Using Miles For Star Alliance Upgrades

In an effort to focus more posts across all three major alliances, I figured I would branch out a bit and give an overview of the Star Alliance upgrade system. For those that do not know, all 28 members of the Star Alliance allow you to use miles to upgrade to the next higher class of service on flights. While both the OneWorld and SkyTeam alliances have partner airlines that allow you to do this, the Star Alliance is the only alliance where every airline in the alliance participates. So, is it worthwhile?

Given that I hold elite status with both American and Alaska Airlines, I tend to focus my domestic travel on those two carriers whenever possible. While researching some award flight options for a consulting client, I came across Star Alliance Upgrade Awards. The more I dug into the awards, the more intrigued I was about this as it is not largely discussed outside of Flyer Talk threads. I also could not find a single source that outlined all of the Star Alliance upgrade options, so I wanted to make this mega post that was an all encompassing, one stop shop for all things Star Alliance upgrades.

So how does the program work? Well, Star Alliance Upgrade Awards are valid on participating carriers and allow you to upgrade one class of service on flights marketed and operated by the same airline. This means that codeshare flights are not eligible unless operated by the same airline that is codesharing (i.e., a Lufthansa flight with a Swiss codeshare would need to be upgraded via the Lufthansa award program).

What makes the Star Alliance Upgrade Awards program complicated is that each of the 28 alliance airlines have their own redemption rates for upgrades. Complicating matters even further, some airlines like United allow you to use your United MileagePlus miles to upgrade flights on partners such as Lufthansa. You can find the master list of links to the various alliance member award charts on the Star Alliance website, though some of the links on the site are dead.

Luckily you have me to do all the hard work and give you a full overview of each program! I have also linked to all the proper pages for each program that discusses the Star Alliance Upgrade Awards (no dead links here!). As a general note to start, these upgrades apply only to paid tickets and cannot be used in connection with an award ticket. Additionally, you will generally be responsible for any additional taxes and fees, as well as surcharges if they are applicable on the particular airline operating the route. Without further ado, let’s get this mega post started!

Adria Airways Miles & More

Adria Airways utilizes the shared Miles & More program, which as you will see, is actually utilized by a lot of Star Alliance airlines. The program allows you to upgrade to a higher class of service with miles online, at the airport check-in counter, or by calling in to the Miles & More program.

Upgrades start at 10,000 miles one-way from full-fare economy fares (Y or B ticket class) and you can find the full upgrade chart here.

It is worth noting that the program specifically excludes upgrades to Singapore Airlines’ Suites class on the A380, though it does not seem to exclude other Singapore Airlines upgrades. Additionally, for flights operated by Lufthansa or LOT Polish Airlines that offer a premium economy cabin, there are specific rates for upgrades from both economy to premium economy and from premium economy to business class.

Transfer Partners:

The Adria Airways Miles & More program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Adria Miles & More miles through butt-in-seat miles on Adria or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

As with most upgrade awards, there are not many (if any) sweet spots in the chart. 15,000 miles to upgrade most tickets from economy to business class on a North America to Hawaii route seems like a potentially good option. Especially if you are able to land an upgrade on one of the United flights out of Newark (EWR) which feature fully lie flat seats in the business class cabin.

Aegean Airlines Miles + Bonus

Aegean Airlines utilizes their own Miles + Bonus frequent flyer program and it tends to be extremely generous. A lot of Star Alliance loyalists in the hobby recommend crediting paid flights to this program as it is pretty easy to earn and maintain Star Alliance elite status. The program allows you to upgrade to the next higher class of service by calling in to the Miles + Bonus program at 801.11.20000 or +30.210.62.61.000.

The Miles + Bonus program offers two different award upgrade costs – one for flights operated solely by Aegean Airlines, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated solely by Aegean Airlines, you need to purchase a Flex Fare ticket (fare classes Y, B, M, H, Q, V, W, L, K or S) to be eligible for an upgrade using miles. For domestic flights, the upgrade award cost is a flat 5,000 miles. For international flights, the upgrade award cost is 8x the distance in miles of the flight, with a minimum cost of 7,000 miles.

Aegean 1

For flights operated by Star Alliance partners, Aegean operates under the Star Alliance Upgrade Chart.

