For folks looking to get Big Travel with Small Money, using United Airlines miles to book award flights can be incredibly valuable!
United Airlines has a simple award chart with easy-to-understand pricing. And because United Airlines miles are easy to accrue, many of these award flights are very accessible.
The United Airlines tool is one of my favorites for booking award flights. Because it is straightforward and easy to maneuver. And I love using United Airlines miles to book flights on United Airlines’ Star Alliance partners because they have competitive prices and don’t impose fuel surcharges.
In this post, I’ll show you how to understand the United Airlines award chart and how to use your United Airlines miles to get Big Travel with Small Money!
Rules for Booking Flights With United Airlines Miles
When booking award flights with United Airlines miles, keep in mind:
- You can book round-trip flights. Or book one-way flights for half the miles listed.
- United Airlines charges a “close-in” booking fee of $75 for award flights book within 21 days of departure. But you can avoid it with this trick!
- United Airlines allows a free stopover or a free one-way on round-trip award flights in the form of the “United Airlines Excursionist Perk”
- Award flights booked on United Airlines’ Star Alliance partners are sometimes more expensive than award flights on United Airlines operated flights (such as for Business Class and First Class flights to Europe and Asia)
- United Airlines offers 2 levels of award flights. “Saver awards” are cheaper, but “Standard awards” are easier to find!
United Airlines Award Chart
Unfortunately, the United Airlines award chart is only in PDF format and is frustrating to use. Instead, United Airlines offers a more friendly “Interactive travel destinations award chart.” On this chart, you pick your origin and destination “regions,” and the website gives you the cost in miles.
To determine the price of an award flight, decide which “regions” you are traveling between. For a list of the countries in each award “region,” visit the United Airlines’ region definition page.
United Airlines divides their award regions into the following 17 regions:
- Mainland US, Alaska, & Canada
- Central America
- Northern South America
- Southern South America
- Middle East
- Northern Africa
- Central & Southern Africa
- North Asia
- Central Asia
- South Asia
- Australia & New Zealand
Once you’ve determined your origin and destination “regions,” use the interactive travel destinations award chart to determine the cost of your award flights.
1. Select Your Origin
First, select the specific region from where you plan to commence your award travel.
2. Select Your Destination
Then, select the destination where you want to conclude travel.
3. View Award Prices
Finally, scroll down to view the various pricing options for the different award types.
For example, a one-way saver award flight in coach from the mainland US to Europe costs 30,000 United Airlines miles. But a one-way standard award flight in coach from the mainland US to Europe costs 65,000 United Airlines miles.
And a one-way saver award flight in Business Class from the mainland US to North Asia on United Airlines costs 70,000 United Airlines miles. While a one-way saver award flight in Business Class on one of United Airlines’ Star Alliance Partners for the same route would cost 80,000 United Airlines miles.
The interactive travel destinations award chart is simple and intuitive. But if you would rather just start searching for flights, the United.com tool is very easy to use!
Saver vs. Standard Awards
United Airlines offers 2 types of flight awards, saver awards and standard awards. Saver awards cost fewer miles than standard awards, but standard awards are easier to find.
When searching for award flights, United.com displays available saver and standard coach award flights in the same column.
But Business Class and First Class saver and standard flight awards are clearly displayed in individual columns.
Note: When both saver Business Class and standard Business Class are available, there is no difference between the two options other than the cost in miles! So it is always best to book saver awards if they are available.
The Award availability calendar at the top of the award search page can also be incredibly helpful! For example, any date that has a blue solid line will have available saver award seats in coach. And any date that has a blue dotted line will have saver award seats available in a premium cabin (either Business Class or First Class).
Based on the blue lines above, we know that March 20, 2017, has both saver coach awards and saver premium cabin awards. To view the details of the available awards, scroll down to the specific flight options.
Using the availability calendar and the blue lines (both dotted and solid), the United Airlines award website makes searching for award flights very straightforward.
Flights Under 700 Miles
United Airlines also offers discounted award prices for United Airlines flights under 700 miles in the mainland US. Instead of 12,500 United Airlines miles one-way, these award flights cost only 10,000 United Airlines miles.
So for folks who often fly on shorter routes (such as Chicago to Washington, DC, or Los Angeles to San Francisco), this can be a great way to save 2,500 miles.
Note: Even if your flight of under 700 miles has a layover, it will still price out at 10,000 miles one-way per person. So the ‘under 700 miles’ requirement refers to the distance between your origin and destination, regardless of your flight path!
Alaska Add-On Charge
United Airlines charges additional miles for flights between Alaska and the mainland US. Saver level award flights cost an additional 5,000 United Airlines miles one-way per person. Standard level award flights cost an additional 10,000 United Airlines miles.
So award flights between the mainland US and Alaska cost:
- 17,500 United Airlines miles for one-way saver coach awards
- 30,000 United Airlines miles for one-way standard coach awards
- 30,000 United Airlines miles for one-way saver Business Class awards
- 60,000 United Airlines miles for one-way standard Business Class awards
No Fuel Surcharges
One of my favorite things about booking award flights with United Airlines miles is that they never impose fuel surcharges. So no matter where you want to use your miles, the taxes and fees will be relatively cheap!
For example, Lufthansa regularly charges ~$400 per person in taxes and fuel surcharges on one-way First Class flights. But when booking with United Airlines miles, you only have to pay the taxes.
In the above example, the taxes and fees are only ~$6, with the $75 United Airlines close-in booking fee.
The United.com award booking tool is easy to use! Enter your departure and destination regions and you’ll see the price in miles.
On the calendar, a solid line indicates you can book saver award seats in coach. And dots mean you can book Business or First Class at the cheaper saver award price.
I like how easy it is to check the cost in miles of your award flight. But I do NOT like the added $75 fee for booking a flight within 21 days of departure. So try using this trick to avoid it!