United Mileage Plus is Still Worth It.. Sort of

One Mile at a Time wonders whether Mileage Plus is ‘worth it’ anymore, with their much more expensive award charts (post-December 31) and extensive Starnet blocking of partner awards (just go try to book anything on Lufthansa most days).

And he’s right to a certain extent, United has massively devalued their mileage. And most Star Alliance carriers offer more valuable currency. United’s award chart used to be favorable, but now is average at best. Air Canada’s is better, US Airways’ is better. And United frequently prevents you from booking awards with their partners, whereas the rest of Star Alliance carriers offer currencies without such restrictions.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no more value there. It makes sense to credit flight miles to United to requalify for 1K (or until one requalifies). Because United 1K and American Executive Platinum are the only reasonable elite levels among US carriers, and the perks while flying matter at least as much or more than the redemptions.

All non-flight miles should go to other programs, there is almost no reason to carry a United Visa for instance.

So as a United 1K, One Mile at a Time accumulates these United miles that pair with an expensive award chart and frustrating blocking. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use your miles. I just finished my 5 Star Alliance carrier first class award using United miles. Today two friends just returned from a South Asia on a first class award trip involving two long-haul segments in Asiana First Class and a short-haul segment in Asiana first, and 2 mid-haul segments in Thai First. It CAN be done.

I often think that Starnet blocking would be far less frustrating if United offered web functionality similar to ANA’s site. In other words, if they let you piece together your award yourself with transparency as to what they were actually making available. Then you could find the award within the constraints they’re imposing, and not have the tremendous frustrations of calling knowing hte seats you want are being offered by partners and just being told no. And you could call when you know (on the couple days a year!) that they are actually permitted Lufthansa redemptions.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You say “United 1K and American Executive Platinum are the only reasonable elite levels among US carriers” is DL really that bad Gary?

  2. Yes, I do think Delta is that bad!

    1. International upgrades are next to impossible,

    2. Too many Delta platinums, upgrades are much less frequent for most

    3. Delta miles are harder to use, can’t be used on as interesting or exotic partners, can’t be used for first class except on Singapore

    Many many other reasons….

  3. Gary, So aside from qualifying for 1K, what are your opinions of the best Star programs to dump United/Star flight miles into?

  4. 1) Air Canada (liberal routing rules and generous award chart, no Starnet blocking)

    and 2) ANA, distance-based award chart can be useful in some cases, interesting partnerships outside of Star like Jet Airways and Virgin, and no blocking…

  5. I’m a Exec Platinum with AA, thinking about moving to UA. Have any thoughts on how 1k compares to EP?


  6. I presently have close to 300K United Airlines Miles and I have come to the conclusion they are worthless or close to that. I would like to take my family overseas for a trip. I cannot find a single destination with open seats, even a year out, with Standard Miles. I even tried one seat from Denver to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for every day for a year out. Not a single Standard Mileage opening. I sent United customer service an email with my issue and they have not replied… that was a few months ago.

    These mileage programs are like Wall Street and a big implosion of all these programs has occurred, but there is no one to bail them out. United Airlines is just not telling everyone that there is nothing in the accounts to redeem against. A big fat scam.

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