We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

How to Take a Business Trip in Style: Using Miles to Upgrade a Paid Coach Ticket

How to Take a Business Trip in Style:  Using Miles to Upgrade a Paid Coach Ticket

Million Mile SecretsHow to Take a Business Trip in Style:  Using Miles to Upgrade a Paid Coach TicketMillion Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

For folks who love to travel, taking business trips can be a great way to explore new places.  But many companies will only pay for travel in coach.

Fortunately, you can often use miles and points to upgrade a paid coach ticket to a more comfortable and civilized Business Class seat!

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
Use Miles to Upgrade a Paid Coach Ticket on Your Next Business Trip and Fly in Style!

In this example, I’ll show you how to book a paid coach ticket on United Airlines and use miles to upgrade to Business Class!

How to Upgrade a Paid Coach Ticket on United Airlines With Miles

Link:   United MileagePlus Upgrade Awards

Link:   United MileagePlus Upgrade Award Chart (See Pages 4 and 5)

Many airlines give the option to use cash or miles to upgrade a coach award ticket.  But folks traveling for business typically purchase paid coach tickets they can expense to their company.  This makes using miles and points challenging for business travelers.  But if your company is paying for your coach ticket, you can use your own miles and points to upgrade your seat!

American Airlines, Delta, British Airways, Etihad, Emirates, and many other major airlines also allow you upgrade a paid ticket using miles and points.

Here’s how to book a paid coach ticket and upgrade it with miles on United Airlines.

Step 1.   Search for a Paid Coach Ticket Eligible for Upgrades

Go to United.com and login to your MileagePlus account.  After logging in, click the All search options link on the home page.

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
Start by Clicking on “All Search Options” in the “Book Travel” Box at United.com

On the next page, select No on the award ticket option.  Choose round-trip, one-way, or multi-city based on your travel plans.

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
You Can Use Miles to Upgrade a Round-Trip, One-way, or Multi-city Ticket

Scroll down and enter your destination and travel dates.

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
United Airlines Allows Searches for a Variety of Dates If Your Plans Are Flexible

Scroll down again and select “economy” for your cabin.  Under the upgrade type, select Buy Economy and upgrade from the drop-down menu.

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
You Can Also Pay for Business Class and Upgrade to First Class With Miles!

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Search.”

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
United.com Will Display Flight Options for Both United Airlines and Other Star Alliance Partner Airlines.

The cheapest available coach tickets are shown in the first column.  United Airlines restricts upgrades on deeply-discounted coach fares or “basic economy” fares.  That’s why in the second column, you see the price of the coach fare plus a co-pay.  You also see the number of United Airlines miles required for the upgrade.

Look for flights with the green arrow next to them.  These are flights with current available upgrades.

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
The Co-Pay to Upgrade Is More Expensive on Deeply-Discounted Coach Tickets

Be sure to check with your company for their policy regarding booking business travel.  They may or may not be willing to pay for the co-pay portion of your upgrade. 

Keep in mind, United Airlines does not charge a co-pay to upgrade full fare coach tickets.  Full fare coach tickets are usually refundable and changeable, which some companies prefer anyway.  So if your company is willing to pay full fare, there is no co-pay to upgrade using miles!

After selecting your flight, United.com proceeds with any additional flights you included in your original search.

In this example, the return trip search displayed flights with a red question mark and a yellow arrow.

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
Be Sure to Read the Details When You See the Red Question Mark or the Yellow Arrow

The yellow arrow indicates that the flight is eligible for a wait list upgrade.  This means that a confirmed upgrade isn’t available, but you can get on the wait list to fly Business Class if an award seat opens up prior to departure.  If you choose this option, United Airlines will charge you the co-pay and miles at booking.

If a Business Class Saver award seat doesn’t become available before your flight, you’ll receive a refund of the co-pay, miles, and any taxes you paid on the upgrade.

So you should only choose this option if you are comfortable flying coach!

