How Does the United Excursionist Perk Work?

One of the best features of United MileagePlus, and certainly a hallmark of the program, is the Excursionist Perk.

Put simply, the Excursionist Perk allows you to add a free one-way segment on eligible itineraries when booking award flights with United miles.

By learning how to use the Excursionist Perk and then leveraging it to your advantage, you can squeeze some additional value out of your miles.

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What Is the United Excursionist Perk?

The United Excursionist Perk is a feature in the MileagePlus program which allows ‌members to add a one-way flight to an award booking at no extra cost in miles.

There are a couple of rules you must follow, but one of the best parts about the Excursionist Perk is that you can book it online without having to phone United.

Therefore, as long as you know the rules, you’re able to make your own bookings without having to run them by someone else.

Before we dive into the specific rules, the most important thing to understand is how regions play a large role in getting the most out of the Excursionist Perk.

United Airlines has its own published classification for regions, which can be found on the United website. In total, there are sixteen distinct regions, illustrated in the following world map.

Certain regions are rather small, such as Japan or Hawaii, whereas other regions span a much greater area, such as Europe, Central & Southern Africa, or Mainland US, Alaska, and Canada.

Understanding these regions is the key to unlocking the most value when using the Excursionist Perk, so you may want to spend some time analyzing the above map.

For example, a 1.5-hour flight from Tokyo to Osaka can be booked for very little, making it hardly worth booking an Excursionist Perk itinerary just to save this small amount.

On the other hand, a six-and-a-half hour flight from Cape Town, South Africa, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, tends to cost significantly more when booked with cash.

Since this flight falls within the same region, according to United’s chart, this route would be eligible for the Excursionist Perk, and could potentially be added to an itinerary for free, as we’ll show below.

The Excursionist Perk is one of the best ways to squeeze value out of United miles

In addition to understanding how United designates the regions, there are also additional rules that must be adhered to for the Excursionist Perk to apply.

First, the trip must be a multi-city itinerary with at least three one-way award flights. It won’t work on simple round-trip bookings with only two flights.

Next,the free Excursionist Perk one-way flight must originate and end in the same region. In other words, you can’t cross between any two regions for the “free” Excursionist Perk flight.

However, the catch here is that the free one-way segment must occur in a different region than where your travel originated.

For example, if you begin your trip in the Canada, Alaska, and Mainland United States region, then your free one-way flight can’t also be in that same region.

Finally, and to further complicate the planning process, the final flight of your itinerary must end in the same region as your original departing flight.

Given the above rules, the following hypothetical itineraries with three one-way flights would qualify for the Excursionist Perk:

  • Region A–Region B
  • Region B–Region B
  • Region B–Region A

This itinerary would qualify, since the second flight begins and ends in the same region, which is different than the origin.

This is likely how the Excursionist Perk is intended to be used, as you could fly from, say, New York to London, London to Paris, and then Paris to New York, and you wouldn’t pay any miles for the London to Paris flight.

  • Region A–Region A
  • Region B–Region B 
  • Region A–Region A

This itinerary would qualify, since the second flight begins and ends in the same region, which is different than the origin. This is a bit more advanced, but we’ll illustrate how it can be used in the below section.

For comparison, the following examples wouldn’t qualify for the Excursionist Perk:

  • Region A–Region B
  • Region B–Region C 
  • Region C–Region A

This itinerary isn’t valid through the Excursionist Perk, as the second flights aren’t within a single region. The second leg would simply be charged the standard rate.

  • Region A–Region A
  • Region B–Region B
  • Region C–Region C 

This itinerary won’t qualify for the Excursionist Perk, as it doesn’t end in the region where the trip originated; in this case, Region A.

In addition to following the rules regarding regions, you’ll also need to be aware of the requirements regarding the class of service for the free Excursionist Perk flight.

In order to qualify for the perk, the cabin service of the Excursionist flight has to be the same level of cabin service or lower than the one-way award flight preceding it.

As we show in the example below, even though the regions are in line with the Excursionist Perk rules, the following booking wouldn’t be eligible for the free flight since the second flight is booked in a higher cabin class.

  • Region A–Region A (economy class)
  • Region B–Region B (business class)
  • Region A–Region A (economy class)

Lastly, if you have an eligible trip with two or more segments that qualify for Excursionist Perk, only the first one-way award flight will qualify for the free benefit.

Even at first glance, it’s easy to see how the Excursionist Perk is one of the best ways to squeeze extra value out of your United miles, which have undergone a series of unfortunate devaluations in the past few years alone.

How to Book United Excursionist Perk Redemptions

When it comes time to book, your Excursionist Perk flight can be booked either on the United Airlines website, or through the United Airlines mobile app.

To begin, you’ll need to search for eligible award flights that follow all of the Excursionist Perk rules. Once you’ve found flights, the next step is to piece them all together to check for eligibility with the Excursionist Perk

If you’re on a laptop or desktop, click “Advanced search” on the main screen.

