The Secret to Saving Miles on Fancy United Airlines Business Class Flights to Europe, Asia, and Beyond

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.

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

Quick tip:   If you’re booking an international Business Class ticket with United Airlines, you’ll save tons of miles if you’re actually flying United Airlines.

Like, tens of thousands of miles.  This is because United Airlines has separate award charts for their own flights and for other airlines.  They incentivize United Airlines mile collectors to fly on their own planes by pricing them way cheaper.

That means if you earn the welcome bonus with a card like the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you could book a Business Class flight to Europe on United Airlines and still have hundreds of dollars in nearly free travel.  Not the case if you book with a partner airline!

Here’s what you need to know.

Award Flights on United Airlines Are Cheaper, but Partner Airlines Usually Have a Better Business Class Product.  Including Their Lounges!  Here’s a Shot of the SWISS Business Class Lounge in Zurich

United Airlines Business Class Flights Are Cheaper Than Partner Flights

There are two super duper things about United Airlines:

  1. They are a part of Star Alliance, so they have tons of airline partners.  It’s uniquely uncomplicated to book a ticket to just about anywhere with United Airlines miles
  2. United Airlines doesn’t pass along fuel surcharges with award flights.  The cash price for taxes & fees for an award flight is very tolerable, whether you book a flight on United Airlines or on their partners

However, booking an award seat on a partner airline will cost you an extra 10,000 miles.

For example, here’s a flight from Newark to Tokyo.  The first flight is on United Airlines, and the rest are partner airlines.

And here are the prices to Paris.  The first flight is United Airlines, and the rest are partner airlines.

A round-trip Business Class flight on a United Airlines plane will cost 20,000 miles less than if you book with a partner!  That seems like a no-brainer.

However, if you’ve flown your fair share of Business Class, you’ve probably noticed that United Airlines Business Class isn’t the greatest.  I’ve flown several Star Alliance airlines in Business Class, and United Airlines isn’t anywhere near the most impressive.  First world problems, I know.

Also, you’ll notice in browsing the United Airlines website that there are WAY more partner flights available than United Airlines flights.  You’ll have the most luck in booking a flight on United Airlines if you fly from one of their hubs, like:

  • Newark
  • Chicago
  • Washington, DC (IAD)
  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Denver

Click here to see our ultimate guide to United Airlines miles!  And you can sign-up for our newsletter for more tips to saving big on travel:

[gravityform id=”3″ title=”false” description=”false”]

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for 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! :)

Join the Discussion!

Comments are closed.