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How To Upgrade to Business/First Class on United Airlines Flights

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Christine Krzyszton

Christine Krzyszton

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Christine ran her own business developing and managing insurance and financial services. This stoked a passion for points and miles and she now has over 2 dozen credit cards and creates in-depth, deta...
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The airline ticket upgrading process has become more complicated (and restrictive) on most airlines, but United’s upgrade process is often more convoluted than most others.

There are multiple types of upgrades, a confusing maze of fare classes, priority hierarchy, and assorted rules for different planes and routes to sort through. For those who don’t have elite status with the airline, it may seem more impossible than ever to secure a seat in the front of the plane.

While we can’t guarantee you an upgraded seat on United Airlines, we can help you understand the upgrade process and increase your chances of securing a premium seat.

Our guide explains United upgrade types, availability, how the upgrade waitlist works, and the role of elite status in the upgrade process.

We’ll also cover the benefits of having a United-branded credit card with some bottom-line ways to make that upgrade happen.

Types of Upgrades

United Airlines has several options for securing an upgrade, including options earned as a Premier elite member, using miles to upgrade, qualifying for complimentary upgrades, or purchasing a full-fare economy ticket that upgrades instantly.

  • MileagePlus Upgrade Awards: Upgrades using miles on any United or Copa Airlines-operated flights
  • Complimentary Upgrades: Upgrades for Premier elite members on a space-available basis on select United-operated domestic flights
  • PlusPoints Upgrades: Upgrades purchased with PlusPoints earned by Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members that can be used on United and specific United global partner airlines
  • Star Alliance Upgrade Awards: Upgrades using miles on select flights with Star Alliance network partners
  • Instant Upgrades: Upgrades granted at the time of ticketing on full fare Y economy and B fares for Premier members; Premier 1K members may receive instant upgrades when purchasing M fares (subject to availability)

We’ll cover more on how priority order works for these upgrades shortly, but first, let’s find out how to determine if there is upgrade space available.

How To Find Out if Upgrade Space Is Available

The best way to see if there are seats available for an upgrade is to search for tickets using United’s expert mode. To activate expert mode on your account, start at the home page and sign in to your MileagePlus account.

Select the option to go to your Profile, then select Search Preferences. Under search preferences, you’ll find the expert mode option. Just click that you acknowledge the considerations, save, and it will be activated.

When searching for a flight in expert mode, you’ll be able to see the fare class you’re purchasing and the available fare classes for that flight by clicking on the Details tab.

In expert mode, you’ll be able to see the fare classes listed under the Details tab. The fare class you purchase will determine the possible upgrade options. Image Credit: United

The fare classes available on this flight from highest to lowest are J, C, D, Z, P (business) and Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G (economy). In expert mode, you can see how many seats are available in each class to help determine your chances for an upgrade.

The number next to the fare class represents the number of seats available for purchase, mileage awards, or upgrades in that fare class bucket. The number 9 is the highest and represents that 9 or more seats are available.

Although United doesn’t publish a list of what each fare code represents, the availability for upgrades is generally found in these classes:

  • ON: First class upgrade from business class
  • PN: Business class instant upgrade from Y/B/M fare purchase by Premier 1K and Global Services members
  • R/PZ: Business class or first-class domestic upgrade from economy
  • RN: Business class instant upgrade for Y/B fare purchases by Premier Platinum, Gold, or Silver members

For a complete list of United Airlines’ revenue, award, and upgrade fare codes, CWSI’s project does a great job of deciphering these.

Hot Tip: Each flight will have different availability for upgrade potential, so check each flight individually. 

Upgrade Priority: Who Gets the Upgrade First?

The Importance of Elite Status

Getting upgraded from economy to a premium seat will depend on the level of elite status you have with the airline and whether you’re using earned PlusPoints, paying for upgrades, or using miles to upgrade.

United has several tiers of elite airline status with the following ranking order when it comes to upgrade determination:

  • Global Services: Top status given to United’s best clients at United’s discretion
  • United Premier 1K: 1K members earn 280 PlusPoints on qualification and additional points when exceeding qualification that can be used for upgrades; 1K members also receive complimentary upgrades when available
  • United Premier Platinum: Platinum members earn 40 PlusPoints on qualification which can be used for upgrades and also receive complimentary upgrades when available
  • United Premier Gold: Complimentary upgrades when available
  • United Premier Silver: Complimentary upgrades when available

Whether you have elite status or not, you’ll be placed on a waitlist with other travelers who have requested an upgrade if your upgrade cannot be confirmed immediately.

The computer system will automatically clear the person who is at the top of the list for their upgrade up until 3 hours before departure when the gate agents take over and manage the upgrade list. The priority list for upgrades is as follows:

  • Premier 1K travelers on Y/B/M-class fares that weren’t cleared before
  • Travelers using PlusPoints: Prioritized first by status, then fare class, then the time of request
  • Remaining Premier members: Prioritized first by status, then fare class, and then those traveling on award tickets

MileagePlus Premier members are eligible for complimentary Premier Upgrades when traveling on a United-operated flight. Primary cardholders of the following cards, who are also Premier members, qualify for this type of upgrade on award tickets:

If you have a United-branded credit card, you’ll want to sign in to your MileagePlus account before searching for flights, as elite members and cardholders receive expanded search access.

Bottom Line: Although Premier members holding United-branded credit cards qualify for complimentary upgrades on award tickets, these travelers will be prioritized after the lowest paid fare class.

The Value of a United-Branded Credit Card

Having a United MileagePlus credit card increases your chances of an upgrade. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Premier members who have a qualifying United-branded credit card from Chase qualify for complimentary upgrades on United award flights, while those who hold the United Club Infinite card can extend this benefit to their companions. That’s not the only flight benefit of having one of these cards, however.

If securing an upgrade on your United flight is important to you, you may also enjoy the premium benefit of lounge access. Both the United Club Infinite card and United Club Business card come with United Club and Star Alliance lounge access worldwide for you and your travel companions.

A 1-year United Club lounge membership alone starts at $550 per year, more than the annual fee on either card.

Another great travel perk is free checked bags. Most United-branded cards offer a free checked bag for you and your traveling companion, resulting in savings that can easily offset the $95 annual fee in the second year and beyond. Note that the United Gateway card does not offer upgrades or free checked bag benefits.

