Navigating the United Airlines Award Chart Like a Pro
INSIDER SECRET: If you have certain United Airlines co-branded credit cards, like the United℠ Explorer Card, you’ll have access to more available award seats.
You can find fantastic value when you redeem United Airlines miles for free airfare. Many of us on the MMS team prefer using United Airlines miles because they never add fuel surcharges to award tickets—even when you use your United Airlines miles to fly one of their many partners!
But to get the most out of United Airlines miles, it’s important to understand how award seats are priced and where the sweet spots are. That way, you’ll get the best deals and avoid spending more miles than you ought.
I’ll explore the United Airlines award chart and point out some of the best uses for your miles.
How to Navigate the United Award Chart
United Airlines miles award prices will depend on a few things:
- What airlines will you be flying?
- What class of service and pricing tier?
- Where will you be flying?
I’ll explain these individually.
1. What Airlines Will You Be Flying?
Essentially, if you’re flying on United Airlines, November 15, 2019, is the magic date:
- Flights before this date will continue to use a zone-based award chart, dividing the world into 17 regions
- For flights after this date, United has eliminated their award chart for their own flights. That means if you’re flying United, the price can be anything United wants it to be
The good news is that if you’re flying a partner airline, the award pricing and award chart will remain intact.
United has a long list of Star Alliance partner airlines:
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air India
- Air New Zealand
- Asiana Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Copa Airlines
- Croatia Airlines
- EVA Air
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Shenzhen Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- TAP Air Portugal
- Turkish Airlines
Additionally, United has a few non-alliance partners:
- Aer Lingus
- Air Dolomiti
- Boutique Air
- Cape Air
- Edelweiss Air
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Olympic Air
- Silver Airways
You’ll be able to redeem your United miles with any of United’s Star Alliance or non-alliance partners listed above. And since United has so many partners, you’ll have a ton of flexibility when it comes to using your miles! Even after November 15, 2019, flights on all of these partner airlines will still adhere to United’s award chart pricing.
2. Will You Be Flying in Coach, Business Class, or First Class?
Depending on what class of service you want to fly, you’re looking at different prices. Once you’ve decided what class of service you want to fly and search for your award, you’ll be presented with two pricing tiers:
Saver awards run out much faster than Everyday awards, but they cost a lot less! On partner airlines, you will generally either see Saver availability or NO availability.
It’s best to avoid redeeming your miles for Everyday awards because they cost quite a bit more than Saver awards. Though, if you have last minute travel or no flexibility, Everyday awards might be your only option.
For example, a one-way Saver coach seat between the North America region (Mainland US, Canada, and Alaska) to North Asia (Mainland China, South Korea, Mongolia, and Taiwan) will cost 35,000 United Airlines miles, but an Everyday award would cost a whopping 80,000 miles!
3. Where Will You Be Flying?
The final step to figuring out how much you are going to be charged is based on where you are going. These are the 17 regions that the world is divided into for purposes of United award flights:
- Australia & New Zealand
- Central & Southern Africa
- Central America
- Central Asia
- Mainland US, Alaska, and Canada
- Middle East
- North Asia
- Northern Africa
- Northern South America
- South Asia
- Southern South America
How to Look Up Award Prices on the United Airlines Award Chart
United Airlines publishes their award chart on a handy interactive tool (but remember that this doesn’t apply to United Airlines flights that depart after November 15, 2019).
Using this application, you can choose your origin and destination, and the tool will tell you how many miles your trip will require in coach, business class, or first class as Saver, Everyday, and partner awards.
To use the chart, first figure out which zone your origin and destination are located. You can review the breakdown of countries by zone to figure it out.
Let’s say you wanted to fly from Turkey (Europe) to South Korea (North Asia). You’d find the zones that correspond to those countries.
Once you know your zones, you can navigate to the interactive award chart and enter your origin zone and destination zone to view award pricing. First, click on one of the corresponding zone categories (ex. “Europe and Middle East” for Europe) and then select the correct zones based on your trip.
You’ll then be shown an expanded list of regions.
Finally, scroll down the page and you’ll see the cost in miles for your trip.
How to Best Use United Airlines Miles
You can find great deals using the United Airlines award chart, especially when you combine it with a great intro bonus on a credit card:
- United℠ Explorer Card: Intro bonus of 40,000 United miles after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. This card has a $95 annual fee that is waived for the first year.
- United℠ Explorer Business Card: Intro bonus of 50,000 United miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. The card has a $95 annual fee that is waived for the first year.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Intro bonus of 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (that can transfer to United at a 1:1 ratio) after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. The card has a $95 annual fee.
- Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card: Intro bonus of 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months.
There are several little-known sweet spots using United Airlines miles, for example:
- 8,000 United Airlines miles for one-way coach flights up to 800 miles outside North America
- 17,500 United Airlines miles for one-way coach flights from North America to Central America
- Lots of available award seats to Oceania for 35,000 United Airlines miles in coach or 70,000 United Airlines miles in business class
United Airlines gives you excellent value for redeeming your miles. And there are several sweet spots, like discounted pricing on short-haul flights outside North America. You’ll never pay fuel surcharges, even on partner airlines!
You can earn United Airlines miles by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points from cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. Or earn them directly from cards like the United Explorer Card.
You can learn more about United Airlines tips and tricks here:
- United MileagePlus Review
- United Miles Value
- United Airlines Status
- How to to Earn United Miles
- Do United Airlines Miles Expire?
- Current United Airlines Promotions
Leave any questions in the comments. And remember to subscribe to our newsletter for more tips on how to be smart with your miles and points!