare.
JN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to allow elite members and United cardholders to use standard miles for.
C9, D9, Z9: Paid buckets. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to sell at these fare levels.
ZN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 business seats that United is willing to allow non-elites to use standard miles for.
P0: Paid bucket. United is not willing to sell any business class seats at this discounted level.
PN0: Award bucket. On domestic flights this is the number of seats that United is willing to give to 1K/GS elites as an instant upgrade from an M class fare or to any elites an an instant upgrade from a paid Y or B class ticket. This bucket is also the upgrade bucket for GS elites for all domestic and international upgrades, in this case there are no upgrades available for GS elites either.
R0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow non-elites to have instant upgrades using miles from coach to BusinessFirst. (Also used for complimentary elite upgrades on domestic routes.)
RN0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow elite members to have instant upgrades using miles or upgrade certificates from coach to BusinessFirst. (Also used for complimentary elite upgrades on domestic routes.)
IN0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow Plat/1K/GS elites to redeem Saver level miles for a BusinessFirst seat.
I0: Award bucket. United is not willing to allow non-elites/lower tier elites to redeem Saver level miles for a BusinessFirst seat. This is also the only business award bucket that partner airline miles can access.
Y9: Paid bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to sell at full fare.
YN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to allow elite members and United cardholders to use standard miles for.
B9, M9, E9, U9, H9: Paid buckets. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to sell at these non-discounted fare levels.
HN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to allow non-elites to use standard miles for.
Q9, V9, W9, S9, T9, L9, K9: Paid buckets. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to sell at these discounted fare levels.
G0, N0: Paid buckets. United is not willing to sell any coach seats at these discounted levels.
XN9: Award bucket. There are at least 9 coach seats that United is willing to allow elite members and United cardholders to use saver miles for.
X1: Award bucket. There is 1 coach seat that United is willing to allow non-elites or non-cardholders to use saver miles for. This is also the only coach award bucket that partner airline miles can access.

You’ll notice a few differences for the next flight, United flight 90.
1. United isn’t willing to sell any D or Z paid BusinessFirst seats, this flight will be more expensive to book in business class as the minimum fare class is C. (D0, Z0)
2. United isn’t willing to allow non-elites to use standard miles for BusinessFirst seats on this flight (ZN0)
3. United has 4 seats on this flight for elite members and United cardholders to use saver miles for (XN4)
4. United has no seats on this flight for non-elites or non-cardholders to use saver miles for. And that means no partner awards as well for this flight (X0)

 

Notes:

1. Fare classes can’t be added together.
Just because there is 1 seat in X class doesn’t mean there are 10 seats in XN class. If the X seat is booked the XN class may go down to 8 or it may stay at 9.

2. On a United flight with 3 classes of service there are more letters to know about.

F is full fare paid first class. FN is a first class standard award. A is discounted paid first class. ON is upgrade space into first class. O is a saver first class award.

3. Forget “Remember Me”
If you click “Remember Me” then it will looked like you’re logged in, but after a short period of time you will no longer have access to expert mode results.  I never use remember me as it also messes up my award searches by excluding the elite buckets from the calendar.

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4. A Plan B BusinessFirst saver award requires X or XN class availability. Read all about that awesomeness here as XN class really helps cardholders sit in front of the bus for saver miles.

5. Expert mode can only be accessed when searching for paid flights.  However you can verify the results by searching for an award flight.

I searched for awards and clicked on “Nonstop flights only.”  Note that nonstop button will only work if United.com can find nonstop awards for that day.  If it doesn’t find any for that day you need to find a day with awards and then resubmit the nonstop search with that date.

Here’s what it looks like from a cardholder’s account. As you can see, there are saver awards available on both flights.

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Here’s what it looks like from a non-cardholder’s account. As you can see, there is a saver award available on only the earlier flight, UA84:

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Of course those screens don’t give the complete picture as they don’t say how many awards are available.  As you now know from expert mode the XN (elite or cardholder) bucket has 9 seats on UA84 and 4 seats on UA90.

The X bucket has just 1 seat on UA84 and no seats on UA90.

6. A quick way to verify if United.com recognizes you as a cardholder:

If your card is properly linked you will see the following message that your miles won’t expire as long as you remain a cardholder:

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If your card isn’t properly linked then you will see the following message that your miles will expire if you don’t have activity every 18 months:

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7. Award space and fare buckets are extremely fluid. 

