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Redeem your expiring PlusPoints with United Polaris upgrade space on these routes

Jan. 23, 2023
9 min read
United Polaris seats facing forward
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During the pandemic, United Airlines repeatedly extended PlusPoints (the airline's upgrade currency). By extending PlusPoints earned back in 2019, 2020 and 2021, the demand for PlusPoints upgrades on United's flights is higher than ever. In my experience, it's not uncommon to find upgrade waitlists with over 30 customers on peak international flights. In turn, some Premier members are struggling to redeem their PlusPoints before the extended PlusPoints expire on July 31.

United offers three types of Polaris business-class PlusPoints upgrades on its long-haul flights:

  • Confirmable upgrades (indicated by the PZ fare class).
  • Waitlist upgrades (when the PZ fare class isn't available).
  • Skip-the-waitlist upgrades (only for Premier 1K members on select flights).

So, since you generally can't rely on a waitlisted upgrade and with the significant shortcomings of the skip-the-waitlist option, we recommend redeeming PlusPoints when there's confirmable Polaris upgrade space.

United Polaris business class. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

As you'd expect, confirmable upgrade space is harder to come by these days, but we set out to find what's available. On the flights that follow, there are at least four seats in the PZ fare class (meaning you can confirm an upgrade from economy or Premium Plus to Polaris business class). We only searched for routes that operate in a Polaris cabin. You might find upgrade space on shorter-haul international flights to destinations in Central America and Canada, but those flights do not operate a Polaris-marketed cabin.

With that out of the way, here are the flights where you can confirm a Polaris upgrade at the time of writing. Upgrade availability constantly changes, so these dates may not be accurate when you're reading.

Related: My last-minute trick for confirming United first class upgrades

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

GCMAP.COM

London's Heathrow Airport (LHR)

  • February widespread upgrade space.
  • March 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 24, 26, 27, 28 and 29.
  • April 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 24 and 30.
  • May 1, 7, 8, 23, 28 and 30.
  • June 5.
  • July 3, 11, 16, 17, 24, 25 and 30.

Related: United unveils 3 'new' destinations, 6 additional transatlantic flights for summer 2023

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

GCMAP.COM

Lima, Peru's Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM)

  • March 1.

Tokyo's Narita International Airport (NRT)

  • Feb. 6 and 9.

Geneva Airport (GVA)

  • Feb. 2, 7, 14 and 21.

Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP)

  • Feb. 6, 7, 14 and 21.

Rome Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport (FCO)

  • Feb. 4, 7 and 11.

Zurich Airport (ZRH)

  • Feb. 2 and 20.

Brussels Airport (BRU)

  • Feb. 6, 11, 13, 20, 21, 22, 24 and 28.
  • March 6, 7 and 28.

London

  • February widespread upgrade space.
  • March widespread weekday upgrade space.
  • April 4, 9, 10 and 11.
  • May 1, 2 and 8.
  • July 4, 11, 18, 24, 25 and 31.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)

  • Feb. 1, 8, 10, 11, 14, 21, 23 and 25.
  • March 2.

Frankfurt Airport (FRA)

  • Feb. 5, 6, 8, 19 and 20.
  • March 1.

Munich Airport (MUC)

  • Feb. 13, 20 and 21.

Related: United Airlines orders up to 200 Boeing 787s, setting stage for wide-body fleet renewal

Washington's Dulles International Airport (IAD)

GCMAP.COM

Lagos, Nigeria's Murtala Muhammed International Airport (LOS)

  • Widespread upgrade space.

London

  • February widespread upgrade space.
  • March 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 21, 27, 28 and 29.
  • April 8.
  • May 29.
  • July 31.

Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)

  • Feb. 6 and 25.

Geneva

  • Feb 2, 4 and 25.
  • March 28.

Munich

  • Feb 6, 13, 20, 23 and 27.
  • March 6 and 13.

Frankfurt

  • February widespread upgrade space.
  • March 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 20, 26 and 28.
  • April 9.
  • May 7, 14.
  • July 23.

Brussels

  • Feb 1, 5, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 27 and 28.
  • March 6, 7, 13, 20, 21 and 28.
  • April 9.
  • July 18 and 25.

Related: How to get maximum value from the United MileagePlus program

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Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

GCMAP.COM

Tokyo's Haneda Airport (HND)

  • Feb. 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 19 and 21.

