My husband and I are planning a trip to Scotland this spring. I have enough miles for a round trip using saver and standard awards on United for one of us. I'd like to use miles for one ticket and pay for the other. Does anybody have suggestions for how to do this? So far I cannot find the same itinerary on paid and miles flights. I plan to call United but with weather delays, their customer service line is jammed. Wondering if anybody has any tips or suggestions about how to combine paid and miles flights for 2 travelers.
It is of course possible for two travelers to take the same itinerary, one paying with miles and the other with money, but not on the same reservation. Every person listed on a PNR must use the same fare basis, so you must obtain award tickets and paid tickets in separate reservations/transactions. This is a software limitation that exists, to my knowledge, in all global distribution systems, not just United's.
Since frequent flyer award tickets are difficult to obtain, you should first book the flights where they are available, then purchase the revenue ticket separately for the same itinerary. Being separate reservations will impact your trip in certain ways; for example, companions would not "inherit" the frequent flyer status of the primary traveler, and in the event of overbooking or irregular operations there is a possibility that you would be rescheduled on separate flights. But that can work to your advantage as well (e.g. if there is one seat available on two flights the same day, but two seats together not available for three days).
After you have booked your flights, you can call United Customer Service and ask that the record locators for each reservation be listed in the comments for the other reservation. This doesn't "link" them as sometimes reported, but in the event you do get bumped or have your seats changed, an agent would at least be able to see that someone else's reservation is related to yours.
You can totally do that, you just need to book them on the same departure date and flight number. The one thing that sucks about doing that is usually reward tickets don't allow you to choose a seat in advance, so if they're on separate itineraries, you probably won't be sitting together.
Solution, call United after you book, and ask super nicely. Hopefully you get someone from their super helpful Chicago call center. Enjoy Scotland!
FYI, United's twitter service is wicked fast at getting back to people with basic questions. Try and tweet them and see what they say! @United
There is a service called FlightFox that takes into account specific circumstances (dates, destinations, miles, time constraints etc.) much like the ones described in your question. Several members of the FlightFox community of travel experts then build a set of itineraries around these stipulations letting you pick the best one. The fee for the service is low ($25) and could offer you a very pointed and cost effective solution.