Those buckets chang multiple times per day based on people booking up awards and United releasing more awards as the flight gets closer when they feel they won’t sell the seats to someone else.  Newark to Tel Aviv is one of the toughest awards in United’s entire network, but by diligently checking award space and by having a United card you can vastly improve your odds of nabbing seats.

8. The Chase United Explorer card and the United Club card are the only currently available credit cards that gives you access to expanded award ticket availability.  If you have the discontinued Presidential Plus card that will work as well.

The extra availability is significant, I’ve booked saver awards to Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles this year where there was lots of space for cardholders while there was none for non-cardholders.

The cards have other great benefits besides expanded award space:
-Your miles won’t expire as long as you remain a cardholder.
-It is one of the only cards that comes with primary rental car CDW insurance. Almost every other card only has secondary coverage when you rent a car in your home country. This means that if you damage your rental vehicle you must file the claim with your own personal insurance policy first, and only if they won’t cover the damage will the credit card cover the damage. Even additional cardholders get primary coverage when they rent.

With primary rental car CDW insurance you will not have to file anything with your own insurance company. Chase will cover the entire bill for any damage to your rental car. Just be sure to decline the rental agency’s CDW coverage. This primary coverage applies in every country in the world.
The Sapphire Preferred is what I use in Israel and other foreign countries, but that’s just because of the 2.14 points per dollar it awards on car rentals. In the US, the United card is the way to go.
-First checked bag free.
-Priority boarding so that you’ll have space for your carry-ons.
-No foreign transaction fees.
-2 free United passes per year.
-10K mileage bonus every year that you spend $25K, a 40% mileage bonus which means you’ll have earned 1.4 miles per dollar everywhere. Spending $25K in a year also waives the requirement to spend $2.5K on United flights to get Silver status, $5K on United flights to get Gold status, and $7.5K on United flights to get Platinum status. You only need to fly the 25K, 50K, or 75K miles like in the good old days.
-Double miles on United purchases.
-Elite members can get upgrades on coach award tickets on upgrade eligible routes if they have a United card.

The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.

-You can also get the business version of the Chase United Explorer card.  Just click on “Are you a business owner” in the top-right of the Explorer card link.

-Want a 2nd free bag, a 50% mileage bonus per dollar spent everywhere, United club access for you and your entire family, post-security terminal access without a ticket, priority baggage handling and priority security access, and waived award expedite fees? The United Club card comes with all of that.  Just click on the MileagePlus Club tab on the right side of the Explorer card application page.

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Other Chase consumer cards you can apply for at the time as the United card using multiple browsers include the Chase Sapphire Preferred (40K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, no fee the first year, plus 2.14 points per dollar on travel and dining with no Foreign Exchange fees), Chase British Airways (50K signup points and 10% off BA flights), Chase Southwest (50K signup points), and Chase Freedom (which gives 5 points per dollar in rotating categories and 10% bonus points if you have a Chase checking account).

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both give 60,000 signup points if you apply this month and offer 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and office supply stores, 2 points per dollar for gas and lodging, no foreign exchange fees, free lounge visits, and a waived annual fee for the first year.
The Chase Ink Cash business card gives 30,000 signup points if you apply this month and has no annual fee.

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40 Responses to “How To Use And Decrypt United’s Powerful Expert Mode”

  1. Josh Says:
    1

    Great article dan as always!! Can you do a similar post on American Airlines? I notice you focus on United a lot more; guess you fly them more

    ReplyReply
  2. meshugener Says:
    2

    In a few words, what did you post?
    Have having to treat such a long article

    ReplyReply
  3. Dan Says:
    3

    @Josh:
    I’ve always been a Continental/United flyer, so I’m far more familiar with their ins and outs than AA.

    However having an AA card doesn’t get you expanded awards and AA.com doesn’t have an expert mode like this, so you’d have to find 3rd party access to their fare codes.
    Personally I use KVS, but that costs money.

    @meshugener:
    Lol, did you mean “Hard having to read such a long article?”

    I think I posted exactly what the title of the article says I would.

    ReplyReply
  4. Yanky Says:
    4

    Dan..
    I know this is not the place to ask..
    But can you please tell me a recommended place were i can sell my amex (gold) points..