Aegean 2

Transfer Partners:

The Aegean Airlines Miles + Bonus program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Aegean Miles + Bonus miles through butt-in-seat miles on Aegean or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Honestly, I do not see any potential sweet spots with either of these upgrade charts. You are likely better off saving your Miles + Bonus miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Air Canada Aeroplan

Air Canada utilizes their own Aeroplan frequent flyer program, which tends to be rather popular among award travel enthusiasts as the program has a few transfer partners. The program allows you to redeem your Aeroplan miles to upgrade one segment, one class of service. The program is rule heavy for upgrades, but the important points are as follows:

  • Upgrades may be requested up to 24 hours prior to departure
  • Upgrades can only be requested a maximum of 56 days in advance on ANA
Star Alliance upgrades may be requested when flying in:
  • Economy class (Y,B fare classes)
  • Business class (C,D fare classes)
Some Star Alliance carriers offer upgrades from additional booking classes as follows:
  • Air Canada (AC) Premium Economy: O booking class
  • ANA (NH) Economy class: E booking class and Business class: J, Z booking classes
  • Lufthansa (LH) Economy class: G and E booking classes / Business class: J booking class
  • SWISS (LX) Economy class: U, M booking classes and Business class: J booking class
  • SAS (SK) Economy class: S booking class
  • Singapore Airlines (SQ) Economy class: S booking class and Business class: J, Z booking classes
  • United (UA) Business class: J class
  • Air New Zealand (NZ) Economy class: E, O, U booking classes
  • Ethiopian Airlines (ET) Economy class: G & S booking classes
  • EVA Air (BR) Economy class: K booking class
  • South African Airways (SA) Economy class: M booking class for Domestic Flight only

One thing to note about upgrades using Aeroplan miles is that you must upgrade all passengers on the reservation, but no more than 4 passengers on a reservation can be upgraded. This is important for those traveling with families who seat their children in economy class, while the parents upgrade to business class for the flight.

Aeroplan utilizes the same chart for upgrades, regardless of whether the upgrades are for flights on Air Canada or Star Alliance partner airlines.

Aeroplan 1

Transfer Partners:

Aeroplan is a transfer partner for American Express Membership Rewards points and SPG Starpoints, so you do have some transfer options if you wanted to transfer in some miles for upgrades. As with all of the airlines on this list, you can also earn your miles the old fashioned way – through butt-in-seat miles on Air Canada or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Given the fact that only full-fare tickets are eligible for upgrades, there really are no sweet spots in this program for the average flyer. For those business travelers who fly on full-fare tickets, the sweet spots seem to be in upgrading from economy to business class on: (i) routes from North America to Hawaii, Europe and Asia; (ii) routes from Southern South America to Europe, Asia, India or the South Pacific; and (iii) Europe to the South Pacific.

Air China PhoenixMiles

Air China utilizes their own PhoenixMiles frequent flyer program (which they share with Shenzhen Airlines). The program allows you to redeem your PhoenixMiles miles to upgrade one segment, one class of service. If you have multiple segments on your itinerary, you need to request those upgrades segment-by-segment, which can make upgrades in this program expensive.

Like the Aeroplan program, you must upgrade all passengers on the reservation, but no more than 4 passengers on a reservation can be upgraded. Unlike Aeroplan however, Air China allows you to call in to have the PNR split into multiple records to help facilitate upgrades for only part of the passengers on the reservation. This is important for those traveling with families who seat their children in economy class, while the parents upgrade to business class for the flight.

The PhoenixMiles program has two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Air China, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partners.

For flights operated by Air China on Mainland China routes, the upgrade chart is based on the one-way distance (keep in mind the distance is in kilometers and miles) of your flight. These are the one-way upgrade costs for those routes:

Air China 1

For flights operated by Air China on all other international routes, the upgrade chart is zone based. These are the one-way upgrade costs for those routes:

Air China 2

For flights operated by Star Alliance partners, I could not find a published chart for upgrade costs. To request an upgrade you need to have an already ticketed flight on record – which at the time of writing this I did not have. If I end up booking one of the cheap Air China fares, I will update this section accordingly.

Transfer Partners:

The PhoenixMiles program is a transfer partner for SPG Starpoints, so you do have a transfer option if you wanted to transfer in some miles for upgrades. As with all of the airlines on this list, you can also earn your miles the old fashioned way – through butt-in-seat miles on Air China or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Honestly, I do not see any potential sweet spots with either of the Air China operated flights upgrade charts – especially considering the upgrades have to be requested segment-by-segment. You are likely better off saving your PhoenixMiles miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Air India Flying Returns

Air India utilizes their own Flying Returns frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your Flying Returns miles to upgrade one class of service. To upgrade your Air India ticket, you need to call Flying Returns at 1.800.180.1407.

The Flying Returns program has two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Air India, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

Unfortunately, the Air India website does not actually publish their chart for upgrades on flights operated by Air India. The terms and conditions on the website are incomplete as well, though it appears that all fare booking classes on Air India operated flights are eligible for a miles upgrade.

For flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines, the upgrade chart