Need Help With Frequent Flier Miles

Old Dec 1st, 2007, 10:10 PM
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Need Help With Frequent Flier Miles

We would like to go to Europe next summer. We have enough miles with United to upgrade to Business Class. The problem: A leg of the trip is with either Lufthansa or Swiss Air and United cannot guarantee an upgrade on those flights. They say we have to purchase Coach tickets and then they will request an upgrade from the participating airline. Possibly that airline would not have any upgrades and we would be stuck with Coach.

Any information on how other travelers handle this situation would be greatly appreciated. The difference in price between Coach and buying Business Class is astronomical!

Thank you.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2007, 04:19 AM
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Do NOT waste miles on an upgrade on Swiss, if it is an A330. You will spend your entire trip embittered about wasting the miles. The seats are absurdly uncomfortable.

Also, if the legs are within Europe, don't worry - there is little difference between coach and business.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2007, 08:14 AM
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A little confused here... is your choice between booking business class award tickets vs. buying economy tickets and using miles to upgrade?

United's website says they don't permit upgrade (from paid coach) requests on partner airlines any more, so a bit confused over your message from the rep.



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Old Dec 2nd, 2007, 08:32 AM
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I'm a bit confused, as well. United suspended its participation in the Star Alliance upgrade program earlier this year. Even if these upgrades were available, it is important to know that you'd have to purchase a full-fare economy ticket (Y or B) in order to participate. At that rate, you might be better off trying to find a discounted business class (Z) fare.

As of a couple of years ago, it was possible to use United miles to upgrade on Lufthansa, specifically, but I'm not sure if that is still available--the website does not mention it (that I can find, anyway). I did attempt to do this two years ago and gave up after a few months of trying. In addition to having to buy an eligible fare (Y, B, M or H), the segment(s) on LH metal had to have LH flight numbers (no code shares allowed) and United had to contact LH to ask about availability.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2007, 09:16 AM
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Thank you for your replies. Sorry for the confusion. I was not aware that United had suspended the upgrade propgram.

I want to purchase a Coach ticket and upgrade using miles to Business Class. I have called United because one of the flights that I want (SF to Athens, Greece) requires us to travel on Lufthansa or Swiss. The reservation agents say that we would have to purchase a Coach ticket and then United would request an upgrade from either airline and IF Lufthansa or Swiss have an upgrade we are good to go. If not, we have to travel Coach.

To purchase a Coach ticket would cost $2,700 each and a Business Class ticket would be $9,000 each.

Hope this explains my dilemma better.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2007, 10:06 AM
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If you book now for July travel SFO-ATH, best fare is about $1,600. On UA, it's about $1,700. But to get upgradeable "M" or "H" fares, it'll bump you up to about $3,000.

Best business class fares on UA is about $4,700.

There are often discount business class fares to Europe during the peak summer vacation period. It's not unusual to find business fares for under $2,500.

$1,700 on a non-upgradeable coach fare is not a good deal. $3,000 for an upgradeable coach is is not a good deal. And $4,500 or $9,000 for business class are also not good deal.

I would not book now. Wait until Jan or Feb and check fares then to see what's going on, and keep an eye on discount business class fares.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2007, 10:09 AM
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BTW, what dates are you talking about?

Even now, you can buy AA SFO-ORD, then Iberia ORD-MAD-ATH in July for under $3,000, all in business class.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2007, 10:18 AM
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Yes it does, and IMO it's not a very good deal, since UA requires you to purchase rather expensive coach seats in the first place just to qualify for upgrade space if it comes available at all. I'd look at a couple of other approaches frankly.

One is to hop to LA, fly MaxJet to London for around $1900 all in for business class (maybe less if you can snag one of their sales for your dates) and then ride either coach or business class from London to Athens (around $300 coach from Heathrow, $900 business). All in you'd be around the same price as the coach ticket from UA, and you'd save your miles for a sure thing.

Or, assuming you have enough UA miles banked for the upgrades anyway (60,000 miles per person for a round trip) why not go to the United website and purchase another 30K miles (for around $840) - you may need less depending on how many you already have - and go for a Star Alliance business class award all the way? That way you could choose from any Star carrier/routing where there's availability and not have to hope the tooth fairy will deliver a couple of upgrade seats on cue?
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Old Dec 2nd, 2007, 10:24 AM
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Thank you for your help.

Here is the plan: September 1st fly from SFO to Athens, Greece. We are on a cruise for two weeks ending in Rome. Flying from Rome to Zurich (will deal with that flight later)to visit friends. Flying on Sepotember 29 from Zurich to Boston to visit 93 year old Aunt. Flying from Boston to San Francisco on October 1st.

