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United wins Thanksgiving mile challenge – use them to get home last minute

by on Sun November 20, 2011 • No Comment

If you held out on Thanksgiving travel this year because of high airfare, you might want to reconsider and look at miles as an option. While it’s notoriously difficult to find flights around holidays  in advance, you’d be surprised to see what opens up in the weeks before a holiday sets in.

We set out today, Sunday, to book a ticket for Thanksgiving between the two largest cities in the U.S — New York and Los Angeles — to see who wins at the most fair price. We looked for travel on Tuesday or Wednesday November 22/23, returning Saturday or Monday November 26/28 (Sunday the 27th is the busiest day of all, and well good luck even paying for a ticket then).

The winner – United Airlines and its Mileage Plus program.

  • United: 37,500 miles round-trip (RT) (dep Tues or Wed, return Saturday or Monday, in business class on the return — which means you save $25 in checked bag fees!)
  • American: 37,500 miles RT (dep Tues, return Saturday or Monday, but in coach both ways)
  • US Airways: Same availability as United, they are Star Alliance partners so you can book United flights with their miles
  • Delta: 40,000 miles RT (dep Tues or Wed, return Saturday, Sunday, or Monday)
  • Southwest: 48,000 miles RT (dep Tues, return Saturday)

United had nonstop availability. The others required one stop in one of the directions (Southwest had stops both ways).

Kayak cash ticket cost

A cash ticket would cost nearly $700 at minimum

United’s easy search shows a winner quickly, nonstop in both directions too.United award travel result

And buying this ticket with cash would have cost thousands of dollars…United flight cost

One of the lessons here — United continues to show its stripes as one of the best airlines for reward availability in the United States, as shown by independent studies. If you want to earn United miles with a credit card, you have a couple of options. One, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, offers the most flexibility by letting you transfer the miles 1:1 into United / Continental, or British Airways, Korean, Amtrak, Hyatt, Marriott, and more. Or, if you prefer to just earn United / Continental miles, the United Explorer offers a checked bag fee waiver and priority boarding.  

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived


Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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