A few days ago I posted about why I am keeping my United Explorer card open, primarily as a way to avoid United’s new elite status PQD spend requirement and because I enjoy the complimentary upgrades on award tickets, as well as access to extra award inventory (which is a benefit available to Platinum and 1K elites).
Reader Tracey reached out asked me to elaborate more about these less-spoken perks.
In short, Chase credit cards like the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card give cardholders access to extra award space on United flights, normally set aside for elites. No other airline credit cards offer extra award space, so this is a neat perk if you frequently book awards with United miles.
The marketing information notes that cardholders face no blackouts. Standard award space is available to cardholders on all flights. What is left unsaid on the landing page, and the far bigger deal, is that cardholders get extra Saver award space too that is normally set aside for United elites.
To get access to the extra award space on United flights, cardholders only need to sign into their united.com accounts before searching. The fact that they are cardholders is automatically tied to their accounts, and the extra award space automatically appears on searches.
Extra Saver Award Space
As an example, I went to united.com and did NOT sign in before searching for award space on United’s flight from Houston to Buenos Aires next spring. The route has Saver award space for two passengers (yellow-shaded days) on 7 days in March and 5 days in April.
Then I signed into my brother’s United account and re-ran the same search from Houston to Buenos Aires for two passengers. He has the United card but no elite status. (I couldn’t sign into my account because I have the United card and 1K elite status, so I couldn’t show that just having the card gets extra award space.)
Now, 10 days in March and 10 days in April show Saver award space versus 7 and 5 before signing into his account. Award space went up by two-thirds just because he has the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card.
Here’s what it looks like on an individual day. The top image is after signing into my brother’s account and selecting May 7. The bottom is selecting May 7 without signing into united.com.
Folks with a United card can get two tickets for 30,000 United miles each. Folks without the card can’t even get one ticket at that price and would have to pay 65,000 United miles one way (which is a redemption I would never recommend, btw).
Extra Standard Award Space
Standard award space is certainly less exciting, since it costs roughly double the Saver award price, but if you really need to get on a flight that is expensive, Standard award space can be your only option.
Cardholders get extra Standard award space too.
Here is a search I performed for 8 people from San Francisco to New York for next week after signing into the United account of my friend with the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card. You can see that every flight that day has at least 8 Standard award seats in economy.
I signed out and searched for one–not 8–passengers on the same route on the same day. Not a single flight had even one Standard economy award seat for non-cardholders.
That means a cardholder with 25,000 miles could get onto the flight, but a non-cardholder would need 50,000 miles, although for that price he would get a business class seat.
The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card is unique in the mileage world in that it grants cardholders automatic access to extra Saver and Standard award space on United flights just by signing into your account before searching. The extra Saver space is limited to economy, but the extra Standard award space is available in economy and business class. (Platinum and 1K elites get extra Saver space in business.)