London LHR Loyalty Traveler Online Travel Agencies San Francisco SFO United Airlines United Mileage Plus

If her London trip goes wrong, I’ll blame Momondo

a castle with towers and towers on a river bank

She does not know yet, but my wife is the subject of a Loyalty Traveler airline ticketing experiment. If her trip to London goes wrong, I’ll blame Momondo and their ridiculously lower ticket prices found in meta-searches of online travel agency discount fares.

I like experiments. Those of us who collect points and miles tend to be the experimental type.

I booked a round trip ticket for myself yesterday on, flying San Francisco to London for $691 round trip and I applied my $400 United travel credit earned in July. I gave up my seat on a United flight from London to Los Angeles in July for a next day flight directly to San Francisco, hotel room at Radisson Edwardian LHR and $400 travel credit. My ticket to London yesterday cost $291 with the discount. meta-search OTA Discount Tickets

The exact same nonstop flights I booked on United Airlines for $691 round trip were only $601 round trip, nearly 15% less, through online travel agency found on This year, I have posted many low fares on Loyalty Traveler found on These ticket purchases for London looked like a good opportunity to grab first-hand experience on what it means to book a discount international ticket found through from an OTA like

Seeing the opportunity to make a valid comparison between booking avenues, I booked my ticket on and used my $400 credit for a $291 ticket. I booked Kelley’s ticket for $90 less ($601) on with same flights and adjacent seat assignments.


After making Kelley’s London ticket purchase I waited for a confirmation email. The first email I received within about ten minutes directed me to call On the phone I was asked my relationship to the person flying. Kelley and I have different last names and her ticket purchase was on my credit card. I verified all my details and her details with the representative. An hour after I made the purchase, the TravelMerry reservation confirmation email arrived with a United reservation booking code for her ticket. I immediately went to and booked her seat assignments beside me for the flight to London and back. While the ticket prices are not especially low, the deal here is our winter flight to London has a scheduled return to San Francisco in August. We picked up a cheap tickets on Norwegian for flights back to California in winter. London Gatwick LGW to Oakland or Los Angeles is as low as $195 one-way. 

Her ticket on shows United Economy K class, however, her ticket receipt on only shows taxes for fare paid. Total ticket price is listed as BULK USD. This indicates this ticket might be ineligible for earning any miles in any frequent flyer program.

How would United Mileage Plus even determine miles without a fare basis dollar amount to calculate 5 miles x $1?

My ticket fare basis = $486 x 5 = 2,430 redeemable miles in United Mileage Plus. Is a $90 ticket discount a good trade-off in lieu of earning 2,430 United Mileage Plus miles?

In February 2017 the answer will be revealed for how many miles, if any, Kelley earns on her OTA discount ticket to Europe?

UA SFO-LHR TravelMerry ticket details

Cheap Aegean flights lead to Greece and beyond

I am crediting my United SFO-LHR flights to Aegean Miles+Bonus frequent flyer program.

The other aspect of my 72 hours trip planning was setting up flight plans for my 2016-2017 objective for attaining Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold elite for Star Alliance lounge benefits and other perks. That is the topic of my next segment and how picking up Aegean flight segments for flights around Europe is far cheaper than I imagined.



  • Postxav October 24, 2016

    Does K bulk fare earn 50% based on flight distance?

  • Hari October 24, 2016

    I thought Bulk fares from United earned at least 50%, but just no fare bonus ( GCMap ( shows the flown distance as 5,367 mi, so at 50% she should expect 2683 ( .5… maybe they’ll round up? 🙂 ) miles each way, if everything works out. The *real* problem is you won’t get any qualifying dollars from the flight because it is a bulk fare ( Not sure how important that is in this situation, but something to keep in mind!

  • Cliburn October 24, 2016

    I think consolidator and bulk tickets earn a percentage of miles flows on UA. For K class it 50%.

    5350 miles RT.

  • nsx at FlyerTalk October 24, 2016

    “If her trip to London goes wrong, I’ll blame Momondo”

    Presuming that she doesn’t read this blog, that is!

  • Marilyn B October 24, 2016

    @Ric I saw some great fares using Momondo that were through Travel Merry. Ended up not biting, but also read some very mixed comments about this OTA. So will be very interested in your report.
    I hope all goes well.

