Competition for BA RFS? United launches 8,000 mile one-way Star Alliance redemptions

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.

(At least, good value if you live near Heathrow or Gatwick.  Avios redemptions to Europe are now bad value if you live in the regions as you need to pay extra Avios for the connecting flight to Heathrow.  Add in the pain of changing planes in Heathrow and it usually makes more sense to take a direct low cost flight from your local airport.)

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.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. This going to be great alternative for when BA adopt their new “dynamic” reward seats pricing. Pay 8000miles + 93£ with United or pay dynamic pricing 50000miles + 35£ with BA.

  2. Starwood to Marriott to United is the best way IMO (either standalone or as travel package)

    • Matthew says:

      Definitely. If you have SPG points you’d be much better off transferring them to Marriott first then to United.

    • United currently have a 25% bonus on conversions from Marriott, Even without this extra bonus 20K SPG = 60K Marriott, and 56K Marriott normally = 25K United so comparable to other SPG to miles conversions.

      • Just checked and it is a 30% bonus (not 25%). Have to register first. Until the end of November. And it applies to all hotel point conversions to United, although Marriott converts at a better rate than other hotel programmes.

  3. Kaligo, Rocketmiles, PointsHound and Agoda can earn you United miles.

  4. I can also get United miles with e-rewards but that may be Australia specific

    • You can get them in the UK, but the rate isn’t as good – you are foregoing 3000 avios for 2000 UA miles so an 8000 mile award is costing you 12000 avios

  5. But what’s availability like? The cheap *A base fares ex-UK are typically £10-£20 each way, which potentially gives you a lousy 0.25p-0.5p per mile valuation.

  6. Fyi the low cost carrier’s Eurowings and Germanwings allow you to credit to *A including United, so eventually you can fly Lufty cheaply.

  7. Roger I* says:

    Thanks, Rob. I may have a home for the LX LHR-JNB deal in P. 🙂

    Raw basics: 11,500-ish MP miles for the trip is more than enough for a LHR/LCY-ZRH award. Pity about the taxes and charges, but it’s another option.

    I have fond memories of using MP miles for redemptions in F to Oz and NZ before BD became my preferred *A programme. I wonder if I’m still a member. Time to find out.

    • Roger I* says:

      OTOH, given the higher fees on BA RFS in South Africa, I’m thinking that JNB-CPT on SAA may be a better redemption for us.

  8. If they still charge the $75 ckose-in fee for bookings made within 21 days before the flight that negates much of the offer (which would be to use the miles for bookings when there are no cheap economy tickets).

  9. 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.

    • 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

        • 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…

      • 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..

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

    • 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!

      • …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 🙂

        • 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

        • 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!

  12. 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: .

  13. 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 🙂

    • 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)

        • 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.

  14. 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.

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

    • 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.”

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