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.