  • Lisa October 24, 2016

    Ric I enjoy your leads in great airfare and am still learning how best to negotiate the sites. ? Re your United flight u booked to London. U stated you booked the flight to ‘return’ in August cause u found an inexpensive one-way flight home. What do you do with the August return flight? Can you get a credit ? Or do u get charged a ‘change ticket’ fee—thanks

  • Ric Garrido October 24, 2016

    @Lisa – My travel pattern over the past couple of years of frequent trips to Europe is buying tickets that start in Europe with San Francisco SFO as a destination.

    SFO is 110 miles from my Monterey, California home.

    We are flying Stockholm to San Francisco on SAS Scandinavian Airlines in December and back to Stockholm in July on a $470 round trip ticket. I did not have a ticket home from Europe to California in summer 2017 until yesterday. Kelley flies Norwegian one-way London to Oakland $310 all-in with bag, food and seat at the end of winter 2017 trip.

    These United Airlines nested tickets allow us to go to Europe and start a winter trip and then get home from Europe in August at the end of our summer trip ($470 Dec-July ARN-SFO round trip ticket) for about $560 round trip per ticket

    Intra-Europe airline tickets average around $75 to $100 for each country visited. We plan to visit about four countries on each trip.

    The reason for buying tickets starting in Europe is SFO-Europe averages $700 to $1000 round trip with American, Delta and United and the major three alliance airlines. Fly from cities in Europe to San Francisco and the price can be far lower (Stockholm high $300s/low $400s). In 2015 I flew Bergen, Norway to San Francisco for $376 round trip. In January 2016,I flew Amsterdam to Las Vegas for $422 round trip. In December 2016, I will complete an American Airlines $470 round trip ticket flying British Airways Salzburg-Los Angeles-Vienna. I will have American Airlines Platinum elite status for 2017 allowing airport lounge privileges on international flights in 2017.

    San Francisco has WOW Air and Norwegian flies out of Oakland as low cost airlines for my area. WOW has high cost carry-on and checked bag fees ($65-$80 one way) and $10 to $50 seat assignment fees. Norwegian is $90 on top of basic ticket price for assigned seat and one checked bag. You can fly San Francisco Bay Area to Europe for about $200 to $300 one way, depending on your risk aversion and packing style. It is possible to fly WOW or Norwegian with no extra seat or bag fees, but challenging. Norwegian is easier in my opinion to get a low cost one-way fare between California and Europe. Fares are more commonly $300 to $400 each way on these low cost carriers.

    The travel plan I use for Europe is finding low $400 to $500 round trip tickets from Europe to San Francisco on major alliance airlines, so I can earn elite status with Oneworld and Star Alliance.

    I made 6 round trips from California to Europe in 2015 and I will achieve that again in 2016 for about $475 per ticket by booking Europe-SFO/LAX/LAS tickets.

    I don’t throw away tickets. I simply fly a reverse pattern of tickets flying Europe-USA round trip. The discounts accumulated with several tickets to low fare cities in Europe allows me to fly wherever there is a low cost ticket opportunity in Europe and pay for intra-Europe flights to go wherever I desire. My annual ticket purchases are significantly lower cost overall than ticketing traditional California-Europe round trip itineraries.

    I think I average about $300-$350 each way from Monterey to anywhere in Europe. Sometimes I might spend $400 one way between airfare, parking, rental car and other times I spend only $250 more by using all the options available.

    The more time I spend planning, the more low cost travel options I discover.

  • Matt October 24, 2016

    Her trip will not go wrong, but earning miles on United MileagePlus is probably not going to happen.

  • WP October 24, 2016

    What a thorough reply. As always, great analysis. If memory serves me, I think you have also pulled off getting flights into Monterey. Thanks Ric.

  • lisa October 24, 2016

    Wow – thanks for the detailed explanation – still trying to wrap my head around it but I think I got it…..very clever and smart- thanks for taking the time to explain-btw we jumped on the info I believe you gave many months ago about a nonstop flight (RT) to Zurich from LAX for $600. We grabbed that and are going in May – can’t wait!

  • Andy October 24, 2016

    Bulk fare is based on distance.

    According to United website, Bulk K fare will earn 50% miles based on distance.
    Zero PQD.

  • Ric Garrido October 25, 2016

    Thanks Andy.

    That looks like she would get 2x miles with a discount fare ticket. That is almost 5,400 miles SFO-LHR and 50% flight miles for K class earns 5,400 United Mileage Plus redeemable miles for $600 round trip ticket.

    She would receive less than 2,500 miles for $691 ticket on

    Now I am very interested to see how this plays out in February. I can add her UA frequent flyer number to the reservation and continue the experiment.

Comments are closed.