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Should we use our miles for a trip to Asia or Europe?

Should we use our miles for a trip to Asia or Europe?

Apr 21st, 2006, 01:46 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 76
Should we use our miles for a trip to Asia or Europe?

I was hoping that I could use your expertise in terms of mileage usage. I've finally been able to accrue enough United miles for a trip but I can't seem to figure out the best way to maximize our points. Since most of you fodories are expert travelers, can you help me decide how to use the miles?

Here's my dilemna:

1) Use 60,000 mileage points for a free trip to Asia (we were thinking of going to Bangkok and Hong Kong-although I don't know how that works for multi-city travel)
2) Use 50,000 mileage points for Europe.

What do you suggest I do? Sorry, I'm new to this mileage redemption thing and I just want to make sure I'm maximizing my awards.

Thanks for your help!!
JennyP is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 02:01 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,400
I would probably use the miles for Asia. For me, since I live in NYC, flying to Europe is pretty inexpensive, unless going to a place like Greece, which can be costly and I've used miles for that in the past. But, if you merely want to know where the best value is, I would say Asia. (When you want to go can make a difference too, not only in price, but in the amount of miles needed.)
laurieco is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 02:15 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,892
I would use the miles to upgrade to business class to asia - you get a lot more bang for your buck than just getting a ticket.
Craig is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 02:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,400
Craig, as you will recall, to upgrade to BKK on United is now almost $1800 a ticket. Even you thought it was too much and didn't want to pay it. Many of us cannot afford to spend that kind of money on one ticket, even for business class.
laurieco is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 02:32 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
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If possible, upgrade to business with the miles. Be careful, though, as not all fare classes are eligible for mileage upgrades, and mileage upgrades aren't particularly easy to get on the lowest eligible fares. A full fare economy ticket is relatively easy to upgrade with miles, but the price is very close to a discount business ticket (which would earn you more miles with class of service bonus you don't get with mileage upgrade).

Free tickets are often easier to get, but unless is absolute peak travel time when the price is high, it may not be the most cost effective use of your miles.

Availability might solve the dilemma for you. You'd be best to start checking availability now if your trip is less than a year off. Standard awards are the toughest to get, and those are the 60,000/50,000 ones. Be sure, in checking, that you check all the partners as well...you'll need to get on the phone to United to have them check the partner availability for you as it can't be done online.
KimJapan is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 03:03 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Laurie - I would have done the upgrade had the option to buy points and get business class tickets for free on a better flight not existed. I appreciate that many want to shell out the minimum amount possible for flights but the poster asked for the best way to maximize her points and the upgrade even with the $1800 ticket is still the best bang for the buck. You also earn points when you upgrade, an added bonus especially with a trip to Asia.
Craig is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 03:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,988
I always use my miles to upgrade to Business class. The prices for upgradeable tickets has gone up this year, almost $1600 from Seattle to Bangkok. (In the past, I've periodically found sale fares that are upgradeable.) But I'll get miles for my flight, and (even more important) I'll fly in comfort. United says we'll soon be able to use our miles to upgrade on partner airlines like Thai. Once that is announced, you'll have more options.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 03:14 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 76
I'm a little confused. If I want to upgrade to business class, I still have to pay a fee?

I always assumed an upgrade meant that I would purchase the tickets and then I would use whatever number of miles required to move into the next class.

Is that right?

Sorry, this mileage thing is a little new to me. But thanks for your help so far.

We're actually looking to leave sometime in October and I've checked the United website and it looks like they have available flights for Hong Kong and Thailand right now. The Europe one is a little harder to come by.
JennyP is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 03:46 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,034
To upgrade with miles, you have to purchase a ticket that is eligible. The lowest fares are not eligible for upgrade. Here's the page from United about upgrades. It would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the program. http://www.united.com/page/middlepag...3,1149,00.html
If you click around, you'll be able to see all about award tickets and partners.

KimJapan is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 03:47 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,892
Well, its not actually a fee per se, its just that you have to purchase a more expensive "upgradeable" class of ticket. Your assumption is correct though, except the rules say you have to buy a higher cost economy ticket to upgrade - call it a fee if you want.
Craig is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 04:33 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,552
Here are a few thoughts that I hope may be helpful

Unless you are happy to spend about $1800 each and burn all your miles.

You need to call United. The website will only provide you with award availability for United flights. When you call Mileage Plus the agents can pull up availability for ALL of the partner airlines in the Star Alliance, including Lufthansa, Swiss, LOT, Thai Asiana, Singapore and lots more!

If the first person isnít helpful just hang up and call back, we all do it!


In order to maximize the value of your miles you need to know all of the places you could fly. The Star Alliance has over 700 destinations worldwide with lots in Asia and Europe. Start thinking beyond London, and Bangkok and Paris.

