The Best Ways to Book United's New Routes to Africa, India, And Hawaii

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Airlines are slowly starting to increase routes and capacities. And United is taking this opportunity to launch exciting new routes. United has announced a total of seven new routes—both domestic and international—that will takeoff in 2021. Although the details are slim for some routes, other routes are already on sale.

So, let's take a look at these new routes and the best ways to book these flights using miles and points.

New United Routes Launching in 2021

  • To Africa
    • Newark (EWR) to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB), daily
    • Washington, D.C. (IAD) to Accra, Ghana (ACC), 3x weekly
    • Washington, D.C. (IAD) to Lagos, Nigeria (LOS), 3x weekly
  • To India
    • Chicago (ORD) to Delhi (DEL), daily
    • San Francisco (SFO) to Bangalore (BLR), daily
  • To Hawaii
    • Newark (EWR) to Maui (OGG), 4x weekly
    • Chicago (ORD) to Kona (KOA), 4x weekly

United's New Routes to Africa

United rolling out three new flights to Africa continues a trend of U.S. carriers expanding offerings of direct flights to the continent. Delta already offers flights to all three of United's new destinations. Meanwhile, American Airlines was scheduled to begin service between Philadelphia and Casablanca earlier this year. However, COVID-19 delayed its launch. Also, interestingly, American doesn't even count Morocco as part of Africa.

Newark to Johannesburg

A seasonal route between Newark and Cape Town launched relatively recently, and a new direct flight to Johannesburg only complements that. We are seeing quite a bit of award space is available for this route, which begins on March 27, 2021. Some days have up to four business class seats available:

Interestingly, United's Polaris business class costs just 30,000 more miles than economy on this route. Since it's such a long flight, that's just 2,000 additional United miles per hour of flight time. If you have the miles, splurging for business class may be worth the mileage premium on such a lengthy overnight flight.

Washington, D.C. to Accra

The first of two new routes for United to western Africa is to Accra, Ghana. Unlike the new service to Johannesburg, this flight is not yet for sale. No launch date has been announced yet for this route, though it is expected to start sometime in 2021.

Once it does become bookable, this route will offer fliers an alternative path to Ghana from the United States other than Delta's flight from New York – JFK. Star Alliance partner South African Airways previously operated this same route. However, South African Airways suspended service between the two airports.

Washington, D.C. to Lagos

United is launching a flight to Lagos, Nigeria as well. Similar to the new flight to Accra, this route is also not yet for sale. Travelers from the United States can already fly directly to Lagos on Delta Air Lines via Atlanta and New York – JFK. Similar to the route between Washington, D.C. and Accra, this flight does not have a publicly announced launch date but service is expected to begin in 2021.

United's New Routes to India

United already services India fairly extensively—especially compared to its U.S.-based rivals. The airline services Delhi from Newark and San Francisco as well as Mumbai from Newark. Two new United routes will directly connect even more people between the two countries, including a new city in each.

Chicago to Delhi

United already offers service to Delhi via Newark and San Francisco. This new route allows a third option and a much more convenient one for travelers originating in the Midwest. Service between the two cities is slated to start December 12, 2020. Compared to the new route to Johannesburg, award availability is a bit more scarce. Still, there are pockets of award space and some flights even have the same four business class seats available:

Due to the way United is now pricing partner awards, the award prices for the one-stop options on LOT Polish Airlines are 4,500 miles (11%) higher for economy and 18,500 miles (25%) higher for business. A nonstop flight option at a lower award cost sounds like a no brainer!

San Francisco to Bangalore

Earlier this year, American Airlines announced a new flight connecting Seattle and Bangalore, India—presumably to facilitate easier travel for the technology industry. Now, United's new flights between San Francisco and Bangalore will offer a connection from a different U.S. tech-focused city.

Service is scheduled to begin on May 6, 2021. Be prepared with entertainment options should you book this specific route. United is scheduling the journey at just shy of 17.5 hours!

United's New Hawaii Routes

Two new routes to two separate Hawaiian islands connect the mainland to domestic paradise. At a time when global travel options are extremely limited for Americans, domestic travel becomes increasingly more appealing. Both of United's new long-haul routes to Hawaii start on June 3, 2021 and offer travelers the option of skipping a west coast connection on their way to or from the islands.

Newark to Maui

Travelers can now visit two islands in one Hawaii trip, fly direct, and eliminate any intra-island backtracking thanks to United's new service between Newark and Maui. The airline already operates flights between Newark and Honolulu. Thanks to United's non-alliance partnership with Hawaiian Airlines for intra-island flights, travelers can book a round trip journey from Newark to one of Honolulu or Maui, then to the other island, and directly back to Newark, all on one ticket. Award space exists in economy class for this flight if you can be flexible, but Saver level business-class space will prove incredibly challenging to find.

