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United airlines

Star Alliance

United Airlines is one of the major airlines of the United States and is the third-largest in the world when measured by fleet size and number of routes. United serves nearly 350 destinations across six continents, and operates eight hubs across the mainland US and Guam. Its regional services within the United States operate under the name United Express.

AIRPORT HUBS

United airlines

ORD

Chicago O'Hare International Airport

Chicago, Illinois, USA

DEN

Denver International Airport

Denver, Colorado, USA

IAH

George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Houston, Texas, USA

LAX

Los Angeles International Airport

Los Angeles, California, USA

EWR

Newark Liberty International Airport

Newark, New Jersey, USA

SFO

San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco, California, USA

IAD

Washington-Dulles International Airport

Dulles, Virginia, USA

GUM

Guam International Airport

Barrigada and Tamuning, Guam

Lounge

Locations

United operates two brands of lounges: United Club and United Polaris. Each have their own access policies, which can be found in detail at the bottom of this page.

Chicago (ORD): 1x Polaris lounge  //  4x United Clubs

Denver (DEN): 4x United Clubs

Houston (IAH): 1x Polaris Lounge // 5x United Clubs

Los Angeles (LAX): 1x Polaris Lounge // 1x United Club

Newark (EWR): 1x Polaris Lounge // 3x United Clubs

San Francisco (SFO): 1x Polaris Lounge // 3x United Clubs

Washington (IAD): 1x Polaris Lounge // 4x United Clubs

The following airports house one singular United Club lounge:

Atlanta (ATL); Austin (AUS); Boston (BOS); Cleveland (CLE); Dallas (DFW); Fort Lauderdale (FLL); Guam (GUM); Hong Kong (HKG); Honolulu (HNL); Las Vegas (LAS); London (LHR); Mexico City (MEX); Minneapolis (MSP); New Orleans (MSY); New York (LGA); Orange County (SNA); Orlando (MCO); Portland (PDX); Philadelphia (PHL); Phoenix (PHX); Raleigh (RDU); San Antonio (SAT); San Diego (SAN); Seattle (SEA); Tokyo (NRT); Washington (DCA)

Opening hours and amenities for each location can be found here.

Frequent Flyer Program

MileagePlus is the frequent flyer program of United Airlines. Members can earn status by obtaining the necessary Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) each status tier requires.

MileagePlus has four status tiers:

  • Premier 1K

  • Premier Platinum

  • Premier Gold

  • Premier Sliver

Qualifies for Star Alliance Gold

Qualifies for Star Alliance Silver

In order to obtain status with MileagePlus, passengers have to accrue the following thresholds:

  • Premier Silver: 12 PQF + 4,000 PQP (or 5,000 PQP only)

  • Premier Gold: 24 PQF + 8,000 PQP (or 10,000 PQP only)

  • Premier Platinum; 36 PQF + 12,000 PQP (or 15,000 PQP only)

  • Premier 1K: 54 PQF + 18,000 PQP (or 24,000 PQP only)

A minimum of four segments on United or United Express is required for all status tiers.

Once a particular status tier is reached, members will enjoy that status for the remainder of the calendar year as well as the entire following calendar year. Both PQF and PQP accruals reset at the beginning of each calendar year, and members must re-qualify for status every year.

On top of PQF and PQP, customers also earn Award Miles every time they fly United or a United partner airline. These miles do not affect your MileagePlus status qualification, but rather they are a redeemable currency that can be used for award travel, upgrades, and more.

Understanding the Program

Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) - simply put, each flight segment that you take with United or United Express counts as one PQF. This means every take-off and landing equates to one PQF; so, on a one-way flight from LAX to JFK with a stopover at ORD, you would accrue two PQFs since you would be taking off and landing twice. On the other hand, a non-stop one-way flight from LAX to JFK would only accrue one PQF. PQFs are earned on both paid and award tickets, as long as the flights operated by United. The only exception to PQF accrual is tickets bought in Basic Economy, which do not accrue PQF. PQFs are also accrued when flying on United's partner airlines, except when flying on light/basic fares or partner award tickets.

Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) - MileagePlus members will receive one PQP for every US Dollar that is spent on United or United Express airfare. The PQP number is derived from the price of the base airfare (plus any applicable surcharge), and does not include any taxes or fees.

The following list of ancillary purchases also earn PQP:

  • Economy Plus seating or subscriptions

  • Preferred Seating purchases

  • MileagePlus Award Upgrade co-pays

  • Paid Upgrades (on flights operated by United or United Express)

  • Flights ticketed and operated by United partner airlines

Basic Economy tickets do still accrue PQP even though they do not accrue PQF.