To learn more about the best credit cards for United flyers and the benefits offered, be sure to review our article on this topic.

Bottom Line: Having a qualifying United credit card makes you eligible for a flight upgrade on United flights and provides additional flight perks that more than offset the annual fees on the cards. 

Upgrading With Miles

It is possible to upgrade your flight using United MileagePlus frequent flyer miles, either while you’re purchasing a ticket or on an existing reservation, but it is not always the best value. However, it is positive that all fares can be upgraded with miles or miles with a co-pay.

Here’s how to find out how much an upgrade will cost using miles and whether using the miles and co-pay option is worth it. Be sure to sign in to your MileagePlus account before your search to receive better search results.

How To Upgrade With Miles & Co-Pay When Purchasing a Ticket

For a new reservation, search for flights using the Advanced Search option on the homepage. Doing so will allow you to find fares that can be upgraded with miles and co-pays.

To find upgrade availability, use the Advanced Search option. Image Credit: United

Once you have typed in your preferred departure, destination and dates, select the MileagePlus Upgrade Awards option from the drop-down box under Upgrades, certificates, and promotion codes.

Image Credit: United

You’ll find several options for upgrading your flight if seats are available. You may be able to upgrade with just miles, or there may be a co-pay if you do not have Premier elite status. You can select to upgrade from economy to business or from business to first class. Here’s an example of the results when selecting an upgrade from economy:

Image Credit: United

In this example, it would cost $1,217 to purchase an economy seat on the flight. If you wanted to upgrade your flights to business class, you could do so with 25,000 miles plus a $125 co-pay each way.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a United Premier elite member to upgrade an economy ticket to business class using miles and a co-pay.

However, you’ll want to make sure it is a good value option versus purchasing any available discounted business class. Discounted business class can be priced lower, and therefore a better value, than purchasing economy with an upgrade.

Hot Tip: 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. 

How To Upgrade an Existing Reservation With Miles

If you’ve already purchased your ticket and want to upgrade that ticket to a premium cabin, you can process the upgrade yourself within your existing reservation, call United to request the upgrade, or request an upgrade at the airport.

To process the upgrade yourself online, sign in to your MileagePlus account and access your existing reservation. Select Redeem upgrade to view your options. You will see the option to buy up to a premium cabin, use PlusPoints if you have these available, or have the option to use miles and co-pay for the upgrade.

Need more miles? You might be interested in our in-depth article on how to earn lots of United MileagePlus miles.

Bottom Line: Any traveler can use the “upgrade with miles” option when booking a flight or upgrading an existing reservation. However, Premier members do not incur a co-pay for flights on select routes, making it an option to consider if the discounted business-class fare is not attractive. 

Upgrading on Partner Airlines

MileagePlus members can upgrade with miles on Star Alliance partner airlines. Image Credit: Air Canada

MileagePlus members can request upgrades on United partner Star Alliance airlines from economy to business or first class (on 2-class planes) and business class to first class depending on the partner airline’s seat availability.

United has over 20 Star Alliance partners that participate in mileage upgrades, and upgrades for most partner airlines may be requested up to 331 days before departure for up to 4 travelers on the same reservation.

To request a Star Alliance upgrade with miles, you must first book your ticket, access the reservation on, then request the upgrade under redeem upgrade as you would with a normal United reservation.

For complete rules, terms, and conditions for upgrades on Star Alliance partner airlines, visit the United Airlines website.

10 Ways To Secure an Upgrade or Increase Your Chances of an Upgrade With United

With United Elite Status:

  • Earn PlusPoints by achieving Premier Platinum or United Premier 1K elite status and use these for upgrades.
  • Purchase a Y fare class ticket or a discounted full-fare economy B fare and receive an instant upgrade on select flights. Premier 1K members can purchase an M fare and receive an immediate upgrade. Upgrades are subject to availability.
  • Check for discounted business-class fares before applying upgrades or using miles to upgrade an economy ticket.
  • Select an upgrade-eligible flight at booking using the advanced search tool and selecting the MUA option to find flights that can be upgraded using miles.
  • Purchasing a higher fare ticket will not guarantee you an upgrade, but it will increase your chances of securing the upgrade over other Premier members with the same status when you’re redeeming upgrades. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth the extra dollars.
  • Use United MileagePlus miles to secure a business or first-class ticket.
  • Request the upgrade early. One of the last tie-breakers for upgrade priority is the time of the upgrade request, so be sure to request the upgrade as early as possible.

Without United Elite Status

  • Check the price for all classes of service and compare. It may seem obvious, but occasionally, business and first class fares can be a deal. Consider the example earlier in this article where discounted business and first class fares are less expensive than economy.
  • Purchase an upgrade-eligible ticket. If you have United MileagePlus frequent flyer miles, you can purchase an upgrade-eligible ticket and use miles and co-pay to secure a business or first class ticket instantly if seats are available. You can find this type of ticket by selecting the MileagePlus upgrade award option (MUA) from the drop-down menu on the advanced search page.
  • Use United MileagePlus miles to secure a business or first-class ticket.

Final Thoughts

Scoring an upgrade is complicated, and not just because there are so many factors involved in the process.

It’s also because the system doesn’t always work as planned. You can be dropped off the upgrade waitlist for no apparent reason or experience other anomalies that can complicate the process further. Understanding that anomalies happen regardless of the airline and knowing how the process works can provide you with the leverage to secure the upgrades you deserve.

The bottom line to securing any complimentary upgrades with United is Premier elite status. Otherwise, if it’s essential to fly in business or first class, you should consider purchasing tickets in these classes or upgrading with miles, if available, if doing so is a good value compared to discounted business class.

The information regarding the United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card and United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Business Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

The information regarding the United Club℠ Business Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

About Christine Krzyszton

Christine ran her own business developing and managing insurance and financial services. This stoked a passion for points and miles and she now has over 2 dozen credit cards and creates in-depth, detailed content for UP.


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Marcu R

February 12, 2019


I purchased a K class flight on Swiss airlines (MIA-ZRH) then I upgraded to Business class. Should I have earned business class miles to my UA mileage plus account?

Thank you

James Larounis

February 13, 2019

Hi Marcu! I’d love to help you out. Can you let me know a bit more about your upgrade? Was it done at the gate? Was it a buy up offer? Did your ticket reissue? If you’re able to let me know a bit more about the upgrade, I can best help you decipher if the miles should have posted for a higher fare class. Thank you!