If you’re on the United app, select the “Multiple” tab on the “Book Flight” screen.

Next, you’ll need to input your three segments under the “Multi-city” tab (desktop/laptop), or the “Multple” tab on the United app.

If you’ve entered at least three routes, and they all follow the rules, then the eligible Excursionist Perk flight will appear as a choice showing zero miles required for that flight.

However, it’s important to note that you’ll still be responsible for the taxes and fees on the flight for which you’re not getting charged any miles.

When it’s time to secure the booking, you’ll only have to pay the required miles on the first and last one-way flights on a three-flight itinerary, as well as the taxes and fees on all three segments.

Sample Itineraries with the United Excursionist Perk

Wrapping your head around the Excursionist Perk can be challenging at first; however, once you do, the possibilities are endless.

Here are a few examples, ranging from simple to more complex, to illustrate how the Excursionist Perk works in practice.

Example 1: Free flight within Europe

The first example we’ll look at is a simple trip from the US to Europe, one free flight within Europe, and then a final flight back to the US.

There’s a countless number of flights that’d work for this example, but let’s look at San Francisco to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Istanbul, and Istanbul back to San Francisco. For this example, we’ll also look at business class flights.

If you were to book all three flights separately, you’d have to pay an additional 27,500 United miles for the Frankfurt to Istanbul route.

However, with the Excursionist Perk, the three-hour Frankfurt to Istanbul flight can be booked for zero United miles, plus $116.10 (all figures in USD) in taxes and fees.

This routing works because the first flight (San Francisco to Frankfurt) begins in a different region than the Excursionist Perk flight (Frankfurt to Istanbul), and the last flight (Istanbul to San Francisco), concludes the trip back in the US, the same region where the trip began.

Example 2: Free domestic flight

Next, let’s look at another example that could get you a “free”, or at least a cheaper, flight within the US.

If you were to originate your booking in Europe, then you could use the Excursionist Perk for, say, a free flight within the US.

Again, there are countless free one-way options within the US, but let’s look at a flight from Newark to Los Angeles.

To begin, a short one-hour flight ‌between Paris and Brussels can be booked for as little as 6,000 United miles plus $35.90 (USD) in taxes and fees, in economy.

Then, you’d need to find a booking from Newark to Los Angeles, which shouldn’t be too difficult, as well as another intra-Europe flight that takes place after your intended flight within the US.

In Europe, you’d need to take the Paris to Brussels flight, which could then unlock a free one-way flight in the US, and then you could make your way back to the US on a separate booking.

The Newark to Los Angeles flight would normally cost 15,000 United miles at the Saver level, but by sandwiching it between two short one-way flights in Europe, you’ll actually be saving a nominal amount of United miles.

It’s important to mention that for this itinerary to work, you’ll need to‌ take the first flight. If you skip out on the first Paris to Brussels one-way flight, all other flights on the itinerary will be cancelled, and your efforts would be wasted.

It’s also worth noting that the amount of taxes and fees you’d pay on the Paris–Brussels routes could negate the savings of 3,000 miles. However, this example is more so to illustrate what’s possible, rather than what’s the best deal.

This itinerary works because the Excursionist Perk flight (Newark to Los Angeles) takes place in a separate region than the original flight, and the last flight ends in the same region as where the trip started.

Example 3: Free flight from Cape Town to Addis Ababa

As a final example, you can use the same logic as in the previous itinerary to unlock any eligible one-way intra-regional flights worldwide.

If you book two short one-way flights within the US, there’s a lot of potential for free flights elsewhere in the world, especially in the larger regions.

For example, you could book Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Cape Town to ‌Addis Ababa, and Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and the middle segment would qualify for the Excursionist Perk.

In this example, Los Angeles to Las Vegas is a short, one-hour flight that costs as few as 5,500 United miles, plus $5.60 in taxes and fees in economy.

At the Saver level, round-trip flights between Los Angeles and Las Vegas will total 11,000 miles, plus $11.20 in taxes and fees.

Comparatively, the Cape Town to Addis Ababa flight costs 19,300 miles, plus $27.20 in taxes and fees, when booked on its own.

However, with the Excursionist Perk, the Cape Town to Addis Ababa flight would cost zero United miles.

This means that your total cost for two one-way Los Angeles to Las Vegas flights and a one-way Cape Town to Addis Ababa flight would only cost 11,000 miles and $38.50 in taxes and fees – a pretty amazing deal for three one-way flights and a total of nearly nine hours of flying time!

This Excursionist Perk itinerary works, because the second one-way flight (Cape Town to Addis Ababa) takes place in a different region than the original flight (Los Angeles to Las Vegas), and the final flight ends in the same region where the trip started.


The Excursionist Perk is a unique feature that allows United MileagePlus members the chance to unlock free award flights.

By familiarizing yourself with the rules and regions, you can book one-way award flights all over the world at a cost of zero United miles.

The possibilities are endless, so if you’re looking to get the most out of your United miles, be sure to play around with the logic and see how far you can take it.

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