I have a lot of United miles and Ultimate Rewards points, and I’m always making sure I can maximize my redemptions (for instance, I always include the free-oneway on International round-trip awards).
Pre-devaluation, I was lucky enough to use my United miles to book the new Lufthansa first class at the old award prices, but plans have changed, and I’ll have to change the date of my travel (without redepositing, of course).
At the moment though, one of the best deals on the United award chart is to fly United BusinessFirst one way between the United States and Europe for 57,500 miles.
United BusinessFirst is an underrated fully flat bed with good service, ice cream sundaes (ok, maybe they are getting a tiny bit overrated), and a great entertainment system. Award space is available across United’s dozens of routes to Europe for an affordable miles price.
You can also transfer Ultimate Rewards points 1:1 to United miles.
United BusinessFirst vs. Partner Business
I would fly United BusinessFirst for 57,500 miles to Europe every day of the week instead of paying 70,000 miles to fly business class on a United partner. Not all United’s partners even have flat beds in business class. And when they do, their beds aren’t any flatter than United’s, the main thing that I want on a transatlantic flight.
In fact, after a canceled United flight, I ended up with a surprise seat in Swiss business class, and I honestly liked my United BusinessFirst seat better.
United BusinessFirst Product
- Complimentary amenity kit featuring premium skincare products
- Complimentary duvet and pillow for use during your flight
- 180-degree flat-bed seating on all 747, 757-200, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft
Meals and beverages
- Pre-departure beverage service
- Hot towel service
- Meal selections featuring appetizer, salad and choice of entrée, including local cuisine (where available)
- Dessert selections, including signature desserts, fresh fruit, fresh cheeses, port and after-dinner liqueurs
- Mid-flight snack service on longer flights
- Variety of beverages, including cocktails, beer, international wines and freshly brewed coffee
- More than 150 hours of on-demand entertainment with a 15.4-inch video monitor on all 747, 757-200, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft
Airport arrival and departure
- Premier Access check-in, baggage handling, boarding, deplaning and security lanes (where available)
- Access to United Arrivals Lounge in select locations, offering showers, breakfast and business services
- Access to United ClubSM and Star Alliance® member lounges
Where the Award Space Is
United flies to Europe from its hubs in Newark, Washington-Dulles, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. There is award space in BusinessFirst from all those hubs to Europe. You can search and book the space on united.com. If you don’t live in one of those cities, you can connect from your home airport to those hubs in United First Class for no extra miles.
From the United States to Europe, the taxes on an award are $5.60. From Europe to the United States, the taxes vary by departure country. Avoid departing London at all costs to avoid the approximately $300 in taxes for flying from London to the United States in a premium cabin.
Non-peak times always have more award space. For trips to Europe that means trips from October to April each year. There are certainly parts of Europe that are lovely during those months.
If you’re willing to be on the air for Christmas (Eve) or New Year’s (Eve), you can find award space. You usually won’t find any award space a few days before Christmas, but if you are willing to fly December 24, 25, 30, or 31, there is usually more award space because people don’t want to be in the air on Christmas and New Year’s.
There is more award space on the return routes from Europe to the United States usually. On the return, you’ll probably be awake for most of the flight, so you’ll get less use out of a bed but more use out of the service, entertainment, and food.
Lastly, United has the good habit of releasing unsold premium cabin seats as award space in the last few weeks and days before departure. If you have the guts to wait until the last second (my speciality), you can usually grab prime award space. Alternatively, you can book economy award space now for a future trip and change it to BusinessFirst as the date approaches and award space opens up.
Key Application Link: United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
Using United miles to fly United BusinessFirst is a a great value. United charges only 57,500 miles each way in BusinessFirst between the United States and Europe, and there is award space from United hubs to London, Paris, and the rest of the continent.
I personally have enjoyed my recent BusinessFirst flight from Newark to Berlin during a nice weekend in Nice, France last month. I am so glad I didn’t spend the extra miles to fly GlobalFirst.
Which BusinessFirst routes have you had a chance to fly?