February 14, 2019

Hi and thank you for all the great information. My question is does the number of seats in a fare class change between now and flight departure? I am a Premier 1K and have purchased a W class economy ticket and applied the GPU’s to get moved to Polaris. However, right now it does not look like there are any of those fare codes available. I would assume they do open then get filled based on the qualifications you describe above but I am not certain. Follow up question is there any sense of when that happens? i.e. any point? a month before? 4 days before, etc…-Thanks in advance!

Christine Krzyszton

February 14, 2019

Hi Robert! I think you have a fine understanding of the situation. The number of seats available in any fare class can change at any time. And yes, seats could open up and your GPU could clear. Also,travelers change their schedules, cancel their flights, and closer to departure there are missed connections, etc. As a 1K, you are probably already aware that seats can become available right up until departure and upgrades can clear at the gate. Thanks for reading and I hope your GPU clears.


February 15, 2019

PN is only for Global Services not GS + 1K.

Christine Krzyszton

February 15, 2019

Hi Chris, and thanks for the information. The two sources I accessed for this information were Flyertalk Wiki and CWSI. Flyertalk states: “Instant Upgrades are space available for all elites on Y & B fares for CPU-eligible flights at booking. For 1Ks and GS, this can be done on Y, B & M fares and requires PN space.” CWSI states “PN for Y/B/M 1K Instant Upgrades” and “All GS upgrades Y->C (CPU, RPU, GPU, miles)”.


March 19, 2019

Hi, I have a K class United ticket bought through a travel agency.
Can I upgrade it to business class?

Christine Krzyszton

March 20, 2019

Hello Aaron. We would need more information to determine your options. For example, is it a domestic or international ticket, do you have elite status with United, do you want to purchase an upgrade, or do you want to upgrade with miles? We also don’t know if your ticket is a special or group fare which may have upgrade restrictions. The fastest way to answer your question would be for you to call United. Have your record locator and/or your ticket number handy for the United rep. They can look at your reservation and let you know if it can be upgraded. You can also search for your reservation on the United web site homepage under “My Trips” and you may find the upgrade options there within your reservation. If you have put your United frequent flyer number on the reservation, your ticket will show up on If you have not, you can do so after you search with your record locator or ticket number on I hope this helps.

Jose Somen

March 24, 2019

Great info thanks! Looking to book a return flight from SYD to IAH in November for a honeymoon and the only option to upgrade with miles is 30K plus $600 and to get on a waitlist. I checked on Expertflyer and using the expert search with United I don’t see any seats available now. Don’t currently have any status with United. Basically trying to figure out my odds. As the flight is not until November, not sure how United typically handles their seats.

Christine Krzyszton

March 24, 2019

Hi Jose, and congrats on your wedding and upcoming honeymoon trip. Upgrades out of Sydney can be difficult to obtain, especially two. Since it is such an important event, you may not want to gamble on an upgrade clearing. And what if just one seat opens up? Without status you will also be much lower on the priority list, behind all elite members and those who have purchased a higher fare class. I am not an expert at using miles for premium flights but I have used United miles for flights from SYD to HKG and also to NRT. For 50K miles you can secure a business saver award from SYD. You could then purchase a one way premium economy flight back to the U.S. Not sure if this fits anything close to what you are looking for but it would ensure you both will be reasonably comfortable for the return trip.


June 02, 2019

Can I use my United Chase or Chase Sapphire card to buy miles from United and earn points on the cost of the miles?

Christine Krzyszton

June 03, 2019

Hello John. Yes, it is possible to buy miles from United and use a Chase credit card. However, the transaction will be processed by so you would only earn 1 mile or point per dollar spent. 10,000 miles would cost $376.25 so it would not be a good value to do so.

Joe S

June 03, 2019

Thank you for all the information! I previously purchased a “bundle” for Economy Plus and checked bag. Now, I have an offer to upgrade my cabin to business (which would include a checked bag). Do you happen to know if I would get a refund for my previously purchased bundle, or at least a partial refund for the seat upgrade and now I can check 2 bags, if I went ahead and upgraded my cabin? TIA.

Christine Krzyszton

June 03, 2019

Hi Joe! Normally purchased bundles are non-refundable. However, I would call United and explain what you want to do because there are provisions for bundle refunds when you change a flight, use upgrade certificates that clear, etc. and this might fall into one of the acceptable categories where it’s possible.


June 04, 2019

If I am booking a Y,M or B fare, looks like I’m getting auto added to the upgrade list for 1st class. Am I guaranteed a seat if they don’t sell out or is it just better odds as a Premier Silver member to get the upgrade? Also, in what cases does a W fare benefit from the higher cost? Thanks!

Christine Krzyszton

June 04, 2019

Hello Kiernan. As a Premier member, if you purchase a Y or B fare, you may receive an immediate upgrade on certain flights. If you do not receive the immediate upgrade, you will go on a wait list and be cleared according to the upgrade hierarchy priority. This is when Premier status and fare class determine who gets the upgrade first. United 1K members can purchase a Y, B, or M fare for an immediate upgrade. A W fare is the lowest possible fare class that can be purchased for using a Global Upgrade Certificate. The only way to really guarantee you’ll get an upgrade is to purchase a Y or B fare that upgrades immediately or purchase first class. Check out different flights on your preferred dates to find flights with the greatest availability therefore increasing your chances for an upgrade.


June 12, 2019

You are eligible for a CPU for mileage tickets if you’re Global Services.

Shang F

July 01, 2019

Hi Christine, thank you for your insightful article. I’m currently booked on a flight from EDI-EWR on B class, and was thinking of upgrading using United miles. It states that it costs 20,000 miles and I will be placed on waitlist. I’m a new member to United Mileage Plus, hence I have zero miles available. I was thinking of purchasing 20,000 miles (applying a 75% bonus) to perform this upgrade (which will cost approximately $500). However, I don’t want to pay for the miles and not get the upgrade…

I’m a *G member with Turkish, not sure if that is of any help on this hierarchy. I am flying this Sunday so any help would be very very much appreciated!

