As a miles and points fan, I like to be able to use as few miles/points possible for the best redemptions I can get. For award travel to/from Europe, that typically would mean that United miles would be avoided so why am I saying you should consider them? Let’s find out!
4 Reasons to Use United Miles for Business Class Awards to Europe
Let’s get the negatives about United miles for business class awards out of the way first!
- United charges more than others (70K for one way on Lufthansa/partners, 60,000 for one way on United) to Europe
- United charges close-in booking fees
- The other programs above do not
- United charges more for cancelling/changing than Aegean or Aeroplan (unless it is a round trip, then United is cheaper)
So, with those negatives in mind, let’s see why you should use United miles for business class awards to Europe!
No Fuel Surcharges
While LifeMiles (Avianca) does not charge the fuel surcharges for carriers like Austrian/Lufthansa/Turkish either, they have other problems of their own. But, Aeroplan and Aegean do charge fuel surcharges for those carriers which could run as high as a few hundred dollars on an award!
So, while you will pay 15,000 more miles to book a Lufthansa award on United than with Aeroplan, you could be saving $400 or more in fuel surcharges! That gives those United miles a value of over 2.5 cents each just for fuel surcharges!
Better Availability on United Flights*
This is one of the most frustrating things about booking flights to/from the US with other programs. United holds back a lot of award availability on domestic flights that would allow you to connect from your gateway airport to your regional airport.
Note: the images below show economy for the domestic route because many smaller planes do not have a business/first class cabin. But, without saver space, you cannot book that flight with partner miles. The images show a huge 21 days of saver availability in the middle of summer for a short, domestic route (with the credit card) and a measly 5 days without the card! That means that if you wanted to book this as part of a business class flight to Europe with partner miles, you would be restricted to those 5 days.
That availability is often quite good, however, if you are an elite member or if you have a United credit card. If you have that, booking a United award from someplace like BUF to Germany gets a whole lot easier!
Awards Actually Show Up and Are Easy to Book
When it comes to booking international awards, United is definitely an easy program to deal with. I have compared many searches between United and the others mentioned above (Aegean/Aeroplan/LifeMiles) and many times, United shows flights that the others don’t.
Sure, I could call in to one of the other programs to book those flights, but United just makes it so much easier to do it all online! I can look and book an award in just a couple of minutes with United instead of spending much more time piecing everything together and then calling in to get the award.
Yes, I know that doing that stuff is part of the “fun” of a “travel hacker” but I book enough awards that, sometimes, I just want to book a simple thing and be done with it! 🙂 United pretty often delivers on that.
United Miles Can Be Easy to Get
If you have a Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning card, you can find yourself with quite a pile of Ultimate Reward points through spending and bonuses (like the Chase Ink Business Preferred at 80,000 points)! Thanks to their business cards that earn 5X points (Chase Ink Business Cash) or 3X points (Chase Ink Business Preferred)on office supply purchases/telecommunications as well as personal cards that earn up to 3X points on travel and dining, there are plenty of ways to accrue Ultimate Reward points. They then transfer to United at a 1:1 ratio so you are good to go.
Just remember that if you are using a Chase Freedom or the Chase Ink Cash card, you will need to have an Ultimate Reward earning card to transfer those points earned to United.
Every program has negatives (Aegean is cheap but has fuel surcharges and only connection, Aeroplan has fuel surcharges and frustrating award engine, Avianca LifeMiles does not show all space and has a terrible calling experience) and United is no different. But, at the end of the day, United gives the best and cheapest (in cash) way to book business class awards to Europe. For many people, the extra miles they need to pay for that experience may make it worth it.