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United Airlines launches 8,000 mile one-way Star Alliance redemptions

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One of the key reasons that there is no obvious reason to ditch Avios for another oneworld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance frequent flyer programme is the good value redemptions available in Europe.

9,000 Avios plus £35 for a British Airways return redemption in Economy up to 650 miles is excellent value.  You should be able to get 1p per Avios much of the time.

Most other frequent flyer schemes treat Europe as one zone.  This can work out well for longer flights, where London to Athens is priced at the same as London to Amsterdam, but for most people it means you’re getting a bad deal. 

A standard return redemption using Lufthansa Miles & More miles from London to Frankfurt costs a laughable 35,000 miles plus £85 in taxes and charges.  In Economy.  Alternatively, you could use a ludicrous 50,000 miles return and pay no taxes.  Yeah, right.

United Airlines has now done something very interesting

The US airline United, part of Star Alliance, has just made a number of changes to its MileagePlus loyalty scheme.

It generally isn’t very pleasant for MileagePlus members.  We tend not to cover the scheme much on Head for Points but if you want to know what is changing then this article from a US site covers it.

Here is the interesting bit though.

United has a launched a new award level.  For flights outside the US, you will pay just 8,000 miles for a non-stop Economy one-way redemption of up to 800 miles.

800 miles covers quite a lot of ground.  Importantly, it covers the countries covered by the main Star Alliance airlines in Europe – Lufthansa (Germany), SWISS, Austrian and Brussels Airlines.

It won’t, however, get you as far as Lisbon (on TAP) or Zagreb (on Croatia Airlines) or Ljubljana (on Adria) or Warsaw (on LOT).  These remain at 15,000 miles.  There is no deal on Business Class redemptions which remain at 30,000 miles in most cases.

Unfortunately, UK taxes and charges still make these tickets pricey.  For example, for return Economy trips :

London to Frankfurt – 16,000 miles plus £93

London to Vienna -16,000 miles plus £93

You also have the option to book intra-Europe travel, of course (eg Geneva to Budapest) where you should get better value on the ‘taxes and charges’ element.

You can also use these 8,000 mile redemptions elsewhere in the world for short flights on Star Alliance airlines, as long as you are not in the US.  For example, Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City is 8,000 miles plus $25 return on Singapore Airlines.  Johannesburg to Cape Town on South African Airways is also an 8,000 mile one-way redemption.

Earning United Airlines miles is tricky, however

One snag is that United Airlines miles are not easy to earn:

The UK credit card has just been withdrawn

You cannot transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to United

You can transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points to United (and go from Amex to Starwood) BUT Starwood has a very poor transfer rate to United of 2:1 instead of the usual 1:1

It is really only an option if you are crediting Star Alliance flights into United Airlines.

These new 8,000 mile United Airlines one-way redemptions are not going to have British Airways worried.  However, it is good to see another airline addressing the value problems around short-haul redemptions as low cost carriers continue to force down short-haul fares.

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2023)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

Crazy 100,000 points (TO 9th JANUARY) and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (36)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Tom says:

    With BA now offering some European economy seats for less than £30, even the RFS redemptions are starting to look less valuable than they once were.

    • Isa says:

      I’ve yet to see one of those fabled sub £30 seats out of LCY, and I don’t expect to anytime soon… RFS are the only reason I bother with Avios

      • the real harry1 says:

        RFS is great for flying peak (school hols) but at other times you might want to pay for a cheapo HBO fare instead these days

        if you give a value of (say) £40 to checked luggage, RFS compares pretty well at other times – not everybody needs that, of course

        • Isa says:

          Not from LCY 😉 I usually don’t fly peak and get a value of 1.75p/avios. I obviously always check the cash price, but more often than not, RFS it is…

      • Polly says:

        In fact there were aome to dub.and even from lhr in Jan.. l got.a.couple where l know dates in advance..£34 e w close enough to 29 tho..

  • Jimmyjimmy says:

    Interesting as I have just over 8k of Utd miles. I will investigate later however do regional Uk connections count in the 8k pts/£93 deal?

  • Harry S says:

    The 8000 miles award is only one way and you are not allowed to connect – it is for a nonstop flight only. For return flights it would be 16000 miles.

    • Roger I* says:

      That’s an important qualification. Sadly, it means that ‘For flights outside the US, you will pay just 8,000 miles for a non-stop Economy return redemption of up to 800 miles’ in today’s message is not correct.

    • pauldb says:

      Indeed, it means a standard ex-LON redemption is never really going to beat avios. But it might have some use where there is a direct route from the regions: e.g. MAN to MUC or CPH (don’t forget SAS).

    • Sunny M says:

      16000 miles for a return trip, makes this a bit of a non-story!

      • Cate says:

        …ah but It’s breaking into new territory and opening up new award possibilities. Give it time and the HfP guru’s will come up with all sorts or permutations United never thought of 🙂

        • tony says:

          bizarrely, the fact this is one way might make this a little bit better.

          I believe there are still some *A routes where one ways in economy are relatively expensive – BHX-ZRH is £60 base, so that puts the value of a mile up to 0.75p

          • Alan says:

            Indeed I’ve had to do a couple of one-ways EDI to Verona and EDI to Turin – 12,500 Miles and $92.50 for the latter but still ended up vastly cheaper than a paid one-way flight!

  • Joe (InsideFlyer UK) says:

    Yep, definitely just one way unfortunately.

    I’m not sure how Rob feels about other bloggers linking to their own sites (apologies if it’s a problem!), but some readers might be interested to know you can currently buy United MileagePlus Miles for between 0.82-1p each, which can be an amazing deal if you know how to use them efficiently: .

  • AndyGWP says:

    Rob – Do you (or does anyone) have a list of direct / non-stop RFS redemptions from the regions (mainly Manchester i’m interested in) – I recall there being some Iberia options but can’t remember where they went or if there’s anything else.

    I’m happy to search if you can give me some pointers 🙂

    • Rob says:

      RFS – all you have is the Fri/Sat weekend flights. Other redemptions on IB, Finnair etc are not RFS.

      • AndyGWP says:

        Argh! Woops! Thanks Rob, but I meant direct / non-stop Avios redemptions from Manchester (but to RFS destinations – ie. short haul, european (weekend) destinations)

        • Rob says:

          Bit out of the date, but under Favourites one of the Avios Redemption University articles covers this. However, with Monarch gone you’re really down to whatever Flybe offers, plus Finnair, Iberia, Iberia Express.

  • JohnT says:

    Thinking about UA M+ expiry rules, does anyone know if such a booking made and then cancelled would do a reset of expiry date? Can do this within 24hours for free apparently so only risk would be currency changes on fees/charges? Was just about to apply for MBNA card but too late now.

  • John says:

    Double checked on definitely 8000miles is ONE WAY. The title was a bit misleading.

    • TripRep says:

      Presumably equally is this statement in the article which claims its a Return???
      “For flights outside the US, you will pay just 8,000 miles for a non-stop Economy return redemption of up to 800 miles.”

      • Rob says:

        Fixed. Surprised I wasn’t stamped on more clearly for this the other day, especially by the mates at United!

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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