Shang F

July 01, 2019

Additionally, I’m flying from EWR-HKG in August, with no ticket booked yet. I’m happy to purchase a full-fare economy ticket Y or B and perform an upgrade (either full mileage upgrade or mileage + co-pay). Should I also be purchasing the required miles at $35 per 1,000 miles until I accumulate sufficient miles to perform the upgrade? I’d imagine I would be put on waitlist for an upgrade too…

Christine Krzyszton

July 02, 2019

Hi Shang and thanks for reading. Without Premier status and with no upgrade available, you will (as you mentioned) be on the upgrade wait list for the EDI-EWR flight. You will also be quite low in priority as all Premier members will have their upgrades cleared before you, even with the higher fare. So yes, it is possible that you could purchase the miles and not get the upgrade. However, you would then have the miles in your account for the EWR-HKG flight which you may be able to upgrade at the time of booking if the upgrade is available. You’ll also be earning miles on your EDI-EWR flight.

James K

July 22, 2019

Hi! I realize this is an older article, but I’d appreciate any advice. I worked for DL years ago, but I’ve been living in UA country and have been racking up the miles out of EWR through flights, promos, and my Chase card.
I’m planning a trip from EWR-TLV in the spring, and UA’s upgradeable economy fares are relatively affordable right now. For a flight this long, we’d LOVE to have Polaris Business, and I’ve got more than enough miles for the upgrade (but not a business award ticket) thanks to my Chase Explorer Card, and even with the co-pay it’s reasonable.
Here’s my question. You mention that time of request is one of the criteria for clearing mileage upgrades, but so is Premier status. I will hit Silver status after a trip I’m taking in November to SAN.
Is it worth waiting until *after* I hit Silver status to buy the tickets, or should I buy the tickets *now* and get on the waitlist? In other words, would my Silver status affect my place on the list if I weren’t yet Silver when I got on the list?

Stephen Au

July 22, 2019

Hi James,

It would be worth it to first check if there’s confirmable availability now. If there isn’t availability you can pay for with miles, then you’ll want to keep close track of it. Your Silver status will honestly not go very far in helping you with an international flight with such high demand.

Jessie Beck

July 22, 2019

Wondering if you know. If I use miles to upgrade on a flight with no upgrade availability and I am put on the waitlist, will they refund me my miles / co-pay if I don’t end up getting the upgrade?

Christine Krzyszton

July 22, 2019

Yes Jessie, your miles will be re-deposited and your co-pay will be refunded if none of your flights clear for an upgrade. You can read more about the refund process for upgrades here:


July 31, 2019

I have a quick Star alliance upgrade question. If I’m on an Aeroplan (Air Canada mileage flight) economy X fare, can I upgrade to business/first class with my Aeroplan miles, or would i have to have some United Miles in order to be able to complete the upgrade? Thanks! Awesome article btw!

Christine Krzyszton

August 01, 2019

Hi HK. Thanks for the kind words and for reading. As a general rule, you cannot upgrade an award ticket with miles. Here’s our article on upgrading with Air Canada for additional information. /how-to-upgrade-on-air-canada/

Tina Khera

July 31, 2019

Thank you for an informative article, but I’m wondering if I can reverse-engineer things a little bit. I found an economy class award flight on the United website for a Star Alliance Partner airline flight that I wanted, but I’m wondering if I can redeem my miles for the economy award, and then pay to upgrade to premium economy or business class?

Christine Krzyszton

August 01, 2019

Hi Tina. Unfortunately you cannot upgrade an award ticket. However, there may be occasions when paid upgrades are offered at check in or at the gate. Generally if you book an economy flight with miles, that is the class you’ll be flying.


August 23, 2019

Nice article for clearing up a lot of questions I have.

To upgrade a purchased ticket for a partner airline, does the original ticket need to be purchased through UAL or can one purchase this ticket directly on the partner airline?

Christine Krzyszton

August 23, 2019

Hi Robert, glad you found the article useful. While you can purchase a ticket with a partner airline and upgrade using United miles (based on availability), you may have to purchase a higher fare class that subsequently makes the transaction a poor value. For example, you must purchase a J, E, or G class with Lufthansa in order to use miles to upgrade. The cost of doing so may be prohibitive. Also, codeshare flights are not eligible. You can read more on upgrading Star Alliance flights with United miles here:


September 01, 2019

I purchased one premium economy ticket for $1650. However, soon thereafter the price shot up between $3500 and $4600. This was more than two months ago and has it has not really gone down. Trying to figure out how to proceed.

I can purchase a United flexible economy ticket for $1700, class H, and use 65,000 miles to put myself on the wait list to upgrade. However this is not guaranteed and I believe the people with status go ahead so I don’t know the odds of me actually getting this upgrade. As it is refundable, I can always purchase a lower price ticket and then downgrade my wife’s (other) ticket, adding the cost of $165 and a credit for the difference.

I can consider costs up to this ~2300, but not that enthusiastic about going higher.

Anyone with any ideas for me? Anyone understand this upgrade process through United and the odds of me actually getting this by proceeding with a higher price ticket?


Christine Krzyszton

September 01, 2019

Hello Neil. You are correct in that a higher fare class ticket will increase your chances for an upgrade but there is no guarantee it will happen. Also, you are correct in that, once you are on the upgrade list, you are competing with those having priority with higher status. Not sure where you are traveling to/from but you might try pricing one way tickets, using miles for a PE ticket one way and coach for the other. Perhaps others may have a suggestion as well.

Kirk Hall

October 25, 2019

I am Gold Premier status/1 million miler on United, and I will be flying home from Shanghai (PVG) via SFO to Portland (PDX) in about 10 days. On United’s site I just requested an upgrade to Business class for 30,000 miles / $600. Here is my concern: what if no upgrade is available from PVG to SFO, but there *is* an upgrade available for SFO-PDX. I don’t want to waste the money and miles on the short SFO-PDX leg, and I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to call or talk to agents, etc. after I’m in China. How can I tell United in advance “don’t bother with the miles/paid upgrade for SFO-PDX if I don’t get the upgrade from PVG-SFO”? Thanks.

Christine Krzyszton

October 28, 2019

Hello Kirk. You can contact United via Twitter @United and ask them to remove the upgrade request for SFO-PDX until your PVG to SFO clears. You do not mention where you are located currently but you can call from China via their reservation #400 883 4288 or from the U.S. 1-800-864-8331.