The red question mark displays when not all legs of the trip are available for upgrade.  This may be okay if you have a short connecting flight before or after a longer international flight, but make sure you read the details to understand which flight is actually being upgraded.

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
Be Careful – This “Mixed Upgrade” Option Has no Upgrade on the Paris to Toronto Flight, and Only the Chance to Waitlist on the Toronto to Chicago Flight

Step 2.   Book the Flight

After selecting your flights, the “Review Itinerary” screen will display your selections.

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
Before Booking, Double-Check That You Chose the Correct Flights

At this point, you must have enough United Airlines miles in your account to cover the cost of the upgrades to Business Class.

Remember, United Airlines is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner.  So if you need extra miles to cover your upgrade, you can instantly transfer them from your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire ReserveInk Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, Chase Ink Plus (no longer available), or Chase Ink Bold (no longer available).

What If My Flight Is Already Booked?

If your employer has already booked your ticket in coach, you can still upgrade your ticket using United Airlines miles!

To upgrade an existing reservation, click “Manage Reservations” on the United Airlines website and find your flight.  Click on “View/Change Seats.”

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
You Can Upgrade an Existing Reservation Using Miles by Clicking “View / Change Seats”

Then select the seat you would like.  Remember, if you purchased a “Basic Economy” or deeply-discounted coach ticket, you may not be able to upgrade your seat with miles.

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
This Flight Still Has Plenty of Business Class Seats Available for Upgrade!

The next screen displays the number of miles and co-pay to upgrade.

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
Business Class Upgrades on Flights to Europe Start as Low as 20,000 United Airlines Miles!

You Can Do It Too!

Before starting your search, it’s a good idea to check your company’s policy for business travel.  Some companies will actually pay for you to fly Business Class!  But if yours does not, you’ll want to know what the policy is for coach fares.  Will they only pay for the cheapest available flight?  Or is full-fare coach an option?

Next, you’ll need to have enough miles to actually pay for the upgrade.

There are lots of ways to earn United Airlines miles, particularly if you travel frequently for business.  But even if you don’t, it’s easy to earn United Airlines miles with sign-up bonuses and spending on credit cards.

You can earn United Airlines miles directly with cards like:

And because United Airlines is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, you can move Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio to United Airlines when you have one of these cards:

Keep in mind, if you have the Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, or Chase Ink Business Cash cards, you must combine points with one of the cards listed above to transfer to United Airlines.

Is an Upgrade Worth It?

I think so!  For travel to Europe, or any long flight, Business Class makes a huge difference!  Lounge access, priority boarding, delicious meals, premium drinks, and a lie-flat seat are great reasons to upgrade to Business Class.

And for business travelers, the ability to sleep comfortably can help you land rested and refreshed if you have to work right after arriving at your destination.

How To Take A Business Trip In Style Using Miles To Upgrade A Paid Coach Ticket
The Extra Legroom in Business Class Is Great on Long Flights!

With Business Class upgrades to Europe starting as low as 20,000 United Airlines miles, upgrading your paid coach ticket can be a great deal!  For domestic flight or shorter international flights, you’ll pay fewer miles to upgrade, but it’s probably best to save your miles for longer flights or an award ticket!

Bottom Line

It’s easy to use miles and points to upgrade a paid coach ticket to Business Class.  Even if your company pays for your coach ticket, you can often still upgrade using your own miles!

When paying for coach and upgrading to Business Class on United Airlines, look for tickets with current available upgrades.  This is shown by the green arrow on the search page.  If you see flight options with a red question mark or yellow arrow, be careful to check the details!

If you paid for a full-fare coach ticket, you’ll only have to pay miles for your upgrade.  Otherwise, there will be a co-pay.

If you have already purchased your ticket, you can still use miles to upgrade, as long as the paid coach ticket is not “Basic Economy” or a deeply-discounted ticket.

How have you used your own miles to upgrade a paid coach ticket?

If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!