Best Ways To Book United First Class Using Points [Step-by-Step]

United Airlines has had a rough go the last few years. Their in-flight product and service are considered by many to be sub-par compared to competitors. Additionally, their online platform has failed repeatedly, which has caused confusion for travelers.

As with any airline, first class is a much better way to experience United. However, they are in the process of phasing out their first class product in favor of their new Polaris business class product.

Let’s dig into how you can book United’s first class product before it is no longer available.

A Look Inside United Airlines First Class

United Global First Cabin
Each seat in United Global First has direct aisle access and is lie-flat. Image courtesy of United Airlines.

If you’re looking for an out of this world experience like Emirates first class, the United first class experience is going to be a bit of a letdown. United Airlines provides a decent product, but you won’t get the luxury experience here like you would on Emirates for example.

Each seat is lie-flat and has direct aisle access, but they aren’t enclosed suites like many first class products. Don’t get us wrong, lie-flat seats with direct aisle access are a great way to fly, but this is standard for a good business class seat too. A top first class seat needs more than that!

Fortunately, if you’re flying United first class, you get some nice perks when you arrive at the airport. You’ll be offered Premier Access check-in, Premier Access priority boarding, and Premier Access baggage handling. Where available, you will also enjoy a Premier Access security lane to make the screening process quicker.

United Airlines Polaris Lounge
The new Polaris lounge in Chicago is a great place to relax. Image courtesy of usatoday.com.

While waiting for your flight, you can relax in the United Global First Lounge or the Polaris Lounge. Rather than fight through the crowds, you can enjoy complimentary drinks and food. If you need to take care of some work, you’ll also have a bit more peace and quiet to do so.

Unfortunately, cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express do not offer entry to any of these premium lounges. However, the Chase United MileagePlus® Club Card and the Chase United MileagePlus® Club Business Card do provide access to United Clubs – this does not include Polaris Lounges.

How To Fly United First Class Using Points

As a member of Star Alliance, there are tons of partner programs you can use to book a first class flight on United.

United Airlines MileagePlus

One of the easiest ways to book a United flight is through their own MileagePlus program. It’s a simple process with their online award booking platform.

United Award Chart
United’s own MileagePlus program can provide some good redemptions for first class.

You can book your flight online by following these steps:

  1. Visit United’s website
  2. Sign in to your account
  3. Select “Search for award travel”
  4. Select your travel dates and your desired route
  5. Select “First” as your cabin of choice
  6. Select your flight (make sure it is operated by United!)
  7. Review your flight choice

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio if you need more United miles for an award booking. Transferring SPG Starpoints to United is a terrible value, since 1 SPG Starpoint only gets you 0.5 United miles. Don’t waste your SPG Starpoints on United!

Hot Tip: Use our Transfer Partner Calculator to quickly determine how many miles you’ll get for transferring between programs.

Make sure you confirm award availability on United’s site before you transfer Ultimate Rewards.

If you’re looking for some other fun ways to travel, check out the best way to redeem United miles.

Air Canada Aeroplan

Before you jump in and use United miles to book first class, check out Air Canada’s Aeroplan program. You might find it provides a better deal.

Aeroplan Award Chart
If you have Amex Membership Rewards points, Aeroplan could be your ticket to first class.

The booking process is simple and can be done online. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Visit Aeroplan’s site
  2. Log into your Aeroplan account (you’ll need your account number)
  3. Under “Use Your Miles” select “Travel”
  4. Select your travel dates, cities, and class of service
  5. Select your flight and complete your booking

Aeroplan passes on carrier-imposed surcharges for many partner award bookings. Luckily, United is exempt from this, so your out-of-pocket cost will be more reasonable.

If you are short on Aeroplan miles, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio. Transfers are almost instant.

You could also transfer SPG Starpoints at a 1:1 ratio, but transfers can take 5 days to complete.

Asiana Club

Finally, while it may not be the most well-known program, Asiana Club can be a great way to book United first class.

Asiana-Airlines-Award-Chart
Asiana Club provides a great redemption option to Europe.

To book a United flight, you will need to call Asiana since they do not allow partner bookings online. Here’s how it works:

  1. Search for availability using United’s site (see above for the steps)
  2. Call Asiana at 1-800-227-4262
    • The U.S. call center is open between 8:30am-5:30pm PT (Monday-Friday)
  3. Tell the phone representative you’d like to book an award with their Star Alliance partner United
  4. Provide your travel dates and flight numbers
  5. Once you confirm space, you will be prompted to give your credit card information for any necessary taxes and fees

SPG Starpoints transfer to Asiana Club at a 1:1 ratio. Transfers can take up to 10 days, so there is a chance your desired flights won’t be available once the points transfer.

Other Options for Booking United Airlines

You can also book first class flights on United with ANA Mileage Club, Singapore KrisFlyer, or Avianca LifeMiles.

Great United Airlines First Class Redemptions

While your first instinct might be to use United MileagePlus miles to book first class flights on United, that might not always give you the best deal. Let’s look at some of the best options for booking these flights.

