Finding United 8k Awards – 8,000 Mile Tickets on Star Alliance

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United 8k Awards for Cheap Travel

Finding United 8k Awards – 8,000 Mile Award Tickets on Star Alliance

United 8k awards are the cheapest Star Alliance redemptions possible. If you’re looking for cheap award tickets, these are it. Today, we’ll look at the options for flying United 8k awards and the rules that apply to making these so cheap.

Earning United Airlines MileagePlus Miles

Before we discuss how to redeem United MileagePlus miles for valuable 8K awards we should discuss how to earn United miles. The best way to earn United miles is via the United co-branded credit cards or via their very valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner.  Here are a few of the best offers to beef up your United MileagePlus account.  Remember that all of these fall under the Chase 5/24 rule:

United Credit Cards

  • United Explorer Personal Card – There is currently an increased offer on the United Explorer card.  Earn 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months of card membership. Earn an additional 25,000 miles after spending $10,000 within 6 months. This card has a lot of great perks for United flyers too.  Learn More
  • United Explorer Business Card – You can earn up to 100,000 miles with the Explorer business card.  Earn 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of card membership.  Earn an additional 50,000 miles after spending $25,000 within 6 months of card membership. This card comes with some great perks for United flyers as well. Learn More

Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to United MileagePlus miles at a 1 to 1 ratio.  This is the best way to amass United miles since the Ultimate Rewards cards have better earning rates on your normal purchases vs the co-branded cards. The co-branded cards come with better perks for United flyers though.  I will highlight a few of the best offers:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – Earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months of card membership. The $95 annual fee is NOT waived. Learn More
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. It has a $300 travel credit and better earning rates than the Sapphire Preferred but comes with a $450 annual fee. Learn More
  • Ink Business Preferred – Earn 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of card membership. It comes with a $95 annual fee. Learn More

United 8k Awards

Rules for United 8k Awards

Not all flights can be 8,000 miles on United, even if they’re short. Here are the rules that apply:

  • Direct flights only
  • Flight distance is less than 800 miles
  • Flight is within a single United zone
  • Cannot be within US or Canada

This means that not all short-distance flights are going to be 8,000 miles. There are no restrictions on partners, so all United partners are in play. The rules are just distance, non-stop, and location. Within the U.S. and Canada, the cheapest tickets are still 10k. Here’s a reminder of the United zones, so you know how to stay within them.

Zones for United 8k AwardsZones for United 8k Awards

Searching for United 8k Awards

Now that we know the rules for place, distance, and non-stop, we can find awards. I have 4 resources at hand for this:

  1. List of United partners
  2. FlightConnections.com
  3. GCmap.com
  4. List of Fifth Freedom flights

Here’s why I’m using those. First, I need to know the partners, so I can look for their flights. Flightconnections.com tells me all flights leaving an airport, and I can search for flights leaving the home base(s) of the United partners. I can set it to show me only Star Alliance partners, which means I could possibly use United miles for a flight that pops up. GCmap helps me check distance to stay under 800 miles. I’ll also check the Fifth Freedom flights list for any United partners.

We now can confirm if a flight should be a United 8k award. We can try to book it on United.com after this, rather than just searching for awards and seeing what price comes up, hoping to get lucky.

United 8k Awards

Fifth Freedom Flights with United Partners

Knowing the rules, I can narrow down which fifth freedom flights should offer United 8k awards. The following 5th freedom flights are all under 800 miles and operated by United partners. They’re also within 1 zone.

Brussels Airlines
  • Freetown, Sierra Leone – Monrovia, Liberia
Ethiopian Airlines
  • Accra, Ghana – Lagos, Nigeria
  • Bujumbura, Burundi – Kigali, Rwanda
  • Conakry, Guinea – Dakar, Senegal
  • Dakar, Senegal – Bamako, Mali
  • Entebbe, Uganda – Juba, South Sudan
  • Harare, Zimbabwe – Lusaka, Zambia
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Singapore
  • Stockholm, Sweden ARN – Oslo, Norway
  • Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – Gaborone, Botswana
Singapore Airlines
  • Moscow, Russia DME – Stockholm, Sweden ARN
South African Airways
  • Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire – Accra, Ghana
Swiss Air
  • Dubai, UAE – Muscat, Oman
Turkish Airlines
  • Djibouti, Djibouti – Mogadishu, Somalia

I’ve actually booked 3 of these and can confirm that they price out as United 8k awards, also. I did the Turkish option back in March, and the following week I did Ethiopian Airlines from Burundi to Rwanda. Next week, I’m taking the Senegal to Mali flight on Ethiopian.