Chicago to Kona

Explore the big island of Hawaii and not need to connect on your way to and from. United already serves Kona directly from Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Expanding direct service to Chicago makes this the longest route to Kona offered by United. Similar to the Newark to Maui route, finding award space requires some careful searching, and business class awards will be very difficult to come by.

The Best Ways to Book United's New Routes

The easiest way to book these United flights will be with United MileagePlus, and the easiest way to search for award space for these flights is through United's search engine. However, that does not mean United charges the least amount of miles for each flight. Let's take a look at how six prominent frequent flier programs price these new flights. Note that all of these programs are transfer partners of major transferrable points programs:

  1. United (UA) — transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards
  2. ANA (NH) — transfer from Amex Membership Rewards
  3. Avianca (AV) — transfer from Amex Membership Rewards or from Citi ThankYou Points
  4. Aeroplan (AC) — transfer from Amex Membership Rewards
  5. Singapore (SQ) — all program available for transfer
  6. Turkish (TK) — transfer from Citi ThankYou Points

Below are consolidated award charts that show the mileage cost of these new United routes, separated by the class of cabin. Highlighted figures identify the lowest mileage cost for each route and cabin.

Chart comparing award prices on United new routes in economy

Chart comparing award prices on United new routes in business class

A few notes about this chart:

  • ANA partner airline redemptions require a roundtrip booking. However, we listed the equivalent one-way award price in the chart for comparison.
  • Depending on when you book these awards, Aeroplan's existing or new award pricing may apply. We listed both award rates for reference.
  • The new Aeroplan Points Predictor tool quoted a higher award cost for the EWR-JNB route. The price displayed is based on flight distance per the Global Circle Mapper and Aeroplan's stated award chart.

Booking Considerations

ANA and Turkish mileage programs represent the lowest points cost for these routes. However, both programs have potential drawbacks.

ANA requires partner rewards to be booked as round trip tickets. If you only want to book a one-way journey, you'll need to look to another program instead.

Turkish Airlines, meanwhile, is notorious for its very nuanced process to book awards. There have been improvements to this recently including making online bookings possible. However, not all available awards show up on their website.

If Aeroplan is your program of choice and you are interested in booking one of these new routes, be sure to consider the timing of when you book. New award pricing becomes effective November 8, 2020 and the impacts on mileage costs are fairly mixed. Routes to western Africa will decrease in price, as will business class costs on the new routes to Hawaii. Meanwhile, all other routes will see increases in prices.

Final Thoughts

Luckily, no matter which program you use to book these flights, taxes and fees should be minimal. Additionally, no matter your preferred transferable points currency, great transfer partners exist to book these awards. Better yet, travelers can utilize Singapore's Krisflyer program to combine points from Amex, Chase, and Citi to book these flights.

When it does come time to transfer miles to your program of choice to complete a booking, make sure to consider the transfer times of the program. Certain awards, such as premium cabin flights to Hawaii, face great competition from other prospective travelers. Knowing which programs offer quick or immediate transfers may be the difference between snagging that coveted award or planning a new route to your destination.

Are you planning to book any of these new United routes?

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Comments

  • Avatar

    Excellent that you will be able to fly to Maui from Newark and their partnership with hawaiian air. makes it much simpler to book two islands on one ticket.

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    San Francisco to Bangalore – 17.5 hours… Yikes! That’s gonna be a really long flight if in coach.

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    I just don’t find using 32.5-40+k points worth it when you can generally find fare deals for cheaper. Would prefer to save my points for award sales

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    In your table I see that the mileage cost of some awards with Turkish Airlines are really low.
    Anyone has been able to book award flights with Turkish Airlines.
    It seems to me that it must be almost impossible, but I don’t have any practical experience.

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    Great post – bookmarked!

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    Looking forward to going to Hawaii!

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    Turkish has really become something of a darling among the points bloggers recently!

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    It’s nice to see new routes but what about restoring service to old routes first. Also, points required to book frequent flier seats are rising fast. When the points dilution sales going on, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more hikes next year.

  • Avatar
    Pablo Quilis says:

    I still have a credit for a canceled trip to Hawaii from Los Angeles. I hope we can use it soon

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    Thanks. For the Chicago to Delhi non-stop, would it be correct to guess it flies Eastwardly to get to Delhi, rather than Westward over East Asia? Would that also be true for the SFO-BLR flight? Thanks for any light you can shed on that.

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    I wonder whether these routes will actually be launched in 2021.