United MileagePlus: The Ultimate Guide for Indians

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United MileagePlus is the customer loyalty program of United Airlines which stands as one of the largest and most influential carriers, not only in the United States but globally as well. Operating with domestic hubs strategically located in Chicago, Houston, Newark, Denver, San Francisco, Washington-Dulles, Los Angeles, and Guam, the airline has a widespread reach. Here we have tried to curate a guide specifically for Indians.

With an extensive operational footprint, United Airlines manages a staggering volume of over 4,500 daily flights, connecting travellers to more than 300 cities spread across five continents. The airline has fortified its global presence through partnerships with 14 other carriers and its affiliation with the Star Alliance, which encompasses a total of 26 member airlines. These affiliations translate to a broad spectrum of opportunities for passengers, allowing them to earn and redeem miles on 39 different airlines, and facilitating travel to diverse destinations.

At the heart of this loyalty network is the United MileagePlus program, United Airlines’ frequent flyer initiative. Whether travelling on paid tickets with United Airlines, its partner airlines, or those within Star Alliance, passengers have the opportunity to accrue MileagePlus miles. Additionally, the program extends its benefits beyond flight bookings, providing various avenues for earning miles, including transferring points from banking partners, other loyalty programs, and various other methods.

United MileagePlus: The Ultimate Guide for Indians

United Airline’s Partners

United Airlines provides its passengers with the opportunity to earn and redeem miles through its association with the Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance globally. This affiliation comes with a range of benefits for United Premier members, including perks such as lounge access and additional baggage allowance when travelling with the alliance’s partner airlines.

Among the Star Alliance partners are renowned international carriers, offering an extensive network for United MileagePlus members. The list of these partners includes Aegean (A3), Air Canada (AC), Air China (CA), Air India (AI), Air New Zealand (NZ), ANA (NH), Asiana Airlines (OZ), Austrian Airlines (OS), Avianca (AV), Brussels Airlines (SN), Copa Airlines (CM), Croatia Airlines (OU), EGYPTAIR (MS), Ethiopian Airlines (ET), EVA Air (BR), LOT Polish Airlines (LO), Lufthansa (LH), SAS (SK), Shenzhen Airlines (ZH), Singapore Airlines (SQ), South African Airways (SA), Swiss Air Lines (LX), TAP Air Portugal (TP), Thai Airways (TG), and Turkish Airlines (TK).

In addition to the Star Alliance partners, United Airlines collaborates with several non-alliance airline partners, expanding the options for earning and redeeming miles. These include Aer Lingus (EI), Air Dolomiti (EN), Airlink (4Z), Azul (AD), Boutique Air (4B), Cape Air (9K), Edelweiss (WK), Emirates (EK), Eurowings (EW), Eurowings Discover (4Y), FlyDubai (FZ), Hawaiian Airlines (HA), JSX (XE), Olympic Air (OA), Silver Airways (3M), Virgin Australia (VA), and Vistara (UK).

Furthermore, as a Star Alliance Connecting Partner, Juneyao Air (HO) adds to the diverse range of options available within the United Airlines network.

United MileagePlus: The Ultimate Guide for Indians

United Airlines Premier Status

United Airlines extends its elite status program to passengers through four distinct levels:

  1. Premier Silver
  2. Premier Gold
  3. Premier Platinum
  4. Premier 1K

An additional and exclusive tier, Global Services, stands as the pinnacle, attainable only after completing 4 million lifetime flight miles or by invitation.

Achieving United Premier status involves earning Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) or a combination of Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs) and PQPs. Accumulating these points is possible through travel on United Airlines or its partner carriers.

The following are the requirements to earn the United Premier Status:

TierPQPs + PQFs RequiredPQPs Only Required
Premier Silver4,000 PQPs + 12 PQFs5,000 PQPs
Premier Gold8,000 PQPs + 24 PQFs10,000 PQPs
Premier Platinum12,000 PQPs + 36 PQFs15,000 PQPs
Premier 1K18,000 PQPs + 54 PQFs24,000 PQPs

United Premier members, spanning across the different tiers, enjoy various perks such as bonus miles on paid tickets, complimentary checked bags, and waitlisted upgrades on most flights operated by United.

