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Rundown of United Airlines’ MileagePlus for Canadians (updated March 19, 2016)

Though United Airlines may not be best known for its elite program, they do hold a lot of value in terms of rewards redemptions. Unfortunately for Canadians, there is no co-branded credit card that allows us to earn United Airline’s MileagePlus miles. There is no Canadians transferable points program either.

Member of Star Alliance

First of all, United Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, same as Air Canada, which has monopoly in Canada, so I cannot see any other Star Alliance member gaining any significant footprint in Canada, because it would probably put Air Canada and Aeroplan out of business. Therefore, MileagePlus may only make sense for a select group of Canadians.

Before we go further into MileagePlus, below is a list of Star Alliance airlines which have low or no fuel surcharges:

  • Air China
  • Brussels Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • EVA Airways
  • Scandinavian
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Swiss
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

Which leads into my first point. MileagePlus can make sense if you frequently fly with Star Alliance members. It will easily help keep your account active, without the help of a credit card. That being said, the list above also gives you great alternatives to collecting Aeroplan or MileagePlus miles. Basically you can bank your miles earn from flying to other Star Alliance members that may make more sense for you. You will want to compare the benefits and perks associated with each program to help you decide.

Earning Miles

But let’s say United Airlines is the Start Alliance member that you fly most frequently with, you can earn the following miles depending on your elite status:

  • General members will earn: 5 miles for every $1 spent on the base fare
  • Silver Premier members will earn: 7 miles for every $1 spent on the base fare
  • Gold Premier members will earn: 8 miles for every $1 spent on the base fare
  • Platinum Premier members will earn: 9 miles for every $1 spent on the base fare
  • 1k members will earn: 11 miles for every $1 spent on the base fare

Keep in mind that Premier qualifying credits are counted a little differently, as shown in the chart below, which was effective on January 1, 2016.

Flights flown on or after January 1, 2016
Eligible purchased fare classes Premier qualifying miles (PQM) Premier qualifying segments (PQS)
F, J 300% 1.5
A, C, D, Z, P 200% 1.5
Y, B 150% 1.5
M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G, N 100% 1

The other primary ways to earn MileagePlus miles is through your hotel or car rental booking. So long as they are a partner with United Airlines, you can earn miles directly with your reservation.

Destinations Departing from Canada

Lastly, below is a nice list to keep handy. You will want to know whether United Airlines or United Express services your airport to help you make your decision on whether to collect MileagePlus miles. Below is an updated list of flights offered by United Airlines or United Express departing out of Canadian airports (recent changes are in brackets or struck-through).

Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)

  • United Airlines: Chicago-O’Hare
  • United Express: Chicago-O’Hare, Denver, Houston-Intercontinental, Newark, Washington-Dulles

Vancouver International Airport (YVR)

  • United Airlines: Chicago-O’Hare, Denver, Houston-Intercontinental, San Francisco
  • United Airlines (seasonal): Los Angeles (added), Newark, Washington-Dulles
  • United Express: Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco

Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL)

  • United Express: Chicago-O’Hare, Houston-Intercontinental, Newark, Washington-Dulles

Calgary International Airport (YYC)

  • United Airlines: Chicago-O’Hare, Houston-Intercontinental, San Francisco
  • United Airlines (seasonal): Denver
  • United Express Chicago–O’Hare, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, San Francisco

Edmonton International Airport (YEG)

  • United Airlines: Denver, Houston-Intercontinental
  • United Airlines (seasonal): Denver
  • United Express: Chicago-O’Hare, Denver, Houston-Intercontinental, San Francisco

Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport (YOW)

  • United Express: Chicago–O’Hare, Newark, Washington–Dulles

Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ)

  • United Express: Chicago-O’Hare, Newark
  • United Express (seasonal): Washington-Dulles

Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG)

  • United Express: Chicago-O’Hare, Denver

Victoria International Airport (YYJ)

  • United Express: San Francisco

Kelowna International Airport (YLW)

  • United Express: San Francisco

St. John’s International Airport (YYT)

  • United Airlines (seasonal): Newark
  • United Express: Newark

Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB)

  • United Express: Newark
  • United Express (seasonal): Chicago-O’Hare

London International Airport (YXU)

  • United Express: Chicago–O’Hare, Newark 

You will notice that United Airlines has reduced the number of available flights departing from Canada over the past few years. I just hope that this is not a continuing trend.

Conclusion

Personally, I do not collect MileagePlus miles. I do however collect Aeroplan as my primary frequent flyer program, as there are so many credit card options to help me boost my account. What I do instead is redeem pretty much all of my Aeroplan miles on United flights. For the purposes of my travel, it makes the most sense, and it helps me keep my taxes and fuel surcharges low. So I am more than happy to fly United for the time being, but I really do hope that they can find a way to make it easier for Canadians to collect their miles to give Air Canada some heat. Though I am not holding my breath on this one.

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