    Thanks

    ReplyReply
  5. Dan Says:
    5

    @Yanky:
    There is a banner of a reliable broker on the top of DansDeals.com

    ReplyReply
  6. tony c Says:
    6

    Dan,
    Best way to get united miles aside from Cc signup? Transfer from_____? I want to go to Paris next month. Having trouble putting it together(bus class air)

    ReplyReply
  7. ZCN Says:
    7

    @Dan
    I hate to do this but I have an urgent question that is somewhat OT. I booked JFK-ICN-SYD in F before Feb. 1 and followed your advice about cancelling without redepositing the miles. When I try to rebook now on UA.com it allows me to book the JFK-ICN segment but won’t allow me to add in the ICN-SYD segment unless I use more miles. Any advice? TIA

    ReplyReply
  8. Dan Says:
    8

    @tony c:
    Only transfer partner is Chase Ultimate Rewards, those cards are listed in the end of the post.

    @ZCN:
    Why are you searching for JFK-ICN instead of JFK-SYD?
    Might be worth searching LAX-SYD and then getting to LAX with different miles.

    ReplyReply
  9. anonymous Says:
    9

    @Yanky: I’m curious to know what the rates are…

    ReplyReply
  10. ZCN Says:
    10

    @Dan
    I’ve tried JFK-SYD and LAX-SYD, but the website doesn’t show the routing through ICN, although both segments are available if I search for them separately. If I were to call UA you think they would ticket at the original 80K miles rate? Any other ideas how to force the ticket?

    ReplyReply
  11. yankees Says:
    11

    Dan, Cardholders you mean any United CC like even the explorer card?

    ReplyReply
  12. yankees Says:
    12

    @yankees: yeh I should have just finished reading the article.

    ReplyReply
  13. Swiss Says:
    13

    How do I add my united card ??

    ReplyReply
  14. chaimmayer Says:
    14

    please help! I have a explorer card and a club card connected to my mileage plus number and it is not showing that it is linked. I call united and they are clueless. What do I do?

    ReplyReply
  15. Yankees Says:
    15

    As a united card holder can I have them waitlist a XN?

    ReplyReply
  16. Zach H Says:
    16

    PN is used for international flights as well. GS upgrades clear into PN: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BfRY44eCIAAggX5.png:large

    ReplyReply
  17. Laurie DesAutels Says:
    17

    I also have the same issue that chaimmayer is having. How can I get it linked?

    ReplyReply
  18. Dan Says:
    18

    @ZCN:
    Will probably take many phone calls to get it done. Good luck!

    @yankees:
    Yes.

    @Swiss:
    Should be automatic.

    @chaimmayer:
    Keep calling until you find someone who knows how to link it properly?
    Are you earning miles from those cards?
    The agents won’t even realize that being a cardholder gives you access to XN class, but you can tell them that on your friend’s account it says their miles will never expire as long as they remain a cardholder but that it doesn’t say that on your account.

    @Yankees:
    Unlikely.

    @Zach H:
    Cool, are you GS?

    ReplyReply
  19. Ari Says:
    19

    Dan; I’ve been following you for more than a year now and have racked up almost 300,000 UR points all directly thanks to you. My problem is I have no idea how to actually get a flight to Israel from JFK this June. I am completely confused on where to turn first . Is there any post which explains step by step on which airline or partner I should search, and with whom to convert or change or transfer the points? We’re traveling with a six month old so aight direct flight or minimum of one stop over on a reputable airline is preferred. Between sky blue, AA, BA, Delta, United, SPG, Amex rewards, and a host of other programs found on your website, I’m completely baffled.

    ReplyReply
  20. Paul Says:
    20

    Great article.
    My Fare Class was not linked after I signed up. I assume it takes a day or so for United to get their systems in sync
    Is there any way of seeing which flights have available upgrades before you book ?

    ReplyReply
  21. Ari Says:
    21

    I should clarify; I’m not sure if I’m supposed to log in to any of these programs to find the flight, where to book the flight, how to select different partners, which type of points to convert to, and from which site to actually book the ticket

    ReplyReply
  22. Dan Says:
    22

    @Ari:
    Search United.com for EWR, LGA, JFK, and NYC to TLV.
    Search United.com for YYZ to TLV.
    Search BA.com (login required) but also add in PHL to TLV. Search BA.com for NYC to DUS, MUC, and TXL and then from there to TLV separately.