Asiana Club really comes through if you want to fly from the U.S. to London:

Los Angeles to London-Heathrow (one-way)
United MileagePlus80,000 miles
Air Canada Aeroplan70,000 miles
Asiana Club50,000 miles

United’s MileagePlus program can also be a great way to book first class from the midwest to Tokyo.

Chicago to Tokyo-Narita (one-way)
United MileagePlus90,000 miles
Air Canada Aeroplan105,000 miles
Asiana Club80,000 miles

If you’d like to visit China from the west coast, both United and Asiana miles are a great way to help you get there.

San Francisco to Beijing (one-way)
United MileagePlus90,000 miles
Air Canada Aeroplan105,000 miles
Asiana Club80,000 miles

While Aeroplan might not provide the best redemption rates compared to United and Asiana, it’s a great program if you have lots of Amex Membership Rewards points.

How To Earn Enough Miles for United First Class

To top off your United MileagePlus account, you can transfer points from cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards:

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
#1 - Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Need Inspiration?
> Best Ways To Use Ultimate Rewards Points
  • 50,000 bonus points.
  • That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through
    Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide.
  • Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $95
  • Full Review
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card
  • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Full Review
Chase Freedom®
  • Earn 5% cash back in bonus categories
  • No annual fee
  • Full Review
Chase Freedom Unlimited℠

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Chase Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
  • Earn 5% cash back in select business categories
  • Full Review

…or cards that earn United miles directly:

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Our Review
Chase United MileagePlus® Club Card
  • Includes United Club membership - up to a $550 value per year
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Our Review
United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card

If you need more Aeroplan miles, you have plenty of cards to choose from that earn Membership Rewards points.

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
The Platinum Card® from American Express

Need Inspiration?
> The Best Ways To Use Amex Points
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • Up to $200 Uber Savings Annually.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit. Terms Apply.
  • Annual Fee: $550
  • Card Review
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
  • Earn 25,000 points.
  • 3x points for flights booked directly with airlines.
  • 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. Terms Apply.
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $195
  • Card Review
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
  • Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points. Terms Apply.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Card Review

Recommended Amex Cards (Business)

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN

Need Inspiration?
> The Best Ways To Use Amex Points
  • Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit. Terms Apply.
  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Card Review
The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points
  • Get 3x points - Choose 1 out of 5 categories. Terms Apply.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175
  • Card Review
The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express
  • Earn 2X points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners. Terms Apply.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Card Review

Finally, if you need to earn some Asiana miles, SPG Starpoints are the way to go.

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Need Inspiration?
> Here's 45 Best Ways To Use SPG Points
  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints®
  • Up to 5x Starpoints® on eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Card Review
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints®
  • Up to 5x Starpoints® on eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Card Review

When Should You Search for Award Space?

United releases award space 338 days prior to departure. Since first class space can be tough to find, it’s best to start your search early and check back regularly if space is not immediately available.

What Makes This a Great Redemption?

While this isn’t a luxury experience, a comfortable seat on your long-haul flight might be all you need. Additionally, you’ll have a solid experience on the ground.

Polaris Lounge

United Polaris Bar
Have a cocktail at the Polaris Lounge bar while you wait for your flight. Image courtesy of usatoday.com.

United has already launched the new Polaris lounge at Chicago-O’Hare. They are expected to open 8 more locations in the next few years at Houston International, Los Angeles International, New York-Newark, San Francisco, Washington-Dulles, Hong Kong, London-Heathrow, and Tokyo-Narita.

From the choice of food at the buffet to the bar with an extensive selection of beer, wine, and spirits, the Polaris lounges are getting great reviews so far.

Arrivals Lounges

As a first class passenger, you will receive access to United’s Arrivals Lounge in both San Francisco and London-Heathrow. After a long flight, sometimes a shower is just what you need to refresh before a day of tourist activities or a business meeting.

Final Thoughts

United Global First might not be a premier first class product, but it is still a solid flight that will give you a comfortable ride.

First class award space isn’t always easy to find, but you have plenty of options to book thanks to many partner programs.

Feature image courtesy of travelskills.com

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

FAQ

What’s the best way to book first class on United Airlines?
Depending on your route, the best way to book first class could be through United Airlines MileagePlus, Asiana Club, Aeroplan, or one of several other Star Alliance programs.

What credit cards can help me earn miles to fly United Airlines first class?
There are several credit cards you can use to earn the miles and points necessary to fly first class on United. First, you need to decide which program you are going to use.

Here are the credit card programs that have partnered with some of United’s partner airlines:

United MileagePlus – Chase Ultimate Rewards

Asiana Club – SPG Starpoints

Air Canada Aeroplan – American Express Membership Rewards, SPG Starpoints

What do I get when I fly first class?
On international first class flights, your journey will start with access to the Polaris lounge or Global First lounge. Between all the good food options available during your lounge time and your flight, you will never be hungry!

During your flight, you will also have a lie-flat seat with direct aisle access.