October 29, 2019

Thanks for an interesting article. I will get 1K status with United in a couple of months. I travel quite often on Star Alliance between Europe and SFO. My question is how likely is it to use a Global Premier Upgrade on my transatlantic trip? Is there a specific leg where this is more likely? Is it better to/from big hubs like Frankfurt, Paris, London or Amsterdam or do I have more of a chance from smaller airports like Munich? Are there other factors I should consider when trying to snag that upgrade?

Christine Krzyszton

October 29, 2019

Thank you Monica! United is changing their upgrade process effective December 4th, 2019 (we’ll be updating this article). One of the changes is that there should be greater availability due to additional fare classes qualifying for upgrades. With that said, I can’t tell you how that will affect your chances for your GPU to clear. Some of the better destinations to try, however, are AMS, BRU, LHR, and DUB. You might use expert mode on to try to find flights that have availability. You can also sign up for Expert Flyer and search for space there. Good luck.


November 17, 2019

Are authorized users on the United Credit card considered to be cardholders for Elite Award Ticket Upgrades?

Christine Krzyszton

November 17, 2019

Unfortunately, only primary cardholders (who are also a MileagePlus Premier® member) can qualify for complimentary upgrades on qualifying United award flights.


December 15, 2019

I am Premier Platinum and a United Explorer Cardholder. I have booked award tickets for my wife and I within the US. I know that as an elite and a cardholder I am still CPU eligible on those flights. The question I have is, whether or not my wife is eligible for the upgrade as well, because she is on an award ticket on the same PNR as myself?

Christine Krzyszton

December 16, 2019

Hello Anfernee. According to United, the upgrade eligibility unfortunately doesn’t apply to a companion on an award ticket. Their website states: “One companion traveling on the same reservation as a Premier member is eligible for Complimentary Premier Upgrades on select flights, and can be confirmed with the same priority as the Premier member, even on the day of departure. This benefit does not apply to companions traveling on award tickets.”


January 14, 2020

I am a United 1K Member. I have never received a complimentary upgrade on a long haul flight. Most of my tickets are either Class Q or U. Is this common?

Christine Krzyszton

January 14, 2020

Hi DS. Unfortunately, on long haul flights you would need to use PlusPoints to upgrade (or purchase), even as a 1K. United’s new chart breaks it down by region:


February 04, 2020

Thanks for the article! I’m normally fine with E+ going to Europe from the East Coast, but in this case I have a very long layover between the IAD-ZRH leg and ZRH-CMB leg, so I’m considering upgrading the first leg with points and miles. For those of you do this more frequently, is 20k miles +$500 a decent deal for a 10 hour flight? This will take place once the “true Polaris” is in place IAD-ZRH, and IAD Polaris Lounge is slated to be open by then. If it helps, I am United Gold.

Christine Krzyszton

February 05, 2020

Hi Holly. If an upgrade is available at that rate and you are cool paying it, you should go for it. Especially with a long layover and the fact that it is a 10-hour flight.


February 10, 2020

I upgraded my main cabin award ticket (7000 points, sfo-las) to economy plus with cash. Then I upgraded to first class a day before the flight for more cash. Apparently you CAN upgrade an award ticket to first class with cash. (It WAS showing as not upgradeable before I purchased an economy plus seat.)
My question and what I’m watching my account for is “what kind of points or earnings toward status might there be from this?” I am not seeing anything yet after 2 days.

Christine Krzyszton

February 10, 2020

Hi Tim. According to United’s website, you won’t earn any miles for the upgrades. The FAQ mentions only the Economy Plus seating upgrade not receiving earnings but I would imagine the first class upgrade would be handled the same way. I’ll still keep my fingers crossed for you though. You can read more about it here:


August 21, 2021

Hi Tim,
Did you use points or earnings towards status for this upgrade?


February 15, 2020

Hello! I’ve got a question regarding a 40 point upgrade request on an United Airlines flight from Singapore to SFO on 02/06. I had been waitlisted for a few weeks and on the day of departure was told by the UA gate agent that my upgrade request would not be honored.

Since I had been upgraded on the flight out, same class of service and same 40 point upgrade, I just assumed that I had heard the gate agent incorrectly and accepted that I would be in coach class for the next 15 hours due to it being a full flight.

However, I overheard a conversation regarding 3 open seats in business class. Upon landing, I spoke to the gate agent and was told that there were actually 5 open seats in Business Class. I was also told that I had been removed from the standby list by the gate agent in Singapore w/no documentation as to why.

The gate agent had recommended that I contact United via the feedback section of their website. Unfortunately, the only response from UA has been a generic form email advising that the aircraft can only fit so many people, etc.

How can I get a legit answer as to why I was removed from the standby list? I was dressed appropriately, freshly showered, and did not question anything until arriving into SFO in coach class.

Help? Please?

Christine Krzyszton

February 17, 2020

Hi Chris. How frustrating! I empathize with your experience as we had a similar one in Hong Kong where we were removed “mysteriously” from the upgrade list. Subsequently we found ourselves constantly checking with each gate agent to make sure we were still on the waitlist. As far as finding out why the gate agent removed you, unfortunately I can’t offer you any solution other than writing one more complaint to United asking for an explanation. Given the circumstances, I would at least try, once more, to get an answer.


September 29, 2020

Hello, I have a quick question.

Can I purchase an upgrade (like economy plus seats and priority boarding) after booking an economy award through a partner like ANA?

Stephen Au

September 30, 2020

Hi there,

You should be able to purchase these add-ons, as long as you didn’t book a basic economy ticket.

You will need to find your United record locator, enter it at the Manage Booking website (, and purchase your add-ons there.

Hope this helps!


March 10, 2021

Which Class of travel in economy class should be Upgradable to business class using United Airlines miles?
Y B M E U H Q V W S T L K G N Please Help.

Christine Krzyszton

March 10, 2021

Hi Kamal. Most United flights can be upgraded with miles with the exception of award tickets, discounted promotional tickets, and Basic Economy fares. Some routes, fare classes, and seat types will require a co-pay, depending on your elite status with United.

