Aside from booking award flights, another potentially valuable way to redeem United miles is to upgrade your seat on a Star Alliance partner airline through Star Alliance Upgrade Awards.
While using United miles for Star Alliance Upgrade Awards is neither particularly easy nor widely applicable, it’s certainly worth understanding how they work and what’s at stake, as there’s certainly value to be found if you know where to look.
Using United Miles for Star Alliance Upgrade Awards
Most Star Alliance airlines allow members to use loyalty points from different programs to upgrade the class of service on a Star Alliance airline that’s not associated with the loyalty program.
For example, with Star Alliance Upgrade Awards, you can use United miles to upgrade a flight with EVA Air, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles to upgrade a flight with ANA, or Turkish Airlines miles to upgrade an Air Canada flight, as long as you fulfill a laundry list of conditions.
There are many nuances to how Star Alliance Upgrade Awards work with each airline, so let’s go over the rules with United MileagePlus.
First, when using United miles for Star Alliance Upgrade Awards, you can only request a single-cabin upgrade.
This means that if you’re booked into economy on an aircraft with economy, business class, and First Class, you won’t be able to use miles to upgrade directly into First Class, bypassing the business class cabin.
However, on aircraft with only two classes of service, you can upgrade from economy to business class, since this follows the one-cabin upgrade rule.
Determining Upgrade Availbility
Prior to requesting a Star Alliance Upgrade Award through United MileagePlus, you’ll want to determine whether or not there’s Star Alliance Upgrade Award availability for your desired flight.
The most reliable indication of availability is if there’s an award seat available for the same flight. This means that if you can book, say, an EVA Air business class seat with points, you should be able to request a Star Alliance Upgrade Award for it.
Likewise, if you can book a Lufthansa First Class seat with miles, you should be able to request a Star Alliance Upgrade Award for it.
You can use award search tools for this, or you can just search for…