Using UA Miles to Upgrade AZ Segments

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by webdes03, Jun 30, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. webdes03

    webdes03 Gold Member

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    We've been tossing around the idea of AKL as a vacation for next year, and aside from some domestic travel on US all of my international travel has been on UA metal so this Star Alliance upgrade process is new to me. I wondered if anyone could provide some insight, or perhaps some other/better recommendations.

    The quick background is that I'm currently MP Silver, but till likely be Gold by the end of the year. I know that the Star Alliance Gold perks would get us lounge access, but I'm not sure if that helps at all with the upgrade prospect.

    I threw some dates into UA.com to check for either full redemption, or MP upgrade options. It looks like routing wise we have two main choices: RDU-SFO-AKL with the latter segment on an NZ 744, or RDU-IAH-LAX-AKL with the latter segment on an NZ 773. With the checking that I've done, it sounds like the passenger experience is better on NZ 773 over the 744, but I'm not sure if it's enough to justify an extra leg to get to LAX. Maybe someone has a recommendation there.

    I can find mileage redemption options on UA.com, but only for Economy, and if I search for MP upgrade options it tells me that all of the NZ flights aren't eligible for upgrade. The Star Alliance Upgrade Awards page states that NZ upgrades are eligible in C, D, Y, B, E, U, and O fare classes, and the Award Chart (dated 3/2012) states that a Mainland US to New Zealand upgrade is 35K.

    So what is the process for this? Do I book the regular NZ flight through the UA engine, making sure it's in one of the eligible classes, then separately request the upgrade? I'm a little concerned that there doesn't seem to be an easy way to search for availability, and the availability of upgrade space would likely affect the dates we pick for the trip. I couldn't find anything other than the form to request the upgrade, unless I'm missing something and there is a way to check for availability.

    I don't think we'll have enough miles saved up for the whole ITN, so the thought was to use the miles on the upgrades and pay the base fare, though I'm also open to suggestions on if that's the best option there.
     
  2. HeathrowGuy
    Original Member

    HeathrowGuy Gold Member

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    Just a FYI that the two-letter airline code for Air New Zealand is NZ...the code AZ belongs to Alitalia of SkyTeam. ;)
     
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  3. HeathrowGuy
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    HeathrowGuy Gold Member

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    You may purchase your ticket from Air New Zealand, United, or indeed any other Star Alliance member airline - however, you MUST ensure that any NZ flights you want to upgrade are sold as actual NZ flights under the NZ code, and not codeshares (e.g., it must not be sold as UA8922 operated by Air New Zealand, but rather sold as NZ015 under the NZ code).

    While the following advice varies by airline, most Star partners use "I" Business Class award inventory for Star Alliance Upgrade Awards. So one guiding principle is to look for NZ flights that have Business Class award space available. You won't know for sure whether it can be upgraded until you actually attempt the upgrade. And I'd caution that NZ is notoriously difficult to secure Biz award space on, despite having a goodly number of flights from the West Coast -- this notoriety is doubly true for NZ upgrade awards, since they can only be booked within four weeks of the flight.

    All the above being said, if you REALLY want to ensure you're up front for much of the trip, consider using United's services to Sydney/Singapore/Bangkok/Hong Kong, where you can confirm a redemption straight away or waitlist as needed, and buy/redeem miles for a separate ticket to New Zealand.
     
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  4. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    Just a point: it's a 10-1/2 hour flight from Bangkok to Melbourne, and farther than that to NZ.
     
  5. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Why would you need a separate ticket, at least if redeeming an award all the way through?
     
  6. HeathrowGuy
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    HeathrowGuy Gold Member

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    Separate tickets absolutely not needed if pure award....I was referring to scenarios if the OP wants to keep the TPAC a paid ticket.
     
  7. webdes03

    webdes03 Gold Member

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    At current projections I think there will be about 250K in my account, and probably around 50-60K in my girlfriend's account. UA's website, even if booking a year from now, doesn't give me any award options for J or F... only Y (on the NZ segments at least). Between that, and the fact that we likely won't have enough miles to do it all on miles, was where my idea to buy coach and just upgrade the segment(s) we wanted came from. That said, I completely missed the part about NZ only being available for upgrade requests within 4 weeks; that seems awfully difficult to secure.
     

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