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Recently, I wrote a piece about how to use a million “worthless” AA miles as a response to a reader comment (SEE: 8 ways to use a MILLION “worthless” AA miles). Many people (including myself) are frustrated with the lack of American Airlines award availability. But I wanted to show that there are still some great uses for AA miles. They just mostly aren’t on AA flights.
Writing that post got me thinking about the other legacy carriers are what you could do with a million of their miles. I followed up with Delta (SEE: 7 ways to use a million Delta SkyMiles). And now I’m offering you 6 ways to use a million United miles:
Try every StarAlliance business class product across the Atlantic
This was the first thing that came to mind. With 27 Star Alliance members(!), quite a few of which are located in Europe, there are *tons* of options for hopping the pond in business class. With a million United miles, you could try every single one. Here is a list of carriers and sample routes:
- Air Canada – Toronto to Rome
- Air New Zealand – Los Angeles to London
- Austrian Airlines – Vienna to Chicago
- Avianca – Bogotá to Madrid
- Brussels Airlines – New York to Brussels
- EgyptAir – Cairo to New York
- Ethiopian – Dublin to Los Angeles
- LOT – New York to Warsaw
- Lufthansa – Frankfurt to San Francisco
- SAS – Copenhagen to Miami
- South African Airways – New York to Johannesburg
- SWISS – San Francisco to Zurich
- TAP Portugal – Lisbon to New York
- Turkish Airlines – Atlanta to Istanbul
- United – Munich to Denver
You’ll actually need a bit more than a million miles (37,500 more, to be exact) to complete this challenge. But you’ll 95% of the way there with a million United miles.
Yes, I did leave off Singapore’s JFK-FRA route. Save your transferable bank points and fly Suites instead.
4 round-trips between the U.S. and Japan in ANA’s stellar first class
ANA reportedly has a phenomenal first class product (I wouldn’t know for certain…never flown it). And a million United miles could give you enough trips in ANA First that you might never want to fly it again!
The price is arguably steep at 110,000 United miles each way. You’re definitely better off using ANA’s own miles. But, again, if you have a million United miles…
Maybe just try it once, and then decide if you want to do it again. But I’m sure you’ll be hooked.
Take 5 domestic trips with your family of 8
Planning travel for 1 or 2 is easy. If you score a cheap fare, you can often fly round-trip to many U.S. destinations for $150 to $200. But if you have a passel of people to transport, even that cheap fare isn’t so cheap anymore. $200 times 8 is $1,600.
So it could *absolutely* make sense to burn your million miles on domestic trips. Sure, this isn’t as aspirational, but there are plenty of great places to see in this country. And a million miles will let you do it 5 times over with your family of 8 for basically free! It’s understandable, though, that not everyone is cool like Dan and actually has a family of 8…
(PWaC: Most recently, we did use 176,000 Delta miles to fly our family of 8 roundtrip from Ohio to Sacramento)
Your return on your miles will definitely be better if you pick out of the way destinations. Such as *real* northern California [i.e. not San Francisco (SEE: 5 reasons you *must* visit coastal northern California)]. Come visit me. We have redwoods. And Ewoks. Oh, you didn’t know they are real? Yeah, I didn’t either until I moved here.
And if you’re worried about award space, I *have* found 8 award seats on many flights.
Plan a family reunion in Hawaii
United miles are typically not a go-to currency for visiting Hawaii. But if you’re flush with them, why not burn them on one of America’s favorite destinations? With a million United miles, you could fly 22 people round-trip to the Aloha State.
Finding award space may be difficult, but if you aren’t all leaving the same airport, it should be feasible. United has six gateways to Honolulu, and plenty of connecting flights. Plus, they also partner with Island Air, so you can easily connect to a different island.
Around the World adventure for your family of 4!
In late 2016 United killed their amazing award routing rules, and instead gave us the so-called “Excursionist Perk.” It was the undoing of much of the best parts of their program. I’m still annoyed at them when I think about the amazing flexibility and routing magic had previously.
However, you could still use the Excursionist Perk to your advantage for an around-the-world adventure for you and your family. Let’s assume you live in Chicago. Here is my sample itinerary:
- U.S. to London in business class for 240,000 miles on United metal (ticket 1 outbound)
- Cheap cash fare from London to Zurich (~$60pp)
- Zurich to Cape Town in business class for 220,000 miles (ticket 2 outbound)
- Cape Town to Nairobi in business for free (Excursionist Perk, ticket 2)
- Nairobi to Dubai for 120,000 miles in economy (return of ticket 2)
- Dubai to Singapore in economy for 140,000 miles in economy (ticket 3, one-way)
- Singapore to Hong Kong in business for free (Excursionist Perk, ticket 1)
- Cheap cash fare from Hong Kong to Shanghai (~$80pp)
- Shanghai to U.S. in business for 280,000 miles on United metal (return of ticket 1)
Here’s a map with some probable connections thrown in:
Do note that I’m using the new prices, as United recently announced some devaluations to their award chart [SEE: 5 (bad) changes to MileagePlus awards (and 2 good ones)]. This adds up to exactly a million miles, plus $560 in cash tickets, plus a few hundred more in fees. Not bad for an 8 destination trip!
Lufthansa first-class…3 times!
Granted, this is not the best use of United miles, as there are much better options for scoring a Lufthansa first class seat. But if you have a million to burn, hey, this is a way to do it without fuel surcharges.
As one of the most aspirational products in the realm of travel hacking, you might as well give it a try. Just know that you are intentionally overpaying for this award each time you sip your champagne from 36,000 feet over the Atlantic.
I hope that first-class terminal is worth the hype if you *do* go through with a full 3 round-trips. You can also start a collection of those little rubber ducks.
A word of advice if you’re looking for Lufthansa first class: book close-in. Most of the time this is when the award seats are released. Just leave a couple weekends open, knowing that you might spend one in Frankfurt or Munich at the drop of a hat if/when space opens up.
Overall, I would much rather have a million United MileagePlus miles than a million AA miles. Or a million Delta miles. There are more redemption options and a better array of products available in the StarAlliance (SEE: 5 reasons I prefer collecting miles with StarAlliance airline programs).
ANA first-class photo courtesy of Pyonko Omeyama under CC 2.0 license. Lufthansa duck photo courtesy of TravelingOtter under CC 2.0 license. Featured United image courtesy of Raimond Spekking under CC 4.0 license.
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