PQP via AWARD TICKETS ON UNITED

As of 2023, MileagePlus members will also be able to earn PQP on award tickets operated by United. Eligible award flights will earn one PQP for every 100 award miles redeemed; award tickets that include both United and non-United operated flights will earn prorated PQP based on the United-operated flight segments.

PQP via PARTNER AIRLINE FLIGHTS

Earning PQP on tickets purchased with United’s partner airlines is slightly different than described above and will depend on a few factors. First, the only partner airlines that accrue PQP are all Star Alliance airlines, Air Dolomiti, Azul, Edelweis, Eurowings, Olympic Air, and Virgin Australia. If flying on these airlines, PQP accrues as follows:

  • Preferred Partner PQP = award miles / 5

  • MileagePlus Partner PQP = award miles / 6

Award mileage accrual for partner airlines is described below in the Award Miles section.

There are maximum amounts of PQP that can be earned on these partner operated flights:

  • Preferred Partner: 1,500 (First/Business) or 750 (Economy)

  • MileagePlus Partner: 1,000 (First/Business) or 500 (Economy)

PQP via UNITED CREDIT CARDS

MileagePlus members who are also primary cardholders of one of United's eligible co-branded Chase credit cards can earn PQP based on their annual credit card spend:

  • Explorer: 500 PQP for every $12,000 in spend, up to 1,000/year

  • Quest: 500 PQP for every $12,000 in spend, up to 6,000/year

  • Infinite: 500 PQP for every $12,000 in spend, up to 8,000/year

Earning Award Miles

MileagePlus members earn Award Miles every time they take a flight operated by United or one of its airline partners. These miles do not have any effect on Premier status qualifications (other than when they are used to calculate PQP on select partner flights, as described above), but instead can be understood as a usable “currency” for award bookings, upgrades, and more.

EARNING VIA FLYING

MileagePlus members will earn award miles every time they fly on a United-operated flight or a flight operated by one of their other partner airlines; all members have to do is enter their MileagePlus number at the time of booking (you can double check by making sure that it displays on the boarding pass) and the miles will automatically be deposited after the flight has been completed. The amount of miles earned on each flight does vary, and is affected by a variety of factors.

First, the base award miles count is determined depending on the operating airline and the ticket issuing airline. Remember, MileagePlus members will earn miles when flying on United, United Express, or any of their partner airlines. Diving further into the tickets where award miles are based on fare, MileagePlus members will receive bonus multipliers based on status:

Operating Airline

Issuing Airline

Miles based on...

United or

United Express

Any airline

Fare

Star Alliance or

other partner airline

United

Fare

Star Alliance or

other partner airline

Any airline other than United

Flight distance

Status

Base Miles

Bonus

Total Miles

Member

Base Fare x5

x0

Base Fare x5

Silver

Base Fare x5

x2

Base Fare x7

Gold

Base Fare x5

x3

Base Fare x8

Platinum

Base Fare x5

x4

Base Fare x9

1K

Base Fare x5

x6

Base Fare x11

 

This may seem confusing but it is rather simple. Say we have a flight with a base fare of $200. A standard MileagePlus member would earn 1,000 miles ($200 x 5), a Silver member would earn 1,400 miles, a Gold member would  earn 1,600 miles, and so on. In the case where miles are based on flight distance, this flight distance is defined as the miles scheduled for a specific flight (as determined by United). For example, a Lufthansa flight from Munich to London is just around 587 miles, so you could expect to earn about 587 award miles on this flight as a MileagePlus member, regardless of your status.

EARNING VIA TRAVELING

Aside from just flying, United also offers its MileagePlus members opportunities to earn miles via one of their hotel or transportation partners. Click on either of the above links to explore the current deals that United is running with these various partners. 

EARNING VIA SHOPPING

MileagePlus members don't even have to be traveling in order to earn miles thanks to United's various shopping and dining partners. Earn miles on your everyday purchases via MileagePlus Shopping, Dining, and the mobile MileagePlus X app for iOS and Android. Additional information on each of these products can be found via the links above.