Steve J

April 19, 2021

Found this article through a Google search, so when I use the advance search option to look for upgrade options, I see and am able to select a cash plus miles option for the flight I want. If I choose this, is it a guaranteed upgrade instantly or a waitlist? I have no status with United, just a Mileage Plus member with the United credit card, planning to use the 70,000 bonus miles I received for the upgrade, but want to make sure it happens right away so I can select a seat and be assured of the upgrade to first class, and don’t want to be on the upgrade list until departure day.

Christine Krzyszton

April 19, 2021

Hi Steve. When you select the cash plus miles option for an upgrade and continue to purchase, you will receive a pop-up notice if upgrades are not able to be immediately confirmed. The pop-up notice will tell you that upgrades are not available immediately and that you will be added to the waitlist, giving you the opportunity to abort the purchase. Otherwise, the upgrades will be confirmed immediately.

Malone Guthrie

August 11, 2021

I have a trip to London coming up. I upgraded to Polaris from economy plus just for the longest flights there and back (Paying cash). I had already paid for my bags in advance. I noticed that I have free baggage and entrance to lounges with Polaris. Does this apply to all legs of my trip? Will I get a refund for the baggage fees I paid in advance? I just cannot get hold of United at all at the moment. Thanks.

Jarrod West

August 17, 2021

Hi Malone,

You should only receive access to a lounge prior to your leg where your will be flying in Polaris. You should be able to get a refund of the baggage fees that you’ve already paid, but you likely will have to get ahold of the United customer support team in order to get the refund processed. Safe travels!

Tonya Morrissey

October 06, 2021

I’m about to go to Phoenix and was contemplating upgrading my ticket. The first price was around 450.00 to upgrade, then it went to 376.00 (which I should have picked) by the time I was going to buy it, it increased to around 630. Why all the changes? I leave on Oct 21 and would like to fly first class. There are only 4 seats available, will it go down again? Or should I just for more legroom and not put out around 600 for that?

Jarrod West

October 06, 2021

Hi Tonya,

The upgrade price will vary based on the demand for the seats and the number of seats available, so there is no way to say whether or not it will go down again. Where are you flying from? If the flight is not very long I would be hesitant to pay an extra $600 for domestic first class.


October 15, 2021

So what if you use award miles to upgrade SFO to ORD then ORD to EWR, and you get upgraded from SFO to ORD, but the 2nd flight doesn’t upgrade. Do they prorate any of the miles or do you just lose it all for just 1 out of 2 segments?

Jarrod West

October 19, 2021

Hi Bill,

If you use your miles to upgrade, then the upgrade is guaranteed.


October 26, 2021

I am Premier Silver. Can you tell me what benefits are available to me/my party for a trip from Chicago to London? Free bags? Preferred seating with economy purchase? Economy plus at check-in? Automatic complimentary upgrade when available? Thanks!

Christine Krzyszton

October 26, 2021

Hi Donald. Fortunately, we’ve written several articles that include information on United elite status and its benefits. This one should answer all your questions. /travel/airlines/united-elite-status-value/

Robin R.

January 01, 2022

Hello! I love your site but am utterly confused. My husband is United Gold and I am United Silver (very close to Gold status) and we would like to travel together to Bordeaux, France from Chicago in late August/September 2022. The MUA is ridiculous and only offers 2 stop options. We would really like to fly Business Class which right now runs ~$4,000 per traveler. What would be your strategy for purchasing a ticket? There do not appear to be any discounted Business Class options now (only P) and Premium Economy is offered in A. Last year we traveled to Portugal on Lufthansa and we were easily able to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business with $500 extra each, which was a bargain (perhaps it was due to cancellations from COVID?) How would you approach this? Any advice you can give would be very much appreciated!!!!

Christine Krzyszton

January 01, 2022

Hi Robin. Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict business class pricing on United in the future and impossible to know if you would receive an upgrade offer if you purchased Premium Economy, regardless of the airline. I do see business class flights on Turkish Airlines for that time period and routing for around $2,800. If you fly into Lyon and take the train (3.5 hours), business class on Tap Portugal is around $2,000. If you want to be sure to fly in business, I would suggest utilizing Google Flights and typing in “France” as your destination. Several business class flights that time of year can be found to cities near Bordeaux (and also a few to Bordeaux) that are far less than $4,000. You can set up a fare alert to track pricing for that route as well since you do have some time. Here are also some ideas for utilizing miles with partner airlines. /travel/airlines/best-ways-to-redeem-united-mileageplus-miles/

Robin R.

January 03, 2022

Thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback, Christine!!!

Christine Krzyszton

January 03, 2022

And thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy Bordeaux.

Natalie Jones

January 12, 2022

In this time of frequent changes and positive covid results, what happens if you’ve already paid cash and miles for a waitlist upgrade?
Specifically can you speak to if your co-pay and miles are refunded, transferred or lost:
1) If you have to cancel a trip
2) If the airline cancels a flight and you’re forced to find an an alternative itinerary?

Does the outcome change based on whether your upgrade has cleared or not?

With this much uncertainty, I’m very reluctant to request an upgrade if I may lose the money and miles it cost me.

Christine Krzyszton

January 12, 2022

Hi Natalie. Generally, the fees you pay for upgrades are non-refundable if you cancel your flight. If the airline cancels, you may be entitled to a refund. Here is some additional info on refunds for United flights and upgrades.

Mario L

February 08, 2022

Hi. If I have silver status on Star Alliance (due to my silver status on one of the participating airlines), can I get a complimentary upgrade?
Thanks a lot!

Christine Krzyszton

February 08, 2022

Hi Mario. The Star Alliance website states that with Silver Status, you’ll receive priority reservations waitlist & airport stand-by. However, you can type in your current airline plus your associated status and the site will display all the benefits for you.


February 13, 2022

Logged into my United account on two different browsers. There is no such thing as “search preferences”.

Christine Krzyszton

February 14, 2022

Hi Kris. The location has changed and is now a bit more difficult to find. Expert Mode can be found in My United under Settings. Once in Settings, select Special Preferences & Accommodations, then Search Preferences. Check the box for Expert Mode. We’ll get the article updated with the new information.


March 05, 2022

Hello–great site, found it using google and glad I did.

Hopefully you can “unconfuse” me too 😉 Premiere Platinum member here, also flying with my daughter on a different reservation #. She is a Silver member.

Flying from Guam to PHX via Narita/LAX. Booked my ticket online and then called United to work out my daughter’s flight since she is only 11 (flying back with her Mom on a later date).

