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Deal Alert: Incredible Polaris Award Availability From Washington, DC to Europe

June 27, 2019
6 min read
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United turned heads when it launched its sleek Polaris business class a few years ago. While the 777-300ERs that debuted the seat were a step above the average United plane, there were only a few of them in the fleet, and they were used on some of United's most premium routes. And even as the share of planes featuring the "real" Polaris seats has grown, award space has been relatively hard to come by, especially during peak travel times.

This makes this deal even sweeter.

Incredible Polaris Award Space to Brussels in July

If you haven't yet finalized your summer travel plans, you might want to consider a trip to —or connecting through — Brussels. United operates its flights from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Brussels (BRU) with a 777-200 aircraft that has been retrofitted with the new Polaris cabin, and on many days in July, there are up to 9 saver-level award seats available flights to Brussels. Or to put it another way, I counted a total of 130 saver-level Polaris awards between the two cities in just the one month.

If you log in to the United website and perform an advanced search, you can see the award calendar for 60 days at a time. The dotted blue line represents dates with nonstop premium cabin award space on United. While this calendar shows you that there's surprisingly good availability, it doesn't tell you how many seats are available on each flight.

If you dig a little deeper and leverage United Expert Mode, you'll see that many of these dates show "I9" in the available fare classes, which indicates that the flight has nine saver-level business class award seats available.

Here's a complete breakdown of the dates with 9 saver-level Polaris award seats at the time of publishing from IAD to BRU:

  • July 1
  • July 4
  • July 5
  • July 6
  • July 9
  • July 14
  • July 15
  • July 22
  • July 23
  • July 26
  • July 28
  • July 30
  • August 11
  • August 12
  • August 13

Note that the return flight is much more limited, with only a couple of dates showing any availability.

The best part is that this route appears to consistently feature the new Polaris seats, while many routes operated by 777-200s alternate between new and old configurations. If you want to double check the configuration before booking, you can use ExpertFlyer or simply look at the seat map on the United website. If the business class cabin is displayed in dark blue, you know you're getting the complete Polaris experience.

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Bear in mind too that you're not required to end your trip in Belgium, as United's Star Alliance partners — including Brussels Airlines — offer service from there to dozens of destinations across Europe. You could also try to add United-operated connecting flights from other US cities to Washington-Dulles, though note that availability may be hard to find.

How to Book

When I first saw this, I was worried that it was phantom space that wouldn't actually be bookable, but Aeroplan confirmed the incredible glut of award availability (note that you can't book more than 8 Aeroplan awards online; you need to call in):

You have plenty of choices for booking these awards, depending on what miles you have saved up. United charges 60,000 miles each way for a saver-level business class award to Europe, and you might want to spend down your stash of United miles before the carrier switches to dynamic award pricing later this year. Remember too that you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to United at a 1:1 ratio, and these transfers should process instantly. However, if you book within 21 days of departure and don't have United elite status, you'll be subject to a $75 close-in ticketing fee per person.

Booking through Aeroplan would be cheaper at only 55,000 miles per person (or 57,500 miles if you connect to Eastern Europe), and there are no fuel surcharges for United flights. Aeroplan is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and a 2:1.5 transfer partner of Capital One, both of which should transfer instantly.

Finally, you could also book through Avianca LifeMiles for 63,000 miles per ticket. Avianca partners with Amex and Capital One in addition to Citi ThankYou points, the latter of which is currently offering a 30% transfer bonus for the next two days. All three of these transfers should also process instantly.

You’ll want to use a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for the taxes on your ticket, so that you’re covered by the the cards’ excellent travel protections.

Bottom Line

In this day and age, it's incredibly rare to see this many premium-cabin award seats on a single flight, especially from a US-based carrier. If you've been looking to try out Polaris but have had trouble finding availability, this is a great opportunity to see what all the hype is about. Just be sure to book soon, as this massive amount of award space surely won't last.

Featured image by Photo by Zach Honig / 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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