EARNING VIA UNITED CREDIT CARDS

United partners with Chase to offer four different personal credit cards that allow customers to accrue award miles for their everyday spending. Each of the four cards comes with their own set of benefits, with the cards ranging in annual fee. You can check out the current sign-up offers and compare each of the four cards here to find out which card best suits your spending and travel habits. United also offers two business credit cards for small business owners; you can compare those two cards here

Redeeming Award Miles

Mileage Plus members can redeem their accrued miles to purchase flights operated by United as well as their airline partners, including Star Alliance airlines. Upon searching for a flight, simply check the box that states you would like to book your flight with miles, and the search will generate the price of the flight in miles instead of dollars. Keep in mind that award pricing is also dynamic, meaning that the price in miles for a specific flight can change over time, just like it does with dollars. All United awards are one-way, giving you the flexibility to mix-and-match cabins on a round trip ticket if desired (i.e. business class on the outbound flight, and economy on the way home).

USING MILES FOR UPGRADES

MileagePlus members can use their miles to upgrade paid flights to a higher cabin. These upgrades, dubbed MileagePlus Upgrade Awards, can be used on paid Economy / Premium Economy fares to upgrade into the next highest cabin. The miles required for these upgrades depend on a variety of factors, including where you're traveling, seat type, and fare class of your purchased ticket. Luckily for us, United has a published award chart that lets you know exactly how many miles you will need in order to upgrade. Simply enter your origin and destination regions and a chart will populate that will show you how much your upgrade will cost you, depending on the fare class of your purchased ticket. 

Keep in mind that some routes will require a co-pay along with the miles you redeem, as you will see on the charts. However, Premier status holders (Silver or above) are exempt from these co-pays when flying on certain routes, which are shown here. Click the drop down that says "using miles to upgrade your seat" to find which routes have these exceptions.

If there aren't seats immediately available for your upgrade, you can still request your upgrade to be put on a waitlist. If you are on the waitlist and United hasn't confirmed your upgrade by the time you check in for your flight, you will be added to the Upgrades list at check-in, which processes upgrades up to three hours before departure. If your upgrade request still does not clear the waitlist, you will be refunded the full mileage and co-pay (if applicable) that you initially spent on the request. To find out where you may fall on any given waitlist, United publishes a priority list that can be found here

THE EXCURSIONIST PERK

One of United's most popular offers is the Excursionist Perk, which allows MileagePlus members to work a free one-way award ticket within eligible multi-city itineraries. Those who build an itinerary of three or more one-way awards will be eligible to receive one of those flights for free given that the overall itinerary meets the following criteria:

  • Travel must begin and end in the same MileagePlus region in which it began

  • The origin and destination of the free flight must be within the same MileagePlus region AND be in a different region than where your itinerary begins and ends

  • The cabin of the free flight must be the same or lower than that of the flight that precedes it

  • If one or more one-way flights qualify for the Perk, only the first occurrence will be free

This may seem a bit confusing, but let's walk through a simple example. Say we want to book the following itinerary with our miles: Chicago to London; London to Munich; Munich to Chicago. Since our journey begins and ends in the same region (North America), our second flight from London to Munich will be free since it takes place in a different region (Europe) than where our trip begins and ends.

Flight Leg

Flight Route

Region

Miles (Economy)

1

Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR)

Mainland U.S. / Alaska / Canada

30,000

2

London (LHR) to Munich (MUC)

Europe

0

3

Munich (MUC) to Chicago (ORD)

Mainland U.S. / Alaska / Canada

30,000

Alternative Option (mixed cabin)

60,000 (Business)

0 (Business)

30,000 (Economy)

OTHER WAYS TO USE YOUR MILES

There are a plethora of other ways you can redeem your miles, from hotels and rental cars to Apple products and Broadway shows. You can even donate your miles to help the less fortunate. To explore all of the ways you can use your miles, click here.

Special Offers & Programs

PLUS POINTS

PlusPoints is a special upgrade program only available for Premier Platinum and 1K MileagePlus members. Upon reaching these top-tier Premier statuses, members will immediately receive PlusPoints based on that status: 40 PlusPoints for Platinum and 280 PlusPoints for 1K. You can also earn additional PlusPoints after reaching 1K: members will receive an additional 20 PlusPoints for every 3,000 PQP accrued beyond the minimum 18,000.

