United Airlines MileagePlus Program Overview

Today we’re continuing a series where I’ll be featuring some of the basic, introductory material about different award programs.  That way if you’re new to the ‘game’, you can just read this cheat sheet rather than trying to compile all the information by yourself.

Previously reviewed: American Airlines Advantage Program

United Airlines MileagePlus Program Details

Published October 2011.  Changes after this date may not be accurate in this summary.

Star Alliance Partners

United Airlines is part of the Star Alliance Partnership. Star Alliance Airlines include:

  • Adria
  • Aegean
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian
  • Blue1
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airlines
  • SpanAir
  • Swiss
  • TAM
  • TAPPortugal
  • Thai
  • Turkish Airlines
  • US Airways

Award Booking Chart

You can access the MileagePlus award charts here.  I looked through the awards, and I didn’t see real stand out gems (unlike American’s off-peak rates).  It’s not a bad award chart, it’s just vanilla.

United Airlines MileagePlus Award Booking Policies and Possible Fees

Bookings made over the phone will cost $25 per ticket.

If you want to cancel an award ticket after you’ve made the reservation, it will cost $150.  If you’re a member with airline status, your charges may be different.  When you cancel your tickets, your miles will be re-deposited into your account.

You can make date changes to existing itineraries free of charge.  However, changes to departure or arrival cities or connecting cities will incur a $75 charge.

If you book your ticket within 21 days of departure, you’ll pay an extra $75.  This fee differs, depending on your status class.

Of course, when you book using United miles, you’ll be responsible for the taxes and fees associated with the ticket.  In the US, that is $10, and overseas it may vary dramatically, based on airport taxes and fees.

One Way and Open-Jaw Policy:

United does allow one way reward ticket bookings.  This is very helpful for vacation planning.  Let’s say you want to tour around Europe.  Well, you could fly from Boston to Paris and out of Rome to Dallas.

United does also allow open-jaw tickets, so you can book a flight from destination A to B, and then from C to A.  An open jaw ticket is better than two one ways because if you make changes, you’re only changing one itinerary, not two.

Stop Over Policy:

Here’s the official United stop over policy:

Include one stopover when traveling round trip between regions on roundtrip or open-jaw itineraries; for example, between the continental U.S. and Hawaii, or between the U.S. and the Caribbean, Asia, Australia, Central America, South America, Middle East or Europe)

Thus, you cannot take a stop over when traveling one way.  Second, you cannot take a stop over when you’re traveling wholly within one region.  Don’t expect a free stop over when visiting someone in the States if you’re departing from the States.

Hold Award Ticket Policy:

You can hold an award ticket for up to 72 hours.  It seems like there may be certain circumstances for this, but I think that was how long they allowed me to hold a ticket when I booked back in May of 2011.

Fuel Surcharge Policy:

United does not charge fuel surcharges on award tickets.

Award Ticket Availability with MileagePlus

According to WebFlyer.com, United Airlines was ranked #15 of 49 airlines listed for best availability (checked October 2011). They show United with a 57% success rate when booking rewards.  This means that when 57% of people try to book their rewards, they are able to find available flights between the city pairs on their desired dates.

Major Earning Opportunities:

Right now I’d say that of all the leading US based airlines, United gives you the best chance to supercharge your account balance in the shortest period of time.  The reason is because you can use multiple cards to feed your United account balance.

How?

  1. United Mileage Plus credit card.
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.  You can get up to 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points.  These points transfer fee free 1:1 to MileagePlus.
  3. Chase Ink Bold business card.  You can get up to 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points.  These points transfer fee free 1:1 to MileagePlus.

In addition to these credit card offers and actual flights, there are a host of other earning opportunities.

Overall United MileagePlus ProgramRating

Scale: Poor – below average – average – above average – strong

Depending on your travel needs and preferences, I think United has a strong frequent flyer rewards program.  All my experiences with them have been good.  They have a great line up of partners, solid award availability, and no surcharges.

What are your thoughts about the United MileagePlus program? 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *