Itinerary Splitting: Getting free Economy Plus for someone flying solo

I’m United Premier Gold, and one excellent thing that gets me is free Economy Plus seats at booking for myself and a single companion. (You can also get this awesome power without being Gold by buying the Economy Plus subscription, which is what made me a United whore in the first place.)

Caroline needed to fly to San Francisco to pick up our six year old nephew and bring him back for a week with his grandparents, who were then going to fly him back. The GP’s are in New Jersey, so we were definitely talking about United, who own both SFO and EWR. It was my job to figure out how to how to get everyone’s asses into Economy Plus seats for free, when I wasn’t even flying.

For her outbound, which could be from any NYC airport, I saw an excellent JetBlue Mint fare from JFK to SFO for $609, and that was a no-brainer because Mint is just redonc. I used expiring-at-end-of-year JetBlue travel bank funds, which had originated as a cancelled ticket that I had purchased with Amex Membership Rewards points in 2017, when you got the 50% pay with points rebate if you had a Business Platinum card. So, sort of, It was though I had spent 30,450 Amex points for her having the baddest-ass domestic biz class in the air, which I thought was well worth it. Except that I’m jealous.

And then there was the grandparents’ flight to bring him back: they’d already booked their own Economy Plus round trip on United, without the boy, for reasons unknown, figuring he could be added on later somehow. So I had to get him onto that exact outbound flight.

Here’s what I finagled:

  • I booked myself and Caroline on the flight she wanted, from SFO to EWR, one-way, and plunked us in Economy Plus.
  • I immediately called United and said I wanted to cancel myself, but not Caroline. They split the itinerary, meaning she now had her own record locator, and my ticket was refunded.
  • I then booked a round-trip (which, to my surprise, was cheaper than the equivalent dual one-ways), originating on the same flight I just cancelled myself from, for me and our nephew. I put him in my old seat, next to Caroline, and chose an arbitrary seat for myself.
  • For the return, I chose the grandparents’ outbound flight, and put him between them, and myself in another arbitrarily chosen seat.
  • I subsequently called United, and again requested that my ticket be cancelled and refunded. So they again split the itinerary, meaning our nephew now had the right Economy Plus seats on the right flights, not that he exactly needs the legroom.
  • I also notified United that he was a minor, and gave them the record locators of his aunt and grandparents, so if he finds himself transported somewhere on the luggage conveyor or whatever, his guardians can be, you know, located.

I then made that wiping-dirt-off-hands gesture in satisfaction.

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