Would like to use United FF miles as we have so many from flights and United credit card.

I gather waiting until January to check out the flights is the thing to do.

Any other suggestions?
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Old Dec 2nd, 2007, 10:30 AM
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Gardyloo,

I was posting and you were replying. Will look into your suggestion. I am not as knowledgeable as you about award seats. We do have enough for 2 round trip upgrades and paying $840 is much better than the $9,000 that I was quoted from United for Business Class.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2007, 10:36 AM
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http://www.ualmiles.com/PersonalMiles.jsp

http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6722,1142,00.html
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Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 01:16 AM
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I'm with Gardyloo on the idea of paying outright or using the mileage for tickets, rather than upgrades. Upgrades are almost never a good deal, in my opinion, at least to Europe. That $2700 fare may seem like a good deal, but keep your eyes open and I would bet you could buy a seat in business for around that at some point.

A couple of other thoughts:

1) Look at pricing into some of the hub airports - Frankfurt, London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Munich all have non-stop service from SFO. A connection will get you into Zurich. You could then buy the other tickets to fill in the rest, as you were already suggesting for Rome to Zurich.

Trust me when I say that the the economy to business premium for your intra-Europe flights will not be money well spent so, if you can get a better deal flying SFO-London in business and then onto Athens in coach, I wouldn't hesitate.

2) I can't stress enough about how bad the Swiss business product is. I did the Zurich-Boston roundtrip this year. On the return leg, I get off the plane in Zurich and my boss (who booked the tickets) apologized to me... and he wasn't kidding. The service and food/wine is really quite good, and the airport is a dream, but the seats are inexplicably bad. I have heard rumors that they will change the planes used to operate the route, but until I could be guaranteed, I would choose a connection elsewhere (even Heathrow) over the Zurich-Boston nonstop.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 02:03 AM
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When you go to a city in Europe (like ATH) that is not a United destination then it may be better to book an upgradeable ticket to a United destination separately from the intra-Europe flights.

For example, you can get an economy ticket for 9/1-29 for SFO-FRA-SFO for $1329. The upgradeable H fare is $1749. The roundtrip FRA-ATH-FRA is $249 on flights that are not upgradeable with UA miles anyway so no need to buy a United M fare on those segments. That's about $2000 plus miles for the upgradeable flights. Not cheap, but better than $3000.

UA 926, SFO-FRA nonstop has plenty of upgrade seats available now.

I took a look at SFO-FRA, ZRH-SFO and got an upgradeable fare of $1850 vs about $1300 for non-upgradeable.

Adding Boston to the itinerary makes things complicated (and increases the fare). The upgradeable United routing for ZRH to BOS would be via IAD or ORD.

For award routing you could go:

SFO-xxx-ATH
ZRH-xxx-BOS
buy FCO-ZRH and BOS-SFO

or

SFO-xxx-FCO
FCO-ZRH stopover ZRH-xxx-BOS
buy FCO-ATH and BOS-SFO
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Old Dec 3rd, 2007, 05:23 AM
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Very good point by mrwunrfl.
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Old Dec 6th, 2007, 08:13 PM
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Thank you for all your suggestions. Thought I would report back what I bought.

SFO-FRA with an upgrade to Business Class. Spending the night in Frankfurt and leaving the next day Economy on Aegean to Athens.

Flying Rome to Zurich but have not purchased yet as the flights seem expensive.

Zurich to Washington to Boston upgrade to Business Class.

Boston to SFO with an upgrade to Business Class.

Had to change one date which means I have to stay in Rome and extra day. I am very sad about it!! LOL

The flights are all United except the inter-Europe flights.

Hope this helps someone.

Thank you again.
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Old Dec 6th, 2007, 11:54 PM
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Good job!

Just occurred to me that if you had enough miles you might be able to get an open jaw award ticket for your intra-Europe travel:
FRA-ATH on Lufthansa
FCO-ZRH-FRA on Swiss
Throw away the ZRH->FRA ticket.

Good luck getting a cheap flight for FCO-ZRH.
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Old Dec 7th, 2007, 05:29 PM
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I found this to be quite interesting. I went to Orbitz.com and asked for two one way tickets FRA to ATH the day we want to fly. I also asked for a non-stop flight. Their grid popped up with only Lufthansa and Agean Airlines having a non-stop. The Lufthansa flight was $1,3xx.00 and the Agean flight(operated by Lufthansa) was $117.00 per person so I booked it. Out of curiosity and wanting to see what I was missing on Lufthansa, I clicked on their price and found that it was the exact same flight! I think I saved ALOT of money and now my husband owes me a nice bauble. Don't you think?

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