    @Paul:
    Try logging out and in again.

    Sure, those codes are in the post.

    ReplyReply
  23. Rachel Says:
    23

    Hi Dan,

    With the chase ink cards, how do I know what exactly I can use the points for (eg. what specific hotels)? How do I know how the points translate into getting miles for travel? Based on your excellent advice, I already got the MC that gives AAdvantage points (which is excellent!), and I am trying to decide if one of the chase cards would be a useful addition or if I should stick with the AAdvantage card.

    Cousin (Married to your mom’s cousin Steve) Rachel

    ReplyReply
  24. United Says:
    24

    Is there a time of day or night that United releases more seats?

    ReplyReply
  25. pj23yanks Says:
    25

    @Dan

    I have a flight booked next month from EWR-MXP and then MUC-EWR I am trying to upgrade with miles and dollars, under fare class for bothy flights it says J9 does that mean there are atleast 9 seats available as of now and I should get an upgrade?

    ReplyReply
  26. eric @medicalschoolgreneda Says:
    26

    Can i shift my credit line from my ba chase account and open a united card- without the credit hit?

    ReplyReply
  27. sfuzzi Says:
    27

    Dan I have the chase United MileagePlus Card (converted from Continental card). Does this card entitle me to these benefits? I think my annual fee is smaller than the explorer card (45 vs 95)

    I know my miles don’t expire but not sure if I am entitled to expanded availability.

    ReplyReply
  28. allen Says:
    28

    Does The Chase United Explorer Business card also provide expanded availability? Thanks!

    ReplyReply
  29. Dan Says:
    29

    @Rachel:
    You can see the travel partners at the end of this post:
    http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/42387

    The points are more versatile than just earning AA miles and you can earn more per dollar spent.

    @United:
    No, can happen at any time.

    @pj23yanks:
    You might get an upgrade at the gate, but for an instant upgrade you need space in the R or RN bucket.

    @eric @medicalschoolgreneda:
    No.
    But why not apply for a United card and get the signup bonus?
    You can then have them close the BA card if you want and shift the credit line.

    @sfuzzi:
    Search or an award CLE-FLL nonstop on 06/16.
    Currently showing XN1, X0, so if you see a coach saver award you have access and if you don’t you don’t.
    Let us know!

    @allen:
    I believe so. Are you properly linked as shown in the post?
    Try the CLE-FLL search above and let us know.

    ReplyReply
  30. allen Says:
    30

    @dan, yes I can see it is linked.

    And for 6/6 CLE-FLL I see two choices of economy class, both of which need to transfer at EWR. is it what you see?

    ReplyReply
  31. Dan Says:
    31

    @allen:
    I said 06/16.

    ReplyReply
  32. allen Says:
    32

    Also I am trying to book two award economy tickets from PEK to CLT in July or Aug, but I cannot see any availability. The issue is the availability from PEK to gateway cities in US. I have UA, AA, DL, US, BA miles and UR points.. thanks!

    ReplyReply
  33. allen Says:
    33

    @Dan, yes i see available direct flight in Economy class.

    ReplyReply
  34. sfuzzi Says:
    34

    Thanks Dan

    I see four flights with saver award availability (12,500). One nonstop, the rest with connections. so I guess I am good?

    ReplyReply
  35. Dan Says:
    35

    @allen:
    http://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=7986.0

    @allen:
    Then you’re good.

    @sfuzzi:
    Indeed!

    ReplyReply
  36. sfuzzi Says:
    36

    Dan, do you know if I apply for the explorer card would I be entitled to the sign up bonus? I believe at some point in time I received a sign up bonus for my united mileageplus card, formerly continental. I received the bonus from continental.

    Thanks

    ReplyReply
  37. Dan Says:
    37

    @sfuzzi:
    Yes, you will get the bonus.

    ReplyReply
  38. Anonymous Says:
    38

    @Dan:
    Thanks Dan.
    Do I call chase or united?

    ReplyReply
  39. Sam Says:
    39

    Dan – booked UA award flight using Explorer card to Asia. 2nd bag is not free. If I get UA club card now and show it at the counter (not purchase ticket), will 2nd bag be free then?

    ReplyReply
  40. JONATHAN Says:
    40

    I have a Explorer CC can never find saver availability on UA only on partner airlines for EWR / TLV

    ReplyReply

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