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Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen explains which carriers you can lean on to earn United MileagePlus miles and Premier elite status outside of the Star Alliance.
Airline alliances have been around since the 1990s, offering travelers streamlined travel experiences across multiple carriers. Many airlines also have agreements with partners outside of traditional alliances to offer passengers even greater flexibility when it comes to booking flights. However, these partnerships often have a variety of restrictions when it comes to earning and redeeming miles in your preferred frequent flyer program. After covering these non-alliance partners for both American and Delta, today I’ll take a look at the various partnerships offered by the final domestic legacy carrier: United Airlines.
I’ll start with a chart that provides a high-level overview of the MileagePlus program’s non-alliance partner agreements, including the following aspects:
- Earning miles
- Earning elite-qualifying miles
- Redeeming miles
- Enjoying elite benefits
I’ll then go into detail for each one so you’ll know exactly what to expect the next time you want to book a revenue or award ticket on a United partner airline that doesn’t belong to the Star Alliance.
Like both American and Delta, United was one of the founding members of its respective alliance in the late 1990s. However, there are plenty of ways to earn and redeem on the airline’s 12 non-alliance partners:
|Aer Lingus||Yes (only certain fare classes)||No||Yes||No|
|Great Lakes Airlines||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Hawaiian Airlines||Yes (inter-island flights only)||No||Yes (inter-island flights only)||No|
It’s important to point out that earning rates on the eligible partners depend on whether your flight is booked through United (ticket number starts with 016) or through a different carrier or travel agency (ticket number does not start with 016). Booking through United pushes you into the revenue-based accrual scheme, including Premier mileage bonuses, while booking elsewhere means that you’ll earn miles in the “traditional” way.
In addition, non-United itineraries aren’t eligible to earn Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs). However, most of these non-alliance partners don’t count toward elite status qualification anyway, so that’s not a big deal. For full details on the PQD requirements, check out United’s Premier status qualification requirements.
Here are some additional details for each partner:
MileagePlus members can earn miles on Aer Lingus between North America and Ireland, as well as between Ireland and the UK. Unfortunately, not all fare classes are eligible for mileage accrual: discounted business (I and Z) and several economy classes (E, O, Q, R and W) will not earn miles. However, you can redeem United miles on all Aer Lingus flights, even those that wouldn’t earn miles in the program (like Dublin to Paris, for example).
This carrier is based in Mexico City, and MileagePlus members can earn miles on all qualifying Aeromar flights. You can also redeem your miles for these flights.
This Italian regional carrier has hubs in Verona (VRN) and Munich, Germany (MUC), and MileagePlus members can earn and redeem miles on all qualifying Air Dolomiti flights. In addition, revenue flights count toward elite status qualification, though you must book them on a United ticket (starting with 016) in order to earn PQDs. Finally, Premier members can enjoy priority check-in and boarding (where available) when traveling on Air Dolomiti.
Azul is a low-cost carrier in Brazil that also offers nonstop flights to both Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. Through its partnership with United, MileagePlus members earn miles on all qualifying Azul flights and can redeem miles for award tickets on Azul.
Unlike American’s partnership with Cape Air, which only offers redemption options to six small Midwestern airports, United actually allows you to earn MileagePlus miles on all qualifying Cape Air flights. You can also redeem miles for these flights.
Edelweiss is actually a subsidiary of SWISS, but not a full Star Alliance member. MileagePlus members can still earn and redeem miles on the carrier; however, you must either book the flight directly with United or as a SWISS flight number (LX 8000 – 8969) to earn miles. Any itinerary booked directly with Edelweiss will not accrue mileage.
In addition, when you book a SWISS-marketed flight (LX 8500 – 8969), you’re eligible to earn elite-qualifying miles and segments. If you’re a Premier member, you’ll also earn mileage bonuses on these flights.
This Lufthansa subsidiary is best known for the tragic crash in the French Alps earlier this year, but the airline still has a partnership with United MileagePlus that allows members to accrue and redeem miles for its flights. Paid flights are also eligible for Premier status qualification, and Gold, Platinum and 1K members enjoy priority check-in and boarding on Germanwings flights.
This domestic carrier serves smaller airports across the Great Plains and Southwest, mostly out of its hub in Denver, and you can earn United miles on all qualifying Great Lakes flights. You can also redeem MileagePlus miles for these flights.
United’s partnership with Hawaiian is more limited than American’s, as you can only earn and redeem miles on inter-island flights. In addition, you can only earn miles on flights with a United flight number that are booked in conjunction with a United-operated flight.
Island Air is another option for inter-island flights in Hawaii, and you can earn and redeem MileagePlus miles on all qualifying Island Air flights.
Jet Airways is yet another airline that partners with both American and United; MileagePlus members can earn and redeem miles on the following Jet Airways flights:
- From Toronto and Newark to Brussels and on to India (other flights from North America do not earn miles);
- All other international flights;
- Flights within India.
United’s final non-alliance partner is Silver Airways, a small regional carrier with turboprop service out of Washington-Dulles and about a dozen locations in Florida. Like most of the others listed above, you can earn and redeem miles for Silver-operated flights.
How to Find Award Inventory
Since you can redeem United miles for flights on most of these airlines, I wanted to provide a quick overview of how to find award inventory. Several of them actually appear on United.com, including Aer Lingus and Hawaiian. Aer Lingus and Azul also show up on ExpertFlyer, so you can set alerts that will notify you when a specific award class opens up prior to a flight.
For the other non-alliance partners, you’ll need to call the United Customer Contact Center at 1-800-UNITED-1 to search award inventory.
As you can see, there are many options to earn and redeem miles on United Airlines outside of Star Alliance. Just be sure to read through the pages linked above so you know exactly what to expect when you have a paid (or award) flight on one of these non-alliance partners.
As you’ve probably noticed, many of these partners cross over between two or even three of these legacy carriers. Jet Airways and Cape Air, for example, partner with both American and United, while Hawaiian Airlines flies around (in other words, has agreements with all three). That means in some cases you’ll have even more earning and redemption options with these carriers based on which frequent flyer programs you use most often.
For more on earning and redeeming MileagePlus miles, check out these posts:
- How to Book Awards with United MileagePlus Miles
- Finding Sweet Spots in United’s Devalued Award Chart
What experiences have you had earning and redeeming MileagePlus miles with these non-alliance carriers? The Points Guy Assessment: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.
The Points Guy Assessment:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.