How to use United Airlines miles for partner-award flights on 35+ airlines

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One easily overlooked trick to using airline miles for award travel is learning how to redeem them for partner-award flights to just about any destination in the world. This is especially true with United MileagePlus miles because you can use these miles for award flights on 35+ airlines among United’s Star Alliance and non-alliance partners, including Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss Air Lines, Air Canada, Aer Lingus, and more. Plus, United Airlines never adds fuel surcharges to award tickets, even on partner airlines.

You can earn United miles easily with cards like the United℠ Explorer Card or by moving points from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, because United Airlines is a Chase transfer partner.

I’ll show you how to find and book United Airlines partner awards online.

You can book a Lufthansa first-class partner-award seat using your United Airlines miles. (Photo by Zach Griff)

4 steps to booking United Airlines partner-award seats with United miles

In November 2019, United Airlines got rid of its award chart. With this change came the announcement that United Airlines miles no longer expire, but the price of United award flights are now dynamic. And just recently, it removed its Star Alliance partner award chart, meaning all award tickets will now be subject to dynamic pricing.

Right now it’s still possible to book certain partner awards at the lowest “saver” level pricing, like one-way business-class partner awards to Europe for 70,000 miles (without fuel surcharges). But it’s anyone’s guess as to when those might disappear. And many of the partner award flights we’re seeing have increased in price by up to 10% — which isn’t devastating, but certainly worth noting. So if you find a flight that fits your travel plans, we’d suggest booking it right away.

You can use United Airlines miles to book United Airlines award flights on these Star Alliance partner airlines:

TAP Portugal business class. (Photo by Zach Honig)

And you can also redeem United Airlines miles on these non-alliance partners:

Million Mile Secrets team members have used United Airlines miles to book business-class award flights to New Zealand on Air New Zealand, and award flights on Brussels Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, and TAP Portugal to take multiple trips to Europe.

To book a partner-award flight, follow the same steps as if you are searching for a flight directly on United Airlines.

Step 1. Go to the United Airlines website

Visit the United Airlines website to start your search. You do not need to set up a United Airlines account to search for award seats.

Step 2. Enter your travel details

On the search engine, enter:

  • Whether it’s a one-way, round-trip, or multi-city trip (open the “Advanced search” window to search for multi-city itineraries)
  • Origin and destination
  • Departure and return dates
  • Number of passengers
  • Class of service
  • Select “Book with miles” 

The example below shows a search for flights between Chicago (ORD) and Singapore (SIN):

Step 3. View award-flight options

Sort through the search results and view flight options on United Airlines and partner airlines.

Underneath flights on partner airlines, it will say “Includes travel operated by.” If this doesn’t appear, it means the itinerary includes only United Airlines flights.

If there are multiple partner airlines for your award flight, click “Details” to expand and see which airline you’ll fly on each leg.

Once you find an award flight that meets your travel preferences, click “Select” below the award-flight cost. You can check our guide for how to book United Airlines award flights to learn more about award-flight pricing and make sure you’re getting the best deal. Keep in mind, as United Airlines eliminates its award chart, prices are becoming much more variable, though partner awards seem not to be affected yet.

Step 4. Log in and book your award flights

After you select your flights, it’s time to book. If you haven’t already done so, log into your United Airlines account to book your trip.

At the time of booking, you’ll be given a summary of the total cost of the award flight, including the number of miles and any taxes and fees.

Note: If you don’t have enough United Airlines miles in your account, you won’t be able to proceed past this step.

However, you can instantly transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines if you need to top-off your account when you have any of the following cards:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
If you don’t have enough United Airlines miles, transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points instantly to your account – that’s what I do!

You’ll also have to provide a credit card for payment of the taxes and fees.

How to earn United miles

You can earn United Airlines miles directly with these airline credit cards:

  • United℠ Explorer Card –  Earn up to 70,000 miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open.
  • United℠ Business Card – Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

These United Airlines cards also have other benefits like priority boarding, free checked baggage (when you pay for the flight with the card) and access to an increased number of award seats. These are valuable perks if you don’t have United Airlines status.

You can also earn transferable points with some of the best credit cards for travel and then convert those rewards into United miles. For example, if you have any of these three cards you can convert Chase Ultimate Rewards points into United Airlines miles at a 1:1 ratio:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

You can also convert Marriott points into (most) airlines miles at a 3:1 ratio and with United you’ll get a 10% bonus added to your transfer. On top of that, for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer, you’ll get a 5,000 airline miles bonus. That means you can convert 60,000 Marriott points into 27,000 United miles. That’s a great transfer ratio for hotel points. Right now the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card has an offer of three free nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

Bottom line

You can use United MileagePlus miles to book partner-award flights on more than 35 airlines. For example, you can travel to Europe by redeeming miles on partner airlines like Austrian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, and several others. Or travel to New Zealand by booking a partner award on Air New Zealand.

It’s extremely easy to search and book United Airlines award flights, including partner awards, directly on the United Airlines website. Just search for award flights on your desired travel route and the website will do the rest. The award-flight search results will show you all flight options, including itineraries on partner airlines. Then, it’s up to you to select a flight and book.

Meghan Hunter is an editor for Million Mile Secrets. She covers points, miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels and general travel. Her work has also appeared in The Points Guy.

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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