A Possible Workaround To United’s New Award Search Restrictions

United MileagePlus is my go-to search engine for Star Alliance award space (just as British Airways Executive Club is my go to engine for oneworld award space).

I like how MileagePlus can show a calendar of availability, and has some nice ways of sorting and refining results, as well as showing some options I would never have even thought of booking!

I don’t redeem many United miles (Singapore Airlines Krisflyer and Avianca LifeMiles are my primary Star Alliance redemption programs), but I use the United search engine all the time to see what is available.

Something else I like about the United search engine is that you don’t need to login to view search results, like you do with Krisflyer and Lifemiles.

Well Matthew over at Live and Let’s Fly has picked up that United has just added a login requirement to view search results on MileagePlus. I tried it myself and sure enough, while you can enter your search terms without a login:

You are then prompted to enter your MileagePlus membership number and password to see the search results properly:

Now, theoretically you can sort of see the results if you have very good eyesight through the heavily shaded blue login in prompt, but there’s a potential workaround — for some. If you click the “X” in the upper right, you’ll get to your results without having to enter your credentials:

This option doesn’t seem to show up for everyone, on all devices, but neither does the box prompting a log-in, which is interesting.

After clicking out of the window (or logging in) the results are shown properly:

Matthew has suggested a few reasons for this change, one of which is to dissuade people (like me!) who use the engine just to search with no intention of booking anything through United.

He’s also suggested United may be improving their big data analytics, so will be capturing what people are searching for, even where they don’t book anything.

I guess this is a fair enough change as many programs do not allow you to see search results unless you log in.

Bottom line

This isn’t a huge change, and one that is fair enough for United to make. I’ll probably still use the United search engine before deciding which program to redeem miles in, depending on the results that it shows up.

What’s your theory as to why United would make this change?


  1. Doesn’t UA still make some economy award space available only to elites? That could explain why they want you to log in. Or at least, it gives them an excuse for asking you to log in

  2. Most likely because Chase UA cardmembers weren’t always logging in first, and thus not seeing the expanded award inventory they get as a card benefit.

  3. This appears to be selectively employed or they’re relying heavily on cookies and broswer history. I tried this last night and am searching award availability right this moment and neither time was I asked to login. For the record I have used two different computers using two different browsers and two different operating systems.

  4. Nice catch.

    The other workaround I found out was that you have to turn on the computer. It will not show you any results of you do not turn on the computer. Didn’t know that.

  5. Hi James. I wrote in my piece that I used this workaround you describe above (just X out the box) for about a week, then it disappeared and I was forced to login – the box changed and no longer had an “X”. I still must login: there is no workaround I can find on my machine.

    Your research shows that apparently this is a cookie-specific move on the part of United. It appears I am just searching too much for award space. Interesting…

  6. Agree with Cobra – it actually helps a lot of United folks that have Chase UA cards and may not realize they’re missing out on award seats (which I find going across the pond a lot is actually quite a substantial difference).

    I was caught by this just a few weeks ago looking for inventory and I was logged in, went off to do something, and then didn’t realize the login session had expired and was bummed the award space was gone. After a few attempts of not seeing all the space I was seeing earlier I realized I had been logged out of the site. Why on earth UA’s login window is so short is beyond me.

  7. Ok so to sum it up: the UA website has a new login modal (pop-up/overlay) and clicking the “X” closes it. Wow, what an astounding and valuable article.

  8. The ridiculous part is, that being logged in it shows you XN /IN space (if you have the UA CC/status) which can’t be booked by partners, so you’d have to use expert mode to see all available seats in all fare classes. Pretty annoying.

  9. What “restrictions” are you talking about? This post is simply talking about needing to login, no restriction regarding search or anything like that– but that’s what the headline implies. Click Bait?

  10. Aside from the fact that you may actually WANT to be signed in, as described in the comments above, there is another way—albeit cumbersome—to defeat modal overlays like this.
    As long as the full original page is loaded underneath, you can right click to jump into Developer Tools (sometimes as ‘Inspect Element’) and just click anywhere in the overlay color, then hit the Delete key. This will remove the element from the document tree in your local browser. After you reload the page, the overlay will be back.

    This certainly isn’t a long-term solution, but it’s often a usable hack to quickly see what you need to see. It gets trickier with websites that also disable scrolling, but that’s another story.

  11. This maybe a much-a-do about nothin’, as I have seen the described behavior before.

    I just did a search for both revenue and award travel (using Firefox), starting with the former, without the popup requesting that one log in showing. Then I switched to award travel (just clicked a button at the top of the results of the prior revenue ticket search. and I got the popup, a smallish one pointing at the “login button” that said:

    “Sign in to see all flights available to you as a MileagePlus member.”