Pull up the Star Alliance Award chart on Unitedís website and look at your options http://www.united.com/ual/asset/Star...d_chart_v2.pdf

On the chart itís easy to see things that are counter intuitive for example Sri Lanka and Hong Kong cost you the same 60,000 milesÖEurope includes destinations that are not in Europe like Armenia (West of Turkey) and Turkmentistan (Central Asia). You may not want to go to these places but itís worth mentioning because they cost the same 50,000 miles. We took a wonderful trip to Armenia and went for 80,000 miles in BusinessÖa steal!

One of the great things about FF tickets is that you have lots of options and you can combine flights on a variety of partner airlines.

For example I took flights into Bombay from London on SWISS and back from Delhi on BA. Additionally you can do an Open JawÖ(such as the last itinerary where you arrive and depart from different airports/location) OR a stopover. This allows you to see several destinations rather than just one on the same ticket. So you could fly from the US to Sri Lanka or Bali with a stopover in Bangkok, or you could fly into Rome and out of Barcelona, from some obscure place in Croatia and out of St Petersburg, go crazy. In order to familiarize yourself with routings it might be worth looking at www.staralliance.com

Open Jaws are great in Europe where you can travel between destinations by train and good for Asia where airfare are low and there are a new crop of budget airlines.

Flyertalk.com is the most comprehensive FF website. Go to the Forum Home, then Airline Programs then Mileage Plus

SmarterTravel.com has lots of FF tips

Hope this helps!
welltraveledbrit is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 05:09 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,988
Brit's advice to get to know your frequent flier program is excellent. Only you know how you want to spend your miles.

For some people, using them for an upgrade is the way to go, and it's certainly the way to make your miles worth the most. Generally, frequent flier miles are said to be worth about US$.01-.02 each. Any time you can get substantially more for your miles is a good deal. I may pay US$1600 for a ticket to Bangkok, but if I was paying for Business Class it would cost about US$6000. That makes my miles worth about $.073 each. Since I value flying Business class, it's a great deal for me.

If you are someone who couldn't care less about flying business class, then don't waste your miles. You could get a coach ticket to Bangkok for, say US$1000. If you pay 60,000 miles instead, your miles are worth about US$.016 each. That's about mid-range for what they figure miles are worth.

There are lots of ways to look at this, but ultimately, the decider is what is important to you.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 05:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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i have a slightly different take..

first i will say that for me it depends on the month of the year i intend to travel and to where for the europe portion...for instance if you fly between nov 1 and mid march flights to europe are quite cheap...the rest of the year flights are almost twice to 3 X as much...so i would never spend precious miles to fly to london, ireland, france and most western european places, except greece, italy perhaps, turkey, etc...for those tickets it might be worth using miles between mid march and oct 31...other wise no...

i use miles frequently to fly to asia...i never upgrade, i go coach.
a full business ticket is twice a coach ticket for miles...

as for upgrading from an upgradable ticket using miles, i don't see the advantage really for one with very few miles at hand or more miles able to be earned easily...

why would i pay $1000-1800 for a ticket and then use 60,000 miles, unless the miles came to me very easily....i could take two trips for the cost (miles plus ticket cost)..

i figure the cheaper you can get there the better thus allowing more trips in the long run...i should add that i am one who takes many of these kinds of trips, so conservation is important to me to assure more trips...

bottom line: ASIA on a total FF ticket in coach...
rhkkmk is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 05:53 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Here are my thoughts about claiming a coach ticket. Similar to rhkkmk but not identical.

- Fares. For Asia, it can be as low as $650 during off season from some west-coast cities. It can also go very high, like $1,200 or more if you're going around Christmas holiday or peak summer, for example.

For Europe, it can be as low as like $350 in the middle of winter. But over $1,000 in summer.

Apparently, if a fare is low, then just don't use the miles, either to Asia or Europe.

- Miles you earn if you buy your ticket. Buying a relatively cheap ticket to Asia is a very good way to earn a lot of miles and EQMs. From the east coast to HKG or BKK can earn you ~20K miles. Which is a lot, and if you're trying to get status with UA (very important, as being a Premiere gets you E+ seats for free). On the other hand, Europe is quite a bit closer, especially from the East Coast. A roundtrip can earn you 10K miles or less.

- Anyways, my family and I live in Houston, and we fly CO, not UA. But we most often buy coach tickets to Hong Kong, and only use miles for last-minute domestic travel, business class to Asia, and occassionally to Europe. We NEVER NEVER use miles for coach to Hong Kong.
rkkwan is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 06:06 PM
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Posts: 2,552
I agree that from a value perspective miles are always a great use when used for Business either outright or as an upgrade. I just didn't want to complicate things if this was not something JennyP was going to be interested in.

