Typically I try not to wait until the last minute to book award flights. However while booking my last award flight using United miles it was coming down to the wire—I was trying to book a one-way economy class flight from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro on Turkish Airlines and Azul.

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At the time of booking there was only Business Class award space available and I was hoping to see more economy award space released within two weeks of departure. There’s no doubt Turkish Airlines business class is a great product, but I couldn’t really justify using the extra miles for a 3 hour flight.

Turkish Airlines Business Class from Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo

An almost empty Turkish Airlines Business Class from Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo!

Part of the problem was that I wanted to fly into Rio de Janeiro just two days before New Years Eve and god knows how many other people wanted to ring in the New Year on the sands of Copacabana Beach.

Given that I definitely wanted to arrive in Rio before New Years Eve and I was willing to pay for the Business class award as a last resort– I didn’t want to lose that option, however I also wanted to wait a day or so to see if any economy seat award space opened up.

I decided to use the PayPal hold trick that MileValue has written about along with several other more complex methods of holding United awards—and it still works like a charm. Using PayPal to hold a United award is by far the easiest solution to holding an award if you have sufficient miles in your account.

All it took was a few extra clicks and my award was held for two days, here’s a walkthrough of the process.

Hold United Awards Using the PayPal Trick

Once you’ve searched and selected the award flight you wish to book using United miles just follow these simple steps to hold your award for free using the PayPal trick. Your award should be held until 11:59 PM the following day in the departure city time zone.

Note: If you choose not to keep the selected award ticket after the hold, the award space may not be immediately (or at all) released on United.com.

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1. After searching for the award flights you want, select the particular award booking you want to hold.

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2. The next page will ask for traveler details, etc. After entering your information you can click “Continue without selecting seats.” Note: You will have the option to select seats if the flights are with United, but if they are with partner airlines you will not have this option.

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3. On the payment page is where you use the PayPal trick to hold your award for 24 hours. Click the box to pay through PayPal and then “Checkout with PayPal” and you’ll be taken to another page.

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4. On this page you will be asked to enter your PayPal log in info. Don’t enter it! Instead of logging in, just click the “Cancel and return to United Airlines, Inc. ” This will navigate you back to the previous page on United.com and your award will be held for 24 hours.

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5. You can view your held booking reservation which is not yet ticketed, under “Manage Reservations” when you are logged into your United Mileage Plus account.

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6. It’s important to note that even though you have a United Confirmation Number, the award booking is not ticketed and only held until 11:59 PM the following day in the departure city time zone. If you are sure you want the flights you held, be sure to return and enter a form of payment to complete the ticketing process. If the award reservation is cancelled or not confirmed within the hold period the award seats should be re-released on United.com, however it may not be immediate or occur at all.

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There you have it, this is one of the easiest ways to hold a United award ticket for free. It’s only good for a 24-hour hold, but in a lot of cases this is enough to decide whether or not you want the selected flights.

Have you used the PayPal trick to hold a United award ticket? Do you have any other tricks?

Looking to get the most out of your miles & points? Check out some of my miles & points resource guides here!

10 Comments

  • The “paypal” option has been replaced by “paypal credit.” Anyone knows how to hold with the new “paypal credit”?

  • I have also used this for years. It works fine for about 4 hours, after that any foreign carriers may cancel the ticket. If it makes it past the 4 hour mark, then often it is cancelled at midnight EST on the same day you place it. Keep in mind that I have had United agents put things on hold for me, and tell me explicitly that it will be held until midnight tomorrow (36 hours), and the foreign carriers cancel it at exactly the 24 hour mark. ANA in particular cancels at 24 hours.

  • I’ve used this trick for years. While this trick works well with UA metal flights, the partner flights constantly change and by the time you try to ticket it, the reservation may not ticket due to the space disappearing (or never existed in the first place due to phantom avail. as Henry experienced). Sometimes segments will just disappear off the PNR as well too. IMO — it’s more problematic than it’s worth. Just keep that in mind…

  • I don’t think you should publish this trick. First of all, it’s a bit dishonest towards United, as you’re tricking the website – but more importantly, it could potentially steal away award space from other people who are ready to book it properly. Some of that space may never go back into the inventory – there are some airlines that don’t put canceled award seats back. So if everybody starts doing this, it’s going to make award booking hell (more than it already is) for everybody.
    Also, holding for 1-2 days is hardly a big advantage, the rest of the award inventory is unlikely to change.

    • augias, I agree that this trick should only be used when someone is serious about booking the award. In my case, as a last ditch effort I wanted to wait and see if more economy award space was released the next day given that the flight was close-in, but ended up booking the ticket on hold anyways.

  • I have tried to book Azul flights using united miles several times (FLL-VCP, FLN-VCP, CWB-VCP to name some), but United was never able to ticket. The space was showing on united.com, got a confirmation email, but on the following day was contacted by United saying that the reservation couldn’t be ticket due to Azul not confirming those seats. I would love to use united miles for intra brazil flights or part of an International award, but I am afraid to transfer my valuable ultimate rewards to united and got held on this issue. Any tips for making this to work? Many people have reported the same problem on flyertalk. Thank you!

    • Henry, I didn’t have any problems this time around, but the United agent basically said that Azul has to confirm the seats before they issue the ticket. I’m pretty sure this goes for changes to tickets on Azul flights as well, which makes things worse.

  • So I did this to save two seats for an award from PTY-LAX. The hold reservation never went into my account but the award space disappeared.