    That is the real reason why the “change”, which is not really a change because I have seen the behavior before, may have been made more “formal” for award travel search.

    Hotel search engines, e.g. Hilton Honors’, have a similar behavior, which is meant to ensure that elites get discounted rates for which they are eligible, and that is a Good Thing.

  12. I just wish they, as well as AA, would stop showing results where there are long legs that are in economy. It makes it very difficult to see what dates are actually available that I might fly.

  13. Perhaps they are determining your status as award space for us 1K’s is much more prevalent on UA than for those who are not. But not sure of the same applies to other Star Alliance carriers showing on the UA website?

  14. Agreed with @DCS, “much a do about nothing”! I thought the piece will address a workaround regarding the lack of award availability for certain routes, dates, etc.

  15. There are no reward restrictions! No tricks offered to find better award space!

    And you have a problem with having to log into the system to see reward space (a requirement which appears not to apply to many anyway – I’ve never had to login o the UA website) – a ten-second task?!

    Another waste of space article (like how to log into the BA environment).

  16. Is there a United credit card that assures you an award seat on any United flight if there are ANY seats available on the flight?

  17. @ Tiffany

    The title of this article is misleading in implying that the content will aid the reader in bypassing restrictions on finding award space. Quite simply – it doesn’t, rather it offers trivial content. Several other respondents have similar opinions. Unless of course you’re suggesting that having to log into a FF environment is a restriction worthy of bypass….?!

    ..and let’s ignore the fact that the so-called new restriction (aka a need to login) appears only to apply to some…why didn’t James know the (= research anyone?)

    Of his articles those I’ve read, James has produced two virtually pointless articles and at last three incurring substantial legal risk for your blog. Will be your problem not mine if you get sued by a misrepresented party.

    IMHO these stand out as clangers amongst the usually excellent contributions (from yourself, Lucky, etc) on OMAAT.

    Of course it’s totally up to you how you want to run your blog, but offering content that is poorly researched or legally naive may not be prudent…

    …finding out why the login is imposed on some and not others may be of some interest…especially if it favours rather than hinders certain customers (e.g. the possibility of favourable availability for some with status or credit cards, cheaper taxes quoted according to country of purchase, etc).

  18. @ James

    A prudent person writing for an audience would respect the feedback from that audience: a number of folk find your articles trivial (and not the first time) – perhaps…listen and adapt?! At least consider if not instantly shutting down into defensive mode…

    Lawyer, perhaps, but none too competent when it comes to writing.

    Hopefully the penny will drop…good luck and enjoy your upcoming travels…

  19. @ platy — I appreciate your feedback, but the headline does say “award search restrictions”, which seems very specific?

    I don’t see how that implies anything about award *space*, and we do our best to be clear about the content in all of our headlines. But, I am sorry that you felt mislead.

  20. @ Tiffany

    Thanks for your response, which is fatefully received.

    Respectfully, “award search restrictions” is ambiguous in context. The singular purpose of award search is to find award space. There is no substantive restriction in searching for award space or searching at all for that matter in this case (you may or may not simply need to logon or use the X button to bypass).

    The implication is that if you follow the tips included in the article your capacity to find award space all be enhanced. Putting the title, “A Workaround for Having to Logon onto UA To Search for Awards” would be accurate and save folk from bothering to read a trivial article likely of no relevance (since folk are reporting, like myself, a continuing ability to such without going through the logon process).

    On the issue of triviality, IMHO, your recent article on the various award opportunities USA-Europe is a tour de force of research / knowledge/ experience and, significantly, of immense value in its utility to the frequent flyer. Amazing job. Arguably of incomparably greater value than a trivial stocking filler.

    Please do consider (on the legal issues) that if James is (apparently somewhat arrogantly) dismissing concerns of legal risk for OMAAT whilst claiming some legal expertise you MIGHT end up in trouble: whilst I am not a legally trained, I have worked for over 20 years writing /editing for corporations and had my output invariably checked by the senior counsel of various multinationals – based on that experience, personally I would be cautious of publicly publishing, for example, stories stating a person’s guilt before conviction, claiming an airline is consolidating flights to save money (without offering proof of such), etc.

    The fact the lad makes stupid statements about me worrying more about the legals than him would concern me greatly if I had any business risk exposure. Immature stupidity – good luck with that one!

    Of course, if the author himself is carrying his own personal liability (rather than OMAAT) , then let him sink or swim.

    Enough said, except to reiterate respect for your own and Lucky’s work!

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