The privileges amplify as members ascend through the elite tiers, with additional benefits like complimentary Economy Plus seating, PlusPoints for confirming upgrades, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, and coveted Star Alliance Gold status. The latter brings added advantages when flying with other carriers within the Star Alliance network.

United MileagePlus: The Ultimate Guide for Indians

How to earn United Miles

Fly with United Airlines

When you fly with tickets marketed and operated by United, the accrual of MileagePlus miles is determined by the ticket price minus taxes, rather than the distance travelled.
Here’s the breakdown of miles earned per dollar spent, contingent on your status level:

  • General Member: 5 miles
  • Premier Silver: 7 miles
  • Premier Gold: 8 miles
  • Premier Platinum: 9 miles
  • Premier 1K: 11 miles

These earning rates are also applicable when booking United’s basic economy fare class.

Fly with Partner Airlines

Accruing United MileagePlus miles through partner flights adds a layer of complexity, but understanding the process is essential. When you book a partner flight through United, your miles are determined by your ticket fare and elite status.

However, if you opt for partner ticket stock, the miles earned hinge on the flight distance and fare class. Your fare class is typically visible during booking or in your confirmation email. Since mileage rates differ among airlines, cross-reference your booking class with United’s partner airline list to ascertain your award miles. Generally, premium cabins yield more miles than economy tickets, and Premier members qualify for bonus miles on specific partner airlines.

Each United Premier status level comes with its own mileage bonus on partner flights. Silver, Gold, Platinum, and 1K elites earn 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% bonus miles on partner tickets, respectively.

Additionally, United’s partners allow you to earn Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs). It’s crucial to note that certain fare classes may not qualify for mileage credit, and United imposes limits on the PQPs that can be earned on a single flight.

To navigate the earning process, consult United’s website for detailed earning rates with each airline partner. Pay close attention, as some airlines may restrict mileage accrual to specific routes and fare classes.

United MileagePlus: The Ultimate Guide for Indians
United Polaris Business Class, taken by BrownPoints

Transfer Partners

Hotel Transfer Partners

United has established partnerships with the majority of major hotel chains. The earning structure for United Miles varies among these partnerships, with some providing a fixed number of miles per stay, while others are based on the amount spent at the respective hotels. Additionally, several hotel loyalty programs offer the option to transfer points to United. However, it’s worth noting that this might not always be the ideal use of loyalty points. Let’s see the hotel partners and their transfer/earning options:

  • Accor: Transfers ALL-Accor Live Limitless Rewards points at a rate of 2,000 Rewards Points to 1,000 MileagePlus miles.
  • Choice Privileges Rewards: Converts Choice Privileges Rewards points into MileagePlus miles at a ratio of 5,000 points to 1,000 miles.
  • Hilton: Transfers Hilton Honors points at a rate of 10,000 Hilton points to 1,000 MileagePlus Miles.
  • Hyatt: World of Hyatt points transfer at a rate of 2.5 World of Hyatt points to 1 MileagePlus mile. Members can receive a 5,000-mile bonus when converting 50,000 World of Hyatt points into 20,000 MileagePlus miles.
  • IHG: Members of IHG One Rewards can convert their points to United MileagePlus at a rate of 10,000 points to 2,000 miles.
  • Marriott: Transfers Marriott Bonvoy points at a rate of 3 Bonvoy points to 1 MileagePlus mile. Additionally, get an extra 10,000 miles when transferring 60,000 Bonvoy points. MileagePlus Premier members can convert their miles at a rate of 1:1, up to 100,000 a year.
  • Shangri-La: Transfers Shangri-La Circle points at a rate of 1 point to 1 MileagePlus mile.
  • Wyndham: Wyndham Rewards points transfer at various rates – 6,000 Wyndham Rewards to 1,200 MileagePlus miles, 16,000 Wyndham Rewards to 3,200 MileagePlus miles, and 30,000 Wyndham Rewards to 6,000 MileagePlus miles.

