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optiontown or star alliance upgrade ? options ?

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We are flying EWR - OSL and then ARN - EWR on SAS in April. We used Merrill Lynch points to book our tickets, but the points paid were based on fares and dollars (so it isn't like a ff ticket from a booking perspective).

I've looked at the optiontown upgrades and it is $221/pp (we are 5) to go from E to E+. (fyi - it is $491/pp for B - while I like that option, it isn't realistic).

I was also told that we can request Star Alliance upgrade coupons for these and it would be 10k miles. However, when I try to do it online at USAirways and SAS doesn't show up as a *A member.

I'm trying to understand options here. One of the five of us is Platinum, the rest are not. We would have enough miles if it was 10k/segment for both directions.

=> How do I get upgrade certificates ?

=> Is either option more 'guaranteed' or 'likely' than the other ?

=> How do I find out if there will be any op-up's on the flight ? Are there any historical tools ? I'm not a member of expert flyer - should I join to figure this out ?

thanks : )

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