Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest information.
If you’re having difficulty finding saver award availability with United Airlines, you’re not alone.
Ever since United MileagePlus scrapped its official award charts, saver awards (the seats that require fewer miles and are also available to partner airlines) have felt harder to find. Saver award space greatly affects the value of your award redemption, as dynamically priced awards can surpass 50,000 miles for a one-way domestic, economy-class flight (though even prices for saver seats are subject to devaluations — as we saw recently).
Today, we’ll explore an exclusive benefit that enables United MileagePlus elite members and eligible cobranded credit card holders to access hidden saver awards on United and United Express flights.
Who has access to United’s expanded saver awards?
There are two paths to access expanded saver awards on United flights: United cobranded credit cards and elite status.
If you’re the primary cardholder of a United Explorer Card, United Business Card, United Quest Card or United Club Infinite Card, you can access expanded economy-class saver awards, giving you access to the XN fare class. United releases more seats to the XN fare than the X fare (the standard fare class for economy-class saver awards).
United Premier Silver and Gold members have the same XN fare class access to expanded economy-class saver awards. In contrast, Premier Platinum, 1K and Global Services members also have access to expanded business- and first-class saver awards, with access to the IN fare class. As you may have expected, United generally releases more seats to the IN fare than the I fare (the standard fare class for business-class and domestic first-class saver awards).
The expanded saver award benefit is only eligible for MileagePlus reservations, so even if you’re a United cardholder or Premier member, you can’t unlock additional award availability when booking through a partner like Air Canada Aeroplan or Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles.
Related: The best websites for searching Star Alliance award availability
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Searching for expanded saver award availability
If you’re an eligible United credit card holder or Premier member, go to united.com and sign into your MileagePlus account. Once you’ve signed in, enter your search details. You’ll see “Special member pricing” listed under the flight number and the price slashed out when there’s an XN fare available.
However, non-cardholders will see this flight price as follows.
Here’s how it looks when there’s an IN fare available. Again, the IN fare is only available to Premier Platinum, 1K and Global Services members.
For those with no status (or lower-tier Premier Silver or Premier Gold status), that 80,000-mile price for business class won’t appear.
Note that you must log in to see any applicable discounts, but there is a different way to check this inventory.
Another way to see XN and IN fares
If you want to know if your flight has XN or IN fare space, you’ll need to enable “expert mode.”
Once you’ve enabled expert mode, you can search for a cash ticket and see the available fare classes by selecting “Details” under your desired flight.
“XN9” means nine or more economy-class saver award seats are available for eligible cobranded card holders and Premier members. “X0” indicates there are no standard economy awards, which means a general MileagePlus member without an eligible cobranded card would need to pay a higher price. Additionally, this means that this flight can’t be booked using a Star Alliance partner award currency.
Here’s the same search for the flight from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) to Washington’s Dulles International Airport (IAD).
Note that “IN9” means that there are at least nine seats available for travelers with Premier Platinum (or higher) status, whereas “I0” means that no saver-level awards are open for other travelers.
Related: Last-minute strategies for earning United Premier elite status
Waitlisting business- and first-class saver awards
Few know about this, but you can join a waitlist for business-class saver awards if there is saver availability in economy class. According to United’s air award rules, you can call and book a coach award at the business saver level while being waitlisted for a business-class seat.
Once on the waitlist, you should receive an upgrade if a business-class (or domestic first-class) seat becomes available as a saver award. If your upgrade doesn’t clear before check-in, you will be prioritized toward the top of the upgrade waitlist. Technically, it’s not considered an upgrade since you have already redeemed the required miles for the higher fare class.
This greatly improves your chances of being cleared for the next class of service. If your upgrade doesn’t clear, any additional mileage initially used for the business-class seat will be refunded to you.
If you’re having issues finding saver award space, an eligible United credit card might help you unlock more value from your miles. With the enhanced availability of saver awards and the option to join the waitlist for saver business class, United’s cobranded credit cards and elite status play a crucial role in maximizing your miles.
Additional reporting by Benji Stawski.