I monitored award availability across Delta, American, United and a few other frequent-flyer programs, and the only one that had Saver availability during my dates was United, for 80,000 MileagePlus miles. I noticed flights from Sydney (SYD) to Seattle (SEA) started to open up seven days before departure, with availability disappearing about three days out. The long-haul segment that was generally open was on a 787 from SYD to Los Angeles (LAX), while United’s other long-haul to the West Coast, from SYD to San Francisco (SFO), was generally pretty full.

The long-haul inventory from SYD to LAX that was available on United.com was not showing up on Avianca’s LifeMiles, Singapore Airline’s KrisFlyer or Aeroplan award searches, which meant I had to use United miles.

I ended up booking a crazy routing, intending to confirm myself on the long-haul in business class and hopefully make a same-day change (a perk of United Gold status) onto the nonstop from LAX to SEA, in economy if need be.