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


We may be compensated when you click on links from one or more of our advertising partners. Opinions and recommendations are ours alone. Terms apply to offers below. See our Advertiser Disclosure for more details.

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 as 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

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.

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 points, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. You can also opt to transfer Capital One miles at a 2:1.5 ratio. Transfers are almost instant.

Asiana Club

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

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.

You must reserve and have your ticket issued 3 days prior to departure, which prevents snagging last-minute awards.

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

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

Earn United MileagePlus Miles

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

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card, which is currently offering a 60,000 point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The card earns 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases, plus more. Enjoy a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, and other travel benefits such as excellent travel insurance coverage, including car rental insurance and no foreign transaction fees, this card is a very rewarding card.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - This premium card will get you access to 1,300+ airport lounges. as well as a number of other card benefits. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $550 annual fee. As an extra bonus, until 12/31/21, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit.

Earn big with this card, earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® card - A solid, no annual fee card that earns you a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Earn 5% cash-back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, and 5% on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Then earn 3% cash-back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases, but you won't get any travel benefits with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card - this is our #1 recommended business card and right now comes with a 100,000 sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Pay your cell phone bill with this card to receive up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year; as well as a number of other benefits.

Earn 3x on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, plus 1x on all other purchases — with no limit to the amount you can earn. All for an annual fee of $95.
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card - Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

This no annual fee business card earns up to 5% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year, plus 2% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary.
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card - Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase made for your business.

Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. There's no annual fee.

…or cards that earn United miles directly:

Recommended United Cards

You can earn Marriott points and transfer those to United at a transfer rate of 3:1.1. Plus, for every 60,000 Marriott points that you transfer, you’ll receive an extra 5,500 MileagePlus miles bonus.

Recommended Marriott Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card - For a limited time only, earn 125,000 Bonus Points and 1 Free Night Award (value up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary. Plus, earn up to 17x total Bovoy points per $1 when using your Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card at at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and 2x Bonvoy points per $1 on all other purchases. Annual Fee is $95.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card - For a limited time only, earn 60,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Earn up to 14x total Bonvoy points per $1 when using your Marriott Bonvoy Bold card at over 7,000 participating in Marriott Bonvoy hotels, earn 2X on other travel purchases, then 1x on all other purchases. A solid card for Marriott loyalists looking for a no-annual-fee card offering Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card - For a limited time, earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus Free Night Award after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021.

Earn 6x per $1 at hotels participants in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 3x at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines, and 2x on all other eligible purchases. Annual Fee is $450. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - For a limited time, earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points & 2 bonus Free Night Awards after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months. Each bonus Free Night Award has a redemption level up to 50K points. Certain hotels have resort fees. Offer ends 11/3/2021.

This is a solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card, click here.

Earn Air Canada Aeroplan Points

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

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a new welcome bonus offer of 60,000 100,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $6,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.

This is our #1 card for accessing 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide, including Priority Pass (enrollment required). We leverage ~$4,900+ in benefits and perks from the card every year. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - This card has a new welcome bonus of 35,000 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

We love using this card as it earns 4X Membership Rewards Points at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, and earns 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).

There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly; and you'll have access to many benefits and perks. Terms apply and for rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.

Business Owner? See our article on Amex business cards that earn Membership Rewards.

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

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.

For rates and fees of the Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of American Express® Gold Card , click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, click here.

Frequently asked questions

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

Air Canada Aeroplan – American Express Membership Rewards

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.

Spencer Howard

About Spencer Howard

Always a fan of flying, it was only natural that Spencer was drawn to finding a way to improve the travel experience. Like many, he started this journey searching for cheap flights to take him around the world. This was fun for a while, but Spencer was intrigued by the idea of flying in business and first class! Throwing himself into what became an extensive research project, Spencer spent 3-4 hours per night learning everything he could about frequent flyer miles over the course of several months (he thinks this is normal).

Travel prices are about to surge from pent-up demand.

Use this points strategy to lock in pennies-on-the-dollar pricing in 2021, all without being a frequent flyer...

How do I only pay $30 to go to Hawaii, $200 for business class to Asia or just $150 to Europe?

Discover the real-life strategies that anyone can use to enjoy limitless travel (even on a limited budget!)

Just sign up below and I’ll send you the Limitless Travel Playbook instantly:

We respect your privacy. Please view our privacy policy here.

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.


  1. Shawn Afshar August 18, 2019

    How many points would I need to fly first class from Los Angeles (LAX) to Jakarta, Indonesia (CGK) with United?


    • Hi Shawn,

      If you’re wanting to fly on United metal then you will need 90,000 United miles. But keep in mind that United no longer offers an International first-class, but rather their Polaris business class (which is still exceptional). If you want to fly a true first-class using United miles then you could fly ANA first-class for 140,000 miles.

      Thanks for reading!


  2. When you say flying first class on ANA using United miles, does that mean looking for an award ticket through United Mileageplus and selecting a flight option with ANA?


  3. Janet McNemar January 14, 2020

    If I want to fly from Auckland, New Zealand to Tampa, Florida. Can I buy an economy ticket and then upgrade to first class with united mileage plus award miles? If so, what would the price be and how many miles is it to upgrade?


    • Hi Janet,

      Yes, this is an option as long as upgrade space is available. The cost in miles to upgrade can vary depending on whether you’re flying with United or one of their partners. We actually have a dedicated post on this that helps walk you through the process of upgrading.

      But generally speaking, purchasing discounted business-class fares can cost less than buying an economy fare and upgrading with miles, so be sure to check those fares first.


Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which we receive financial compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). However, the credit card information that we publish has been written by experts who know these products inside out, and what we recommend is what we would (or already) use ourselves. This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers that are on the market. Click here to see a list of advertisers that we work with.