United Airlines Miles: My 5 Most Amazing Award Flights So Far — And How You Can Do It Too

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INSIDER SECRET: United Airlines miles offer the most value (hands down!) when redeeming for international first or business-class flights, especially on partner airlines.

Yes, I’m a Chase Ultimate Rewards fanboy. And that’s largely because I receive tremendous value when transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Chase travel partners like Hyatt, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines. Over the last five years, I’ve used Chase and United points for fantastic trips that have produced memories that will last a lifetime.

Sure, I love using American Airlines miles for award travel. And I have my fair share of Delta SkyMiles travel stories as well. But United Airlines miles are the easiest to earn (for me personally) due to their partnership with Chase and the many possibilities for earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points from everyday spending.

I’ll share my favorite award flights using United Airlines miles — and how you can do it too!

You can use United Airlines miles for award flights on United, or on partners like Lufthansa and Air New Zealand. (Photo by Soos Jozsef/Shutterstock)

My 5 Most Amazing United Airlines Miles Award Flight Redemptions

Read our review of United Airlines miles

Read our review of Chase Ultimate Rewards

I’ve earned and redeemed well over one million United Airlines miles over the last five years. That’s all due to points and miles earned from spending on Chase credit cards (as they’re the only card issuer that partners with United Airlines). You can do the same thing.

The single easiest way to earn United Airlines miles or Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which transfer to United miles at a 1:1 ratio) is by applying for lucrative credit card offers that come with massive rewards. For example, my very first rewards credit card was the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which offers 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Home From Our Honeymoon the Long Way in Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa Business Class

I used to jokingly tell friends to go all out because YOHO (you only honeymoon once). With that in mind, my wife and I took an epic four-week jaunt around the globe for our honeymoon. We spent most of our time in Playa del Carmen and Bali, but we ultimately began our journey home from Bangkok, Thailand.

At the time (back in 2015), United’s online award booking tool was still rather generous with its award routings. Thus, we booked the following itinerary in business class all as part of one award for just 80,000 United miles per person:

  • Bangkok to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines (two-hour layover)
  • Istanbul to Cairo on Turkish Airlines (20-hour layover, overnight)
  • Cairo to Frankfurt on Lufthansa (10-hour layover during the day)
  • Frankfurt to Los Angeles on Lufthansa
Lufthansa business class is a great way to fly, especially on the way home from a fantastic, round-the-world honeymoon. (Photo courtesy of Lufthansa)

This gave us the incredible opportunity to spend a full day in Egypt exploring the pyramids, museums and other historical sites. We also got to venture around Frankfurt for a half day and sample quite a few different business-class seats. We were younger then, so the adventuring and lack of sleep was easier to accommodate.

All in all, this was the perfect ending to a dream trip. And I was grateful to redeem United Airlines miles to fly home from Asia the long way in the comfort of business class.

Chicago to Maui Nonstop in Coach

I’ve been lucky to visit Maui three times over the past five years, typically as part of a family reunion of sorts. Flying from the East Coast to Maui in July or August takes a full day (typically) as flight times are close to 11 hours not including any layovers.

On a trip out in 2016, my wife and I were departing from Chicago and had high hopes of not spending our entire day cramped in coach. That’s when a 22,500 United miles award option, nonstop, from Chicago O’Hare to Maui saved the day. The cash price of this fare was around $800 per person, one-way, and that was when booking almost six months in advance!

We absolutely love visiting Maui, especially when we book nonstop award flights. (Photo by Maui Topical Images/Shutterstock)

We enjoyed a comfortable nonstop flight and even had ample legroom and privacy because we flew on a 2-3-2 configured United 767 plane. The best part was that we landed in Maui around 2pm and still had plenty of sunshine to enjoy our first day on the island.

A Last-Minute Jaunt to Vegas to Visit Family

I’ve written about this redemption before, but I’ll mention it again: This is possibly my favorite use of United miles of all time.

A coworker had mistakenly booked the wrong date to fly to a family reunion in Vegas. United was stingy with the fee to change the flight (something like $150 plus the fare difference) and last-minute flight options cost upwards of $250 one-way.

Las Vegas might not be the most aspirational destination, but I was grateful to redeem United miles for this flight. (Photo by randy andy/Shuttershock)

I was thrilled to redeem 10,000 United miles for the one-way flight in coach and help out a friend who just wanted to spend time with her parents. The cents-per-point value was nothing to write home about, but this award flight redemption was worth every point.

Business Class to Dublin for Easter in Ireland

My parents both have Irish roots, so visiting Dublin, Galway and the rest of beautiful Ireland had always appealed to me. In 2017, my wife and I decided to visit one of her childhood best friends who was living in Ireland for the year, though we could only squeeze in a long weekend with our busy work schedules.

We visited Dublin, Ireland by redeeming United miles for nonstop business-class flights. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

We decided to visit over Easter weekend and happened to find nonstop United business-class award seats from Washington, DC to Dublin in lie-flat seats aboard a 767 plane (thanks to a last minute equipment swap!). The flat seats and fun food offerings onboard meant that we got to enjoy a delicious meal and still arrive well rested to hit the ground running in Dublin.

We redeemed 70,000 United Airlines miles per person (plus just $5.60 in taxes and fees!) for comfortable, nonstop flights to visit a good friend. This was a huge win, and a great way to start our trip.

Home From Auckland the Long Way (via Tokyo) in Air New Zealand and United Business Class

Another one of my favorites involved taking the long way home from New Zealand back to Washington, DC. You probably know that finding business-class award flights between the US and Australia or New Zealand can be particularly difficult. That’s why sometimes it makes sense to consider flying home to the US via Asia. Especially if you have enough miles to redeem for business-class flights, the extra flying time can be a benefit more than an inconvenience.

Ultimately, we redeemed 80,000 United miles per person to fly from Auckland to Tokyo (in Air New Zealand business class) to Washington, DC (in United Polaris business class). This routing certainly added a few hours to our total travel time, but I was excited to fly Air New Zealand’s business class and enjoy a few more hours in a lie-flat seat with my wife.

We flew home from New Zealand the long way (via Tokyo) in business class by redeeming United miles. (Photo by fotocrazy/Shutterstock)

Had we paid for these flights, we would have been out of pocket nearly $5,000 per person — ouch! I would certainly never pay for premium flights at that cost, but it certainly puts into perspective what a fantastic award flight redemption value we received.

Bottom Line

I’ve enjoyed some fantastic award flight redemptions using United Airlines miles over the past few years. These five award flights are just some of my favorites where I’ve gotten outstanding value or enjoyed luxurious products for nearly free because of my United Airlines miles.

I’ve earned most of these miles through Chase Ultimate rewards, or by signing up for United Airlines credit cards with generous welcome bonus offers. You can do it too with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

What are your favorite award flight redemptions using United Airlines miles? Drop us a note in the comments!

And here are more guides to help you keep learning:

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Jake Pearring is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

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! :)

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