My hope was to try and fly out Business/Polaris–so I booked us in the New Premium Plus seating (with the advice of the United Rep) because that will put us in a higher priority to get to Polaris.
Flights are Guam-NRT (B) fare class, NRT-LAX (R) Fare Class, and LAX-PHX (B) fare class.

So here is my issue–when I go to look at upgrade my cabin— it shows that the (B) fare flights –Mileage Upgrade Requested but on the (R) fare (NRT-LAX) it doesn’t show anything. I know that on the site it doesn’t show as a “Complimentary Upgrade” route–but that was the whole reason I got the Premiere Plus seats. Did I waste my money? Could have gone with Economy Plus and the copay/miles for the upgrade. Or will it work out with us being on the waiting list as the flight gets closer? It’s not until June 18th.

Hope I didn’t confuse you–but hoping you might have some insight or advice for my situation. Thank you.

Christine Krzyszton

March 05, 2022

Hi Tim, thanks for the kind words. An R fare (and all Premium Plus paid fares O, A, and R) are upgradeable. These fares also have priority over non-Premium Plus fares for upgrades, as you’re aware (based on your purchase). I would call United and confirm the request for that leg.


March 05, 2022

Thank you, I will do that. So just because it’s a long haul International United flight, it should be upgradeable (complimentary?) As in, I should be on the waitlist?

I will definitely call them as well, appreciate your help.

Christine Krzyszton

March 07, 2022

My understanding was that you were looking for mileage upgrades (“So here is my issue–when I go to look at upgrade my cabin— it shows that the (B) fare flights –Mileage Upgrade Requested”). There are no complimentary upgrades on international routes such as the one you have booked.


March 07, 2022

Hi Christine,

Sadly, I called United and they said that no matter the fare — including my R fare for Narita to LAX does not allow for me to get a complimentary upgrade to Polaris from Premium Plus. They said that it does not apply for flights from Asia to the US.

It was worth a try 😉 Thank you for your help.

Christine Krzyszton

March 07, 2022

Thanks for the follow-up, Tim. Yes, unfortunately, there are no complimentary upgrades on that route. Here’s a list of the destinations that are eligible for complimentary upgrades.


May 18, 2022

Looking at booking a 10 year anniversary trip SEA to PUJ. On Chase’s travel portal they have a fare listed as “First or Business” that is cheaper than most economy fares. It has SEA to IAD as a H economy fare and then IAD to PUJ as a business fare. It says Business but it’s a 737-900 so only first/coach which I’m assuming is first. So if I purchase that does that mean I’m waitlisted for first in the SEA to IAD flight? Ironically looking at the seat map there are more first seats open SEA-IAD then IAD PUJ. Thanks for any insight

Hi Brad. You would not be waitlisted on the SEA to IAD flight automatically. You would need to have Premier status or be using PlusPoints for the upgrade.


July 25, 2022

I’m looking to use a MUA to upgrade to Polaris for a flight from Lisbon to Newark. If the “available fare classes” in expert mode show H0 for instance, does that mean there is basically no possibility of being upgraded using MUA if you buy a H class ticket?

Christine Krzyszton

July 26, 2022

Hi Denise. H0 would mean that there are currently no seats available for sale in that class. Try a slightly higher fare, a different date, or check back as seats might open up.


October 13, 2022

I booked a flight from Boston to London using points from Chase Travel Portal. I have an Economy K fare seat right now. If I pay to upgrade my seat to Economy Premium Plus, would this put me on the waitlist for an upgrade to business Polaris?

Jarrod West

October 14, 2022

Hi Elizabeth,

Do you have elite status with United? If not you will not be eligible for complimentary Polaris upgrades.


October 20, 2022

I purchased the flights from HNL-IAH (B), IAH-EWR (B), EWR-FCO (R) on Premium Plus. I can request an upgrade to United First on B fares and Polaris on the R fare using miles/co-pay and on the waitlist. I have no status with United, just a Mileage Plus member. Is my chance of getting an upgrade on all 3 segments possible?

Christine Krzyszton

October 20, 2022

Hi Michelle. If an upgrade is available with miles and co-pay when purchasing, that is your best possible chance to secure the upgrade. Upgrades that are waitlisted will be prioritized behind MileagePlus elite members who have purchased the same fare. It’s difficult to say whether you can secure upgrades on all 3 segments as space availability will also be a key factor.


March 11, 2023

Thanks for a great article Christine! I’m currently waitlisting for 2 Polaris seats (I fare) from SFO-NRT using miles. If the waitlist clears, will they automatically put us in seats? Or I have to call to select seats? Or I have to keep an eye out for seats to open up in I bucket and call in to UA to request those seats.

Christine Krzyszton

March 11, 2023

Thank you for the kind words, TTK. Mileage upgrades are processed in order of priority. Global Services, then PlusPoints and mileage upgrades, then status, so you should have a good chance of receiving the upgrade when space is available. You should receive a notification when your upgrade has cleared, then you can go in and select your seats. The notification doesn’t always come, however, so I would periodically check with United as they can give you an update on where you stand. I just called them to check on a PlusPoints upgrade and they told me I was #1 on the list. And yes, if you see seats open up, it doesn’t hurt to call.


April 19, 2023

Thank you for this helpful information! Random question. If I want to change the return leg of a flight on United, and I am on the waitlist for an upgrade on the outbound portion of the trip, will it rebook the entire flight? In other words, if I change the second part of the trip, will I lose my upgrade place on the waitlist for the first part of the trip? Thank you!!

Christine Krzyszton

April 19, 2023

Hi Heather. Thanks for your comment and for reading. If your itinerary is International, the change could require the ticket to be reissued. However, upgrades are cleared in order of priority (status, etc.)for whichever flight you’re waitlisted on. It should not change your position on the waitlist as the timing of the request is one of the least important factors when requesting an upgrade. You can always call United to confirm, however, as this is just my take on the situation. Here’s a breakdown of upgrade priority and more info. And, good luck.

James Chie

May 28, 2023

HI Christine, thanks for writing this and really helpful. I’d like to share with you some drama using my United MileagePlus points to make a star alliance upgrade on what i thought was the most friendly partner of United, Lufthansa. So far its been just a nightmare. Let me explain.