Sao Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport (GRU)

  • Feb. 20.
  • March 7.

London

  • February widespread upgrade space.
  • March 4, 6, 7, 8, 13, 20, 21, 27, 28 and 29.
  • April 3.

Frankfurt

  • February widespread upgrade space.
  • March 1, 2, 6, 21, 27 and 28.
  • April 9.
  • July 30.

Zurich

  • Feb. 20, 23 and 27.
  • April 2.

Munich

  • Feb. 1, 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22.

Brussels

  • Feb. 7, 12, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 27 and 28.
  • March 4, 6, 13 and 28.

Related: The ultimate guide to earning elite status with United cards

Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

GCMAP.COM

London

  • Feb. 20, 21 and 28.

Amsterdam

  • Feb. 7, 8, 15 and 21.

Frankfurt

  • Feb. 5, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21 and 22.
  • July 31.

Lima

  • Feb. 2, 13 and 20.
  • March 6.

Related: 6 strategies I'm using to close the gap to top-tier United 1K elite status this year

Denver International Airport (DEN)

GCMAP.COM

London

  • Feb. 1, 6, 8, 10 and 13.
  • April 8.

Munich

  • Feb. 20, 26 and 27.
  • March 6.

Frankfurt

  • Feb. 20 and 21.
  • April 9.

Related: United's best-kept elite status secret: How to earn PQPs faster with partner flights

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

GCMAP.COM

London

  • Feb. 2, 7, 11, 14, 15, 20 and 21.

Related: Why I consider my United miles to be worth 5 cents apiece

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

GCMAP.COM

Tahiti's Faaa International Airport (PPT)

  • Widespread upgrade space.

Tokyo (Narita)

  • Feb. 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 20.

London

  • Feb. 7, 20 and 21.

Frankfurt

  • Feb. 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 and 22.
  • March 6.

Munich

  • Feb. 7, 14 and 21.

Related: What is United Airlines elite status worth?

Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)

GCMAP.COM

Toyko (Narita)

  • Feb. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 11.

Related: A 16-hour red-eye: Reviewing United Polaris on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Searching for upgrade space

To search for upgrade space, sign in to your MileagePlus account. Then, select "Advanced search."

UNITED.COM

Enter your search criteria on the next screen, keeping the cabin in economy/premium economy. Expand the "Upgrades, certificates, and promotion codes" menu. Open the "Upgrade type" dropdown and select "PlusPoints upgrades."

UNITED.COM

On the next page, you'll see which upgrades are confirmed and waitlisted, and you can select your flight accordingly.

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on United Airlines

How to book these upgrades

I found upgrade space from Seoul's Incheon International Airport (ICN) to SFO. UNITED.COM

As with most long-haul flights, you'll probably want to book these flights as round trips (or multicity flights returning to the same region) to avoid inflated one-way cash fares. United charges the following number of PlusPoints per person for a one-way upgrade to Polaris business class on long-haul flights:

  • Discount economy (S, T, L, K and G fares) to Polaris: 80 PlusPoints.
  • Economy to Polaris (Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V and W fares): 40 PlusPoints.
  • Premium economy to Polaris: 30 PlusPoints.

Occasionally, you'll find the premium economy fare equivalent to the W fare, like in this example from Newark to London.

UNITED.COM

Here's another example of this on a flight from SFO to Frankfurt, where the premium economy fare is slightly less expensive than the W fare.

UNITED.COM

Make sure to check the premium economy fare. Sometimes, you're better off booking premium economy and upgrading to Polaris.

Related: Why Premium Plus and higher fare classes are the secret to United upgrades

Bottom line

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to redeem your PlusPoints for Polaris confirmable upgrades before they expire July 31.

Give United a call if you cannot apply a PlusPoints upgrade online. In my experience, United's Premier Platinum and 1K phone representatives are well versed in PlusPoints and should be able to process your upgrade quickly.

As a reminder, Premier Platinum members receive 40 PlusPoints each year, while Premier 1K members receive 320 PlusPoints yearly (40 upon qualifying for Platinum and 280 upon qualifying for Premier 1K). Premier 1K members also receive 20 additional PlusPoints for every 2,000 Premier qualifying points earned beyond the Premier 1K status requirement.

Featured image by KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

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Cons

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  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees