I have previously shown you how to get the most value from your American AAdvantage miles and your Delta Skymiles. While I have much less experience redeeming United Mileage Plus miles, a lot of the ideas behind redemption are the same.
United is part of the Star Alliance, which includes airlines like Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and All Nippon Airlines. Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines have two of the best international First Class products out there, while Thai Airways and Lufthansa are known to have incredible First Class lounges! As with the other domestic airline,s a lot of the value that can be derived from their miles comes from their alliance partners!
The United Mileage Plus program is also transfer partners with Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program.
I have been itching to try Singapore Airlines’ First Class Suites and Lufthansa’s First Class products recently, so I have been researching how to get the best value of miles redeemed for these products.
Using United’s website to search for awards on both United and its Star Alliance partner is very straight forward.
Select Reservations – then award travel. In the example below I chose NYC to Frankfurt because I know United, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines all operate this route non-stop.
Saver business class awards will cost you 57,500 miles on United, and 70,000 miles on Star Alliance Partners.Saver First Class will cost you 80,000 miles on United and 110,000 miles for First on Star Alliance partners. While United recently announced it will be replacing its Global First Cabins with United Polaris (think Delta One), using United Mileage Plus miles for First Class on a Star Alliance Partner may be a good deal.
You can filter by United/Star Alliance, what airports are included, and how many stops on the United website. So if you know you want to travel on Lufthansa, filter to show only Star Alliance.
If you are trying to decide whether to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to United or Singapore Airlines for travel on SA choose Singapore Airlines. They give you a discount on the number of miles required when booked on their site. A trip to Frankfurt in Singapore AIrlines FIrst Suites would cost you 110,000 United Mileage Plus miles, or just 56,000 Singapore Airlines KrisMiles!
You can get some pretty good value out of United Mileage Plus miles when you redeem them for domestic flights. You can flight round-trip from Tampa to Denver for 25,000 miles in economy, or 50,000 miles in first class. These prices are identical to American when I searched the same dates. The transcontinental business class awards start at 25,000 miles each way and standard awards are 50,000 miles which is less than American, which ranges from 52,500-82,500 miles for full price award tickets.
Overall I find the United Mileage Plus program to be pretty weak. There are some good partners and you can get decent value out of your miles for long-haul flights, but unless you have a lot of United Mileage Plus miles saved up it is not worth transferring miles to United from Ultimate Rewards. I am interested to try the new United Polaris, and unfortunately, my United miles expired before I became aware of how to maximize points and miles.