1) I originally booked a Premium Economy (E) class fare from SIN to MUC on Lufthansa connecting to AMS on a Economy (Y) class ticket leaving Singapore on June 5th.

2) When I booked it I used 10,000 miles to upgrade the MUC to AMS leg from economy to business class on LH. That upgrade was successful (I’ll learn to regret later) I also deducted 40 Pluspoints from my MileagePlus account but was still on waitlist for the SIN to MUC long haul leg.

3) Due to work reasons, I needed to move my flight back a day from June 5th to June 4th. I checked online (I used Navan as my travel agent given my company uses Navan) and all seemed fine. Plenty of PE seats on the SIN to MUC leg, and plenty of economy seats on the MUC to AMS leg. In fact booking it from scratch would cost LESS than my original ticket.

4) I contacted a Navan agent and they mentioned that the change fee would 290 SGD (around 220 USD), ok no issue. However, I would need to pay another 500 USD for the fare difference which was shocking to me. I hung up on that agent, called another, and yet another and yet another and got the same response. Finally one agent told me “apologies, but for the MUC to AMS leg given that you upgraded to business class, I am only allowed to sell you business class for that same leg if you move your flight to an earlier date”. This was shocking because business class was an upgrade and my fare was actually PE (from SIN to MUC) and Y-economy from MUC to AMS.

5) Finally the agent told me that I would need to get rid of the upgrades and revert back to economy in order for Navan to change the date and give me the correct fare (PE from SIN to MUC) and Economy from MUC to AMS.

6) So I called Lufthansa. The agent told me that unfortunately they couldn’t help me un-change my upgrade since they didn’t know how or put me back in economy. In fact I called two of them. They were quite rude.. Then the third person referred me to talk to their “Miles and Smiles” (LH’s mileage program) to help me take away the upgrade.. I knew that was pointless. I called anyway and got the answer I expected. “No”. They suggested to then call United to see if they can help. But on United’s website it wrote regarding changes with Star Alliance (or PlusPoint) upgrades with other carriers (ie: ANA, Lufthansa, Copa etc) that the changes needed to be done “with the OPERATING CARRIER” only.. in any case I called United.

7). I called MilesagePlus and they couldn’t help me so connected me to an actual agent, who told me stuff like this can be reversed with their 1K web support team. So I called the 1K web support team and they so far are trying to be helpful. What the agent on the 1K web support team told me they were going to call Lufthansa and connect me to them so to do this together. Gotta love this. The United lady got in touch with Lufthansa, only to get hung up on. So she said she would try again but connect to a supervisor at Lufthansa. And here I am, typing on this site and waiting for an answer.

But word to the wise. If you book a flight using an agent, AND try to upgrade that flight with a Star Alliance upgrade with United points, and get upgraded (yay!), but need to change the date of your flight, be aware that
1) There will be a hefty fare difference because the agent will be forced to put you in the higher class of service for the part of the flight that is upgraded. I know this is strange since you’d expect the original fare class right? At least for LH that’s not the case. 2) No one will be able to help you. Lufthansa knows squat about how to “un”-upgrade your flight even though it says on United’s website: “If you wish to make changes or cancel your Star Alliance Upgrade Award request, please contact the operating carrier”.

All in all, trying to change a flight will be costly if you use a Star Alliance upgrade and not book the flight directly with the carrier and use an agent. Let me know what your thoughts are! And yes, you’ll get some rude reply from Lufthansa, and sadly United will try to help you but its limited.
And, just to close this out, United couldn’t help me. The supervisor of the 1K web desk said “I need to contact the operating carrier.” It’s like going through a circular loop. Ridiculous.

Hi James. Whoa, what a story. Sorry for your frustration. It’s not always that complicated to make changes but it can be when different carriers and upgrades are involved. You mentioned that it would have been less expensive “booking it from scratch” and that’s probably what I would have done. I hope you finally got the flight changed (and upgraded) for your needed date.


May 30, 2023

In February, I flew to Bangkok and booked Premium Economy flights for both legs of the Houston-Narita leg of 14 hours. After I booked and was receipted, I then upgraded to business for that same long flight using 30,000 miles and $450 per ticket. That was separately receipted. I think i found those upgradeable Premium economy flights using the MUA but can’t remember.

Today, however, when I try to use the MUA to find upgradeable flights back to SE Asia (TPE, HK or Seoul), I find I would have to pay the upgrade fee when I book and it would not be acceptable to submit a receipt for reimbursement that has an upgrade fee added to it.

I am not sure what to do. Would talking to a United booking agent allow me to book an upgradeable premium economy flight without paying the upgrade fees up front? Or, should i just go ahead and book a premium economy flight with the hope that it will have a reasonable upgrade cost. Upgradeable premium economy tickets using the MUA seem to be cheaper than just booking premium economy tickets.

Any suggestions?

Hi David. In my opinion, I don’t think you can count on an affordable upgrade being available after purchasing a premium economy ticket. However, it wouldn’t hurt to make a call to United before booking an upgradeable PE ticket and paying the miles/fee up front. The rep may be able to clarify your options for the specific flight you want to book.

Paulo Meyer

June 26, 2023

Hi Christine, I purchased an economy premium ticket on the United website for a direct flight operated by United GRU-ORD. Can I request a cabin upgrade using TAP miles and go points? Which codeshare should I look for to check the possibility? If available, should I call TAP to request the upgrade? I called once but the TAP attendant informed me that it would only be possible if I had bought the tickets through the TAP website. I found the answer strange.

Christine Krzyszton

June 26, 2023

Hi Paulo. I have very limited knowledge of the program but I’m aware you can use TAP Miles&GO points to purchase Star Alliance award flights and upgrade limited fare class flights, based on availability. United flights in Y,B,C, and D would normally be eligible fare classes but don’t believe you would be able to use TAP points for the upgrade. TAP upgrade rules just mention that “An upgrade at the Star Alliance network can only be done if booked with the operator company”, which you did. But, that “Flights in codeshare excluded”. Here is a link to TAP’s rules for Star Alliance upgrades: Also, I reached out to one of my colleagues and he also did not think it was possible to use TAP points for the upgrade.
Here’s a related article on using TAP Miles&GO points:/travel/airlines/best-ways-to-redeem-tap-air-portugal-miles/

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