The Ultimate Guide to United Miles: Part 3 – Understanding The United Award Chart

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United has 2 award charts for redeeming miles and 2 awards charts for upgrades.

The Ultimate Guide to United Miles Index

1.   United Airlines Travel Award Chart

This award chart (page 2) is for travel only on United Airlines and COPA Airlines.
United Award Chart
Saver and Standard Award Chart for United & Copa flights.
Each box represents the one-way price in miles for a trip within or between two regions.  You can book these awards online at United.com.  If you book online, you do not have to pay the $25 telephone ticketing fee.

However, the United.com site isn’t perfect, and you may not be able to book some flights online.  If this happens, you have to call in and perhaps pay the $25 telephone ticketing fee.

2.   Star Alliance Travel Award Chart

This award chart (page 3) lets you combine travel on:

a)   United Airlines

United Award Chart
Star Alliance Partner Award Chart

b)    Star Alliance partner airlines, including:

c)   Other partners, including:

In general, the Star Alliance and Other Partners chart costs the SAME price as the Saver level (low-level awards) on the United Airlines chart.

You can book most airline partners online for no booking fee.  However, you may have to phone United to book on some partners, which costs $25.

The ability to combine flights on United planes as well as on Star Alliance flights is what makes United miles so useful!

Upgrades

1.   Upgrades on United Airlines and Copa Airlines

This upgrade chart (pages 4 & 5) shows the amount of miles and cash co-pay required to upgrade a paid booking on United Airlines or Copa Airlines.
United Award Chart
Upgrade Chart for United and Copa flights
NOTE: You can only use this chart to upgrade a paid booking; you CANNOT use miles to upgrade a ticket for which you redeemed miles.

However, you can pay the difference in miles between classes of service (say, between business or first class) to upgrade a mileage ticket.

Upgrading a paid ticket only works for the next class of service, so you can upgrade from economy to business class, or business class to first class, but you cannot upgrade from economy class to first class.

The exception is on domestic flights which only have 2 classes of service – on those flights, you can upgrade from economy class to first class!

Generally, I do not like to use miles to upgrade because it costs a lot of miles and money to upgrade from the cheapest economy class tickets.

For example, if I buy the cheapest 1-way fare from the US to Europe, I would have to pay 20,000 United miles + $550 to upgrade my seat to business class!

The total cost of getting a business class seat through upgrading would cost:

  • $600 (cost of cheapest discount economy class 1-way ticket)
  • $550 (cash upgrade co-pay)
  • $200 (20,000 United miles conservatively valued @ 1 cent each)

This adds up to $1,350!

Instead, it costs only 50,000 United Airline miles to book a 1-way business class seat from the US to Europe.

I’d rather spend 50,000 United miles than $1,350.

However, you may be interested in upgrading your paid ticket if your company buys you economy class tickets, or if you are interested in acquiring elite status.

Also, if you hold Premier status (elite status) on United Airlines, you may be exempt from co-pays on certain domestic and North American routes.

2.   Upgrades on Star Alliance partner airlines

This chart (page 6) lists the amount of miles and co-pay required to upgrade flights on Star Alliance partner airlines.
United Award Chart
Upgrade chart for Star Alliance partners.

However, these upgrades require you to buy full-fare business or economy class tickets which can cost thousands of dollars more than discount fares.

This is not a good value unless your company or organization purchases full fare tickets that you wish to upgrade.

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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