These PlusPoints can be used to request upgrades, either at the time or booking or after a flight has already been bought, on all United flights as well as flights on partner airlines ANA, Copa, or Lufthansa. The amount of PlusPoints needed for an upgrade depends on your initial cabin, where you are flying, and what cabin you want to upgrade into:

PlusPoints

Initial Cabin

Upgraded To

Route Type

10

Premium Plus

United Business Class

Short-haul (domestic) flights

20

Economy

United First or United Business class

Short-haul (domestic) flights

20

Economy

Premium Plus

Short-haul (domestic) flights

20

Economy

Premium Plus

Long-haul flights

30

Premium Plus

United Polaris business class

Long-haul flights

40

Economy

United Polaris business class

Long-haul flights

80

Discounted economy

United Polaris business class

Long-haul flights

In order to search for flights using your PlusPoints, you must first have a PlusPoints balance. Once you do, click “Advanced Search” when searching for a flight and you will notice an option to select “PlusPoints upgrades” under the “Fare preferences” section of the search. From there, you will see the familiar United search interface showing the flight options available using your PlusPoints. You will also see a section that lets you know if the upgrade is immediately available upon purchase or if your upgrade request will be put on a waitlist. PlusPoints are not deducted from your account until the upgrade is confirmed, unless your upgrade request is on one of the aforementioned partner airlines, which will be deducted immediately. Once a PlusPoint upgrade is confirmed, it cannot be canceled.

Premier 1K members also have the option to use additional PlusPoints to skip the waitlist and immediately confirm upgrades on select international flights that would otherwise be put on a waitlist. Skip Waitlist upgrades are only available more than 30 days before the flight, are non-refundable, and cannot be transferred to another flight should your plans change. 

Additional information and FAQ on the PlusPoints program can be found here

MLLION MILER

United's Million Miler program grants MileagePlus members lifetime Premier status once they reach one million lifetime miles flown with United. Lifetime miles are based on flight distance of United-operated flights, as determined by United; balances are shown on the home page of members’ online United accounts, under the Premier progress section. Once reached, these members will enjoy Premier status for the rest of their life, regardless of if they meet the necessary PQF & PQP thresholds every year.

  • One million miles flown = lifetime Premier Gold

  • Two million miles flown = lifetime Premier Platinum

  • Three million miles flown = lifetime Premier 1K

  • Four million miles flown = lifetime Global Services

Million Milers also have the luxury of inviting a spouse, significant other, or family member to share in their current Premier status. Companions will enjoy having the same status, and all of its benefits, as their Million Miler, regardless of if they meet the necessary PQF and PQP thresholds. The chosen companion must reside at the same home address as the Million Miler based on MileagePlus profile information.  Companion designation is given and renewed annually, and is non-transferrable during the year. Million Milers are allowed to change their companion, but they must do so online before November 30th to match status for the following calendar year. More FAQs on United’s Million Miler program can be found here.

MILES & MONEY

Miles & Money gives MileagePlus members the ability to pay for a flight with a combination of miles and money, as the name suggests. Upon booking a flight with United, select the “Miles & Money” option when entering in your payment info. There will be a slider that you can move back and forth to find the combination of miles and cash that best suits your preferences. Once you select your combination, simply complete the check out as normal. The miles used will be deducted from your mileage balance, and the money portion will be charged to your preferred payment method. Miles & Money isn’t available on all United fares, and it is also not available to use when booking on a partner airline. Other FAQs about Money & Miles can be found here.

Lounge Access Policy

POLARIS LOUNGES

The following passengers are allowed to access United Polaris lounges with a same-day boarding pass on United or a partner airline:

  • United Polaris business class on a long-haul international flight

  • Long-haul international First Class on a Star Alliance member airline (+1 guest allowed)

  • Long-haul international Business Class on a Star Alliance member airline 

UNITED CLUB LOUNGES

The following passengers are allowed to access United Club lounges with a same-day boarding pass on United or a partner airline:

  • United Polaris business class on a long-haul international flight

  • United Business class on international flights 

  • United First class traveling to / from Canada 

  • United Business class on premium transcontinental domestic flights (between EWR and LAX or between EWR and SFO)

  • First Class on a Star Alliance member airline (+1 guest allowed)

  • Business Class on a Star Alliance member airline 

Star Alliance Gold members traveling in any class can access United Club lounges with a same-day boarding pass for an international flight operated by a Star Alliance member airline. One guest is allowed, given they are also traveling on the same flight. 

United Club Membership can be purchased annually, which varies in price based on your Premier status with United. Holders of the United Club Infinite credit card receive complimentary United Club membership as long as the credit card remains open. Passengers who possess United Club membership can access United Club lounges with a same-day boarding pass traveling in any class on flights operated by United, Star Alliance, or other partner airlines. Those with membership are allowed to bring either 2 adult guests or 1 adult guest and any dependent children under the age of 21. 

One-Time Passes can also be purchased on the United app that will allow for single-use entry into any United Club with a valid same-day boarding pass on a United, Star Alliance, or other partner airline. Those with a one-time pass cannot bring any guests into the lounge. 

This page was last updated on February 2nd, 2023
 

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