May 14th, 2014
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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.
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:
Let’s zoom in a bit on those expert mode results:
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)
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.