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How Many Miles Will You Earn on Your Next United Flight?

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Frequent flyer programs used to award miles to members based on the distance they’ve flown, but most programs have now moved to a revenue-based model. That means the number of miles you’ll earn on a flight is determined by the cost of the ticket, but elite status can multiply that. The details of how that works depends on the airline. Let’s take a look at United’s policy.

With a few exceptions which we’ll deal with later, United flights booked through the airline’s website will earn award miles based on the price of the ticket and your elite status.  If you’re not sure where to go, read our article on how to find the best places to use the MileagePlus miles you have or plan to earn.

This is United’s earning chart:

MileagePlus statusBase miles (based on fare)Premier bonus award miles (based on fare)Total award miles earned (based on fare)
Member5 x fare -5 x fare
Premier Silver5 x fare2 x fare7 x fare
Premier Gold5 x fare3 x fare8 x fare
Premier Platinum5 x fare4 x fare9 x fare
Premier 1K5 x fare6 x fare11 x fare

Standard United MileagePlus members earn 5x the cost of their ticket. So multiply the cost of your ticket by five and you’ll get the number of miles you’ll earn for that flight. Elite members earn more, with the total miles equaling between 7x to 11x the cost of the ticket.

There are a few tricks to this though. First, taxes and fees are excluded from the cost of the ticket when calculating miles. For instance, if your ticket costs $386, you’d expect to earn 1,930 miles. But you don’t. You’ll get 1,790 miles because you need to subtract $28 in taxes and fees from the final ticket price. In the following sections, we’ll show you how to see the taxes, fees and miles earned per ticket before you make your purchase.

The other issue involves calculating the miles that count towards elite, or premier, status. United’s elite status is based in part on Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF), not on the standard miles you’ve earned. PQPs are earned for the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges on the following flights and purchases:

  • Base fare + surcharge
  • Economy Plus® seating or Economy Plus subscriptions
  • Preferred seat purchases
  • MileagePlus Upgrade Award co-pays
  • Paid upgrades on flights operated by United and United Express
  • Flights ticketed and operated by Star Alliance™ partners.

It’s important to note that all Basic Economy tickets earn PQP, but will not earn PQF. Award tickets will not earn PQF as well.

How to See the Fare Class on United’s Website

What is a fare class? It is the class associated with your ticket when you’re booking it and is a letter such as J, D, or Z. Each letter stands for a fare that represents different prices, amenities and other characteristics, such as how many miles you’ll earn on your flight. It’s a bit complicated, but it’s the basis of how airline pricing works.

With United Airlines, it’s necessary to turn on Expert Mode to see what fare class you’re booking. Here’s how to do it:

1.Sign in to your MileagePlus account
2.Click on the View Account button
3.Scroll down to Profile and choose Manage Profile
4.Scroll down to Preferences and click on View All Flight Search Preferences
5.Scroll down to Expert Features and click the check box to accept the terms and conditions
6.Click Save

This will allow you to see the fare class when you search for flights. Here is a list of fare classes United has:

Y – Highest full fare – regional instant upgrades for all elites
B – Full fare – regional instant upgrades for all elites
M – High fare – regional instant upgrades for Premier 1K
E – High fare
U – High fare
H – High fare
Q – Discounted fare
V – Discounted fare
W – Lowest Polaris upgrade-eligible fare
S – Deep-discounted fare
T – Deep-discounted fare
L – Deep-discounted fare
K – Deep-discounted fare
G – Lowest discounted fare
N – Basic economy – no changes permitted

Premium Plus
O – High fare
A – Discounted fare
R – Deep-discounted fare

First/business class
J – Full fare
C – High fare
D – High fare
Z – Discounted fare
P – Deep-discounted fare

How to See the Miles You’ll Earn Before Purchasing Your Ticket

1. You can book from United’s homepage or the Advanced Search page
2. Enter your flight information, including departure and arrival airports and travel dates
3. Choose Economy or Business/First
4. If you’re using the Advanced Search, select Yes for Show Mileage Earnings in Search Results
5. Click Search

Below is a sample booking. In the results, click on Details. This will show you your mileage earnings for the ticket, as well as the PQP and PQF. This is an easy way to see exactly what you’ll earn on your flight without having to calculate your earnings based on the cost of the ticket, fare class and distance flown. Fare Classes will be indicated near the corresponding class of the ticket.

Select the fare that matches the earnings you want by hovering over the price and clicking on it. Repeat for all your flights on your itinerary.

It’s possible to mix fare class, too, so you can book a J, which is a full-fare business class ticket, on the outbound flight, and Z, which is a discounted business class seat, on the return flight.

If you click on Details on the next page that shows your final itinerary, you’ll see all the fare classes you’ve booked. It will also tell you the total miles, PQP and PQF you’ll earn.

When booking flights operated by United’s partners, use the partner earning chart. Typically, if you fly in business or first class, you’ll earn anywhere from 100 to 150 percent.

Tickets Not Issued by United and Other Exceptions

Award mileage accrual for tickets on partner airlines that are not issued by United, and for specialty tickets where United does not know what fare was paid (including unpublished, consolidator, bulk, group and tour tickets), is based on fair class and distance flown, not the cost of the ticket.

For the former category, you can find the most current Star Alliance/MileagePlus partner information by going here. Below, for example, is what you’d earn by fare class on Singapore Airlines’ flights:

Eligible Singapore Airlines Fare Classes

Class of servicePurchased fare classAward mile earnings
(including fare class bonus)
Suites & FirstF 150%
Discount Suites & FirstA 125%
BusinessZ, C, J 125%
Discount BusinessU, D 100%
Premium EconomyS, T, P, L, R100%
Full Fare EconomyY, B 100%
EconomyE, M 75%
Discount EconomyH, W 50%
No mileage creditG, I, K, N, O, Q, V, X 0%

For specialty tickets, you’ll earn miles based on this chart:

Eligible fare classes on specialty tickets for flights operated by United or United ExpressBase award miles earned (based on flight distance)Fare class bonus (calculated from base miles)
J, C, D, Z, P100%50%
Y, B ,M, O, A, R100%0%
E, U, H, Q, V, W75%0%
S, T50%0%
L, K, G25%0%

Earn up to 140,000 united miles when you combine these three great credit cards

As of December 2022, both the United℠ Explorer MileagePlus Card and the United℠ Business MileagePlus Card will earn new cardholders 60,000 and 75,000 bonus miles respectively. The icing on the cake is you can combine those bonus offers from United Cards. In addition, you can transfer 50,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus points to your United Miles account if you get the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

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