Last week I have explained how to book cheap or even free flights to sacred places in Europe on Aer Lingus airlines. Although booking Aer Lingus flights with British Airways points is one of the cheapest ways of flying from the U.S. to Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, or Italy, it is usually available only to those who live in or close to a dozen of North American cities that Aer Lingus flies from. But what to do if you don’t live close to one the airports served by Aer Lingus or if Aer Lingus does not have seat availability for the dates you want to fly? There are a few other great options of flying to Europe cheaply or even for free. United Airlines MileagePlus frequent flyer program is one of those options.
World’s third largest airline, United flies to multiple cities in the U.S. and Europe which makes it possible to use MileagePlus miles for United flights to destinations like Barcelona, Lisbon, Paris, Rome and others. Moreover, because United is a member of the world’s largest airline alliance (Star Alliance), MileagePlus miles can also be used for flights on Alliance’s member airlines, such as:
Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Swiss International Airlines, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines and others.
- How Many United MileagePlus Miles Will I Need To Fly From U.S. To Europe?
Economy (lowest) class flights to Europe from mainland U.S. and Alaska will usually cost 60,000 MileagePlus miles for a round-trip plus about $100 in taxes and fees. One-way flights are also available for 30,000 MileagePlus miles plus taxes and fees. You can see the full list of countries that United defines as Europe here.
It is possible to accumulate 60,000 MileagePlus miles with bonuses of one or two credit cards completely free and it is even possible to have those ~$100 taxes and fees covered with certain points which can make flying to Europe on United MileagePlus miles completely free. You can read more on how to pay award flights’ taxes and fees with credit card points here.
There are no peak or off-peak seasons for booking your flights however there may be days at certain airports that one-way flights for 30,000 MileagePlus miles are not available. But if you have flexibility with your schedule you will most likely be able to find flights that cost 30,000 miles, too.
One of the greatest things about the United MileagePlus is their so-called Excursionist Perk. It allows you to have a free extra flight in the middle of your trip. For example, you can fly Miami-Rome, then Rome-Paris and then Paris-Miami for the same 60,000 miles plus taxes as if you flew Miami-Rome-Miami. Although you will not have to use MileagePlus miles for the extra flight in the middle of your trip, you will still have to pay taxes and fees for that flight which usually are around $30-40 per flight. In order to use the Excursionist Perk, these conditions have to also be met:
- Excursionist Perk flight cannot be in the same region where your trip originates (for example, if your trip starts in North America, you cannot use the Perk in the U.S. but using it in Europe would be OK).
- Your trip must end in the same region where it originated.
- The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk flight (or the “free” flight) has to be in the same MileagePlus region (for example, flying Rome-Paris is OK as it is from European city to European city but Rome-New York would not be allowed as a free Excursionist Perk flight because one city is in Europe and the other one is in North America).
- The cabin of service and award type of the Excursionist Perk one-way flight is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.
- If two or more one-way awards qualify for the Excursionist Perk benefit, only the first one will be free.
- How Can I Earn United MileagePlus Miles?
You can read one of my previous posts on how points and miles (in general) can be earned here. As always, earning credit card bonus points is the fastest way to accumulate a lot of United MileagePlus miles. Currently, these credit cards earn MileagePlus miles or allow transferring credit card points to MileagePlus program:
Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card with 40,000 bonus United miles offer. Some people are eligible for more bonus points (if they receive an offer in mail or via email and follow application instructions provided there). The card has $95 annual fee which is waived for the first year.
Chase United MileagePlus Club Card with a current 50,000 bonus United miles offer. The card has $450 annual fee which is NOT waived.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card with a current 50,000 bonus points offer. The points can be transferred to United MileagePlus or other Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. The card has $95 annual fee which is waived for the first year.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card with a current 50,000 bonus points offer. The points can be transferred to United MileagePlus or other Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. The card has $450 annual fee which is NOT waived but can be at least partially offset by other card benefits such as $300 Annual Travel Credit and others.
Chase Freedom (current 15,000 bonus points offer) and Chase Freedom Unlimited (current 15,000 bonus points offer) credit cards with NO annual fees. However points from these cards can be transferred to United MileagePlus and other Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners only if you also have Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card.
United MileagePlus has its own shopping portal which allows earning extra points for each dollar you spend for online purchases at participating retailers. In order to get extra points you need to reach those online retailers by clicking a link on MileagePlus shopping portal instead of going directly to the retailer’s website. You can visit the shopping portal here.
You can also earn extra MileagePlus miles by booking flights with United or partner airlines, booking hotels or cruises with United partners, participating in MileagePlus Dining program, or even getting a mortgage through United partner. You can find more details of these programs here.
- How Can I Book Flights With United MileagePlus Miles?
It is easy to search for United MileagePlus reward flights and then book them. Before you even become a member of the program or apply for any of the credit cards that earns MileagePlus miles, you can go to United Airlines website to check flight availability and costs. Enter your departure and destination airports, travel dates and don’t forget to check the “Search for award travel box” to see how many MileagePlus miles your trip will cost and what the fees will be:
To search for trips that include Excursionist Perk flight (a “free” flight in the middle of your trip), you will need to first click on “Multi city” flight search link:
When a new page opens, enter your departure and destination airports, dates and answer “yes” to a question “Do you want to book MileagePlus award ticket?”
To make a reservation via MileagePlus, you will need to:
- Join the United MileagePlus program. You can do it here.
- Accumulate sufficient amount of MileagePlus miles for your tickets directly through MileagePlus and/or by transferring the miles to you MileagePlus account from credit cards.
- Log in to your MileagePlus account and book your flights (and do it as early as possible in order to be have more flight options available and to avoid $75 fee which you may be charged if you make reservation within 21 days of your departure day and do not have elite status that waives or reduces the fee.)