My absolute minimum is 2+ cent per mile so I'd expect to get at least a $1,200-$1,500 value for a 60,000 mile ticket. However as you suggest one always want to far exceed this. And in addition to getting this value I'd like an interesting routing etc as discussed above.

The UK-India ticket (on One World using American miles) mentioned above was only 60,000 miles each - in business what a deal! Ahh BA's flat beds!

Recently I organized a FF tix for my mother LHR-SFO in August and it was worth it because she's selling her house and may cancel which makes a FF ticket perfect.

I must admit I tend to use miles outright for a free business ticket rather than an upgrade. 80,000 miles to Europe seems like a better bet than shelling out for an expensive upgradable ticket and then an additional 60,000 miles. I understand one wants to keep aquiring the miles but for me it's a bit too much of a premium.

The other thing we do, depending on the destination, is to combine cheap Economy flights to Europe with FF tickets from Europe. This gives me a stopover each way to see my family, miles and business class.

These strategies seem relevant for those of use who are always chasing higher FF status with the airlines or trying to move up to the next level of 50,000 or 100,000 miles per year but I think they're less relevant for people who fly less often.

I agree with rhmkkmk that there are no fixed rules and that it depends on the season, how many miles you have, how often you travel etc
welltraveledbrit is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 06:35 PM
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Posts: 32,988
Brit, you are absolutely right that for less frequent fliers it makes less sense to go for the upgradeable ticket. For those of us who need to maintain our vff status, it makes more sense.

Again, it comes down to each person's priorities.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 06:37 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 409
Let me ask a somewhat personal question, how much do you have to spend in funds on the trip? The US dollar is so weak right now, that Europe is very expensive. Whereas someplace like Thailand is comparatively inexpensive.

That's how we decided to do our big Thailand trip this year. Our money goes much further there in this day and age.
lovesadventure is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 06:55 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,400
If the difference is, you can go once using miles for business, or twice going coach, unless this is a once in a lifetime trip for you, I would choose a free trip. I go to Asia twice per year so, if I can get a free trip, I'll take it. BUT, business class is appealing and if I have the miles, I would probably use them for that. The problems is, I never have enough miles for business for both me and my husband so we end up using the miles for free trips instead. As much as I would love to fly a better class, it makes sense to use the miles for free trips, it affords us an extra trip per year. I'd rather use the money for a 5 star hotel that I will enjoy far more and for more time than a flight. A flight is 17-25 hours. A hotel is for much, much longer. That said, I may turn my American miles into an upgrade to Japan since tickets to Japan are pretty cheap to begin with, so the extra for an upgrade may be worth it. But to spend $1800 on a ticket to upgrade to Bangkok and then use 60,000 miles on top of that to upgrade seems silly, unless you are filthy rich. I'm not. And I'm guessing most Fodorites aren't either.
laurieco is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2006, 05:33 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 6,664
Jenny-I think you should decide whether you want to go to Asia or Europe and use your FF miles. The destination is much more important than maximizing the value of your FF miles. Simply put the fares to both Asia and Europe vary according to season. Therefore, you get more "value" out of your FF miles when travelling in high season. Of course, the opportunity ti use FF miles dropsd dramatically during high season.

Pick your destination and time of vacation and just purchase the tickets. Again, if you want to go in high season, you will have to get the tickets very much in advance.

My suggestion is that you ignore the upgrade. Just focus on the ticket.
Gpanda is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2006, 08:08 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 17
The advice on this forum is so spot-on, that it never fails to amaze me how much some of the people here know about so many things. One caveat I would like to mention about UA Mileage Plus miles awards, however, is that travel dates with UA -- once ticketed -- are no longer flexible.

This never used to be the case, and I have not found any other airline that has followed suit and restricted FF tickets this way. But UA restricts it's own FF tickets and all other partner FF tickets issued via UA Mileage Plus points. This is to say that now, once you ticket a FF UA itinerary, the date of departure -- and perhaps even more importantly -- the date of return are carved in onyx. You can no longer use FF miles to explore a dream destination and overstay your anticipated return via a simple phone call should whim so inspire you.

Alas! With UA FF, you've got to know for sure precisely when you want to go on your trip; and, like I say, exactly when you want to return. Any changes once tickets have been issued are subject to rebooking and reticketing fees, etc. . . the whole 9 yards.

I find this particularly restrictive -- especially when, as someone else alluded to above, FF tickets used to be famous for their potential flexibility. Bah UA for having implemented this nuisancing policy! I now do my best to fly other airlines and to collect other airlines' FF points instead.
DrZZ is offline  

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