Banking Partners

There are two banking partners in India from where you can transfer points to your United MileagePlus account:

  1. Axis Bank: Utilizing Axis Bank credit cards, you have the option to transfer Edge Reward Points. The transfer ratio is 5:2 for Axis Reserve and Axis Magnus, 5:4 for Magnus Burgundy and Burgundy Private, and 10:1 for other cards. In the case of the Axis Atlas, Edge Miles can be transferred at a ratio of 1:2.
  2. HDFC Bank: For Infinia, DinersClub Black, DinersClub Black Metal, and Regalia Gold, points can be transferred at a ratio of 2:1.

Buying United Miles

In situations where you find yourself lacking the required miles, an alternative is to consider purchasing United Miles. While it may not offer the optimal value, United occasionally releases special offers, such as a 50% discount on purchased miles or a 100% bonus on acquired miles. These opportunities can be advantageous, especially when you need to supplement your miles for last-minute redemptions.

United Polaris, taken by BrownPoints

How to use United Miles

United Airlines transitioned to dynamic award pricing for all partner award tickets starting in early 2020. Despite this change, having the flexibility to redeem miles on partner flights remains a valuable option, provided you have the necessary miles in your account.

It’s worth noting that United generally sets lower award prices for flights operated on its own planes compared to those operated by partner airlines. However, if you plan to connect from a United flight to a partner flight, additional miles may be charged.

Leveraging United’s extensive partner flight network allows you to reach destinations that may not be directly served by United, often requiring only a modest increase in miles. Essentially, your United miles open up the possibility of flying to a wide array of global destinations.

To explore available award space, United provides a comprehensive platform on its website where you can find information for virtually all partners, including non-alliance partners like Aer Lingus and Hawaiian Airlines, along with all Star Alliance partners.

Sweet Spot of United Miles

United’s dynamic pricing model has shifted the focus of finding optimal redemption opportunities from skill to luck. However, amidst this uncertainty, United offers a valuable feature known as the Excursionist Perk, which has the potential to transform a mediocre redemption into an exceptional one.

Defined by United as a complimentary one-way award within specific multi-city itineraries, the Excursionist Perk may initially appear complex to utilize. Nevertheless, investing some time to understand its mechanics can prove to be highly rewarding.

Family Pooling & Redemption

United Airlines permits the redemption of award tickets for friends and family without imposing any constraints on nominees, offering a remarkable benefit that streamlines the process and eliminates unnecessary complications associated with nominee limitations. Moreover, United does not offer a family pooling feature.

Miles Expiry

One of the most loved benefits of the United Mileage Plus program is that the points don’t expire ever and hence you can use them whenever you want. Also since January 1st, 2023, they have removed fees for changing or canceling award tickets which is simply unbelievable.

Bottom Line

An essential consideration in evaluating an airline loyalty program is the tax element, often referred to as fuel surcharges (YQ). United Airlines does not transfer carrier-imposed fees to customers. Additionally, the taxes levied on reward redemptions through both United Airlines and its partner airlines are among the lowest in the industry.

In conclusion, United MileagePlus stands as a versatile and rewarding loyalty program, offering a multitude of ways to earn and redeem miles. With a vast network of airline partners, hotel collaborations, and the unique Excursionist Perk, members have the flexibility to tailor their travel experiences. While United’s dynamic pricing model introduces an element of unpredictability, the program’s various benefits, tier levels, and exclusive partnerships make it an appealing choice for frequent travellers. Whether you’re aiming for elite status, leveraging partner networks, or exploring unique redemption opportunities, United MileagePlus provides a platform for a diverse range of travel possibilities.

Have you ever utilized United Miles to book your international journeys? Share your experiences in the comments section below!

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