Can I Use Miles to Upgrade an Award Ticket on United?

Apr 5, 2015

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

TPG reader Dave tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy–”Is it possible to use miles on United to upgrade to first class for a ticket that was booked using miles?”

I often get asked this question in one form or another. With pretty much all airlines, if you redeem miles for an award ticket in economy, you can’t then use miles to upgrade to a premium cabin.

It’s hard to upgrade using miles on a ticket that was already booked with miles. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

However, if you use credit card points or even Starwood points to book flights directly, then you’re effectively paying for an economy ticket, and you can then use frequent flyer miles to upgrade if you’re in an eligible fare class. You will have to re-deposit or re-ticket in business or first class in order to fly in that cabin.

Some airlines may sell upgrades at the gate and you may get lucky, but in general, if you book an international economy award with most carriers, expect to fly in economy. It’s pretty difficult to combine miles as an upgrade when a ticket is already booked as an award.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.