How to Book United MileagePlus Awards

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If you haven’t done so already, sign up for a United MileagePlus account. It’s free! We like booking awards at United due to the simplicity and ease. The problem with simplicity is that United has made it almost impossible to build your own itinerary — this was done during the last devaluation — a definite blow to those that are used to personalizing your own routing. Still, there can be value with United award flights. Here’s how to book.


Let’s run through an example search from NYC to Amsterdam. A flexible search is an easy way to show availability over a greater range of dates so check off “My dates are flexible”; also make sure you check off “Search for award travel”.

You’ll be able to see two months worth of space with indicators for Saver Economy and Saver Premium availability.

If you have the Chase United Explorer Card, you may even reveal additional award space. Compare — the first screenshot shows a Saver Award that would not be there for those without the Explorer Card.

Award availability for those with a Chase United Explorer Card


Award availability for those without the card

Select the flights to your outbound (and return flight) and you’ll see the summary of miles and fees requires. Here, it cost 140,000 miles to fly on LOT Polish Airlines’ Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner in business class.

A chance to fly on the Dreamliner

United’s search and booking engine for award flights has greatly improved in the past few years. We’re seeing more partners that are bookable there now than ever. This search from NYC to BKK yields four different airlines in the top four results. This will serve most flyers well but the sites of ANA, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines can be used to supplement your search for Star Alliance awards.


To pad your United MileagePlus accounts please consider these cards that we like to keep close when traveling with United.

United MileagePlus® Explorer card

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United;  1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Additional award space may be revealed
  • First checked bag free (for a companion on the same reservation as well)
  • Priority boarding
  • Two United Club passes each year.
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • $95 annual fee, waived for the first year

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent travel and dining;  1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 25% more in travel redemption when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • $95 annual fee, waived for the first year


Don’t forget to sign up with MileagePlus Dining and Shopping to double dip on mileage earning opportunities.


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Comments (4)

  • T 7 years ago Reply

    Is there any kind of service out there that you can plug in the number of miles you have, and it can return a list of flights that those miles could pay for?

  • Cathy 7 years ago Reply

    Can you explain how to see the Chase United Explorer card travel awards options? It didn’t appear when I did a search and I have a one of these cards clearly referenced in my MileagePlus account.

    The Flight Deal 7 years ago Reply

    @Cathy – it isnt an option. if you have the card, for some dates and routes, there should be more availability.

  • Joe Lenski 7 years ago Reply

    I don’t understand why those with the explorer card would get access to better deals when that card is just a mid range card with a $95 yearly fee.

    The MileagePlus Club card costs around $450 per year, so wouldn’t those that carry this card warrant access to better award deals than those who carry the explorer card?

    What insane rational does United have for this? NOTHING they do ever makes sense.

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