Airline Hubs

My next stop would be checking airline hubs for places I’m thinking about visiting if I’m not wanting one of these fifth freedom flights. I’m not going to check all of these for this article, but the gist is to check hubs for the United partners. Vienna for Austrian, Addis Ababa for Ethiopian, etc. Airlines like Lufthansa (Frankfurt, Munich) and Azul (all 3 Sao Paulo airports, both Rio de Janeiro airports) have multiple hubs you could check. The idea is to go to flightconnections.com and enter in the airport to start from. See where the direct flights go, and even filter for the airline you want to check as the United partner at play. You can click on the flights to see more info. Distance is most times accurate, but not always.

Warsaw to Moscow United 8k Awards

Check for Your United 8k Award

After brainstorming where to go, we checked flight distances and made sure we’re in 1 United zone only. In this example, I wanted to go from Warsaw, Poland to Moscow, Russia. 2 of the most beautiful and underrated cities in Eastern Europe. I’ll check United for availability.

Warsaw to Moscow LOT United 8k Awards

Availability is wide open. Multiple flights a day for the whole 30 days around the random date I picked. This flight meets our rules: 1 zone, non-stop, under 800 miles, and operated by a United partner. We found a United 8k award. Direct flights are $160+, so I’m getting 1.66 cents per point value. Not crazy, but it’s good for economy prices.

Not Always Guaranteed

What if a flight is under 800 miles and on a confirmed partner? Is it always a United 8k award? Make sure it meets all of the rules. Tokyo to Seoul or Athens to Tel Aviv have qualifying 5th freedom flights from United Airlines partners. They’re under 800 miles. However, they don’t stay in the same zone. Japan is its own zone. Israel is the Middle East zone, but Athens is in the Europe zone.

Athens to Tel Aviv is fifth freedom but not United 8k award

There’s also the issue of United itself. Now that they’re moving to dynamic award charts, this isn’t a guarantee. What you SHOULD be able to do and what you actually find aren’t the same thing now. Availability (how many other people have already booked this flight on miles? is the flight full?) and demand (is this a super popular time for the destination?) can skew things. However, this gives us a starting point.

Final Thoughts

United 8k awards provide a cheap way to get award bookings. Remember that they have close-in booking fees, if you’re booking at the last minute. Also, there are times when you shouldn’t use your points, even just 8k. I’d never pay 8k + taxes for a short flight on Azul, because you can get these for less than $50. If you’re willing to take RyanAir in Europe, those flights are cheap and not worth paying 8k + taxes for the same route. However, some of these routes can cost $400+, so paying only 8k + taxes is a steal. It’s a starting point for finding great value on award redemptions. Of course, this assumes that you’re planning your trip by award price, not choosing a destination first. If this helps you move from city A to city B or helps you add another city to your vacation, consider it a deal.

Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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13 COMMENTS

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Back in September I reserved a trip for 6 from MUC-VIE, non stop in August of 2020 at 8K each. We were going to go by rail but this saves us almost a 1/2 day of travel (more sightseeing). The retail price of the same 6 tickets was $1,212.00 ($202.00 @) all in.

  2. “In this example, I wanted to go from Warsaw, Poland to Prague, Czech Republic. 2 of the most beautiful and underrated cities in Europe.” Prague, underrated?! Beautiful yes, but it’s one of the most heavily touristed destinations in Europe, hardly off the beaten path or underrated.

    • I didn’t claim it’s off the beaten path, but I see scant people in this hobby talking about going there. Maybe I’m following the wrong blogs. Also, I changed the example flight to something providing better value now 🙂

  3. Some other decent ones are intra-Central America on COPA and Avianca. However, most countries have significant departure fees. The intra-Africa ones are excellent deals!

    • Wow, thanks for pointing that out. Forgot they’re codeshare only, not a full partner, so you can do SQ miles but not the other airlines.

  4. surprised.. looking for vienna to fra/muc/str/cgn/BSL/ etc.. can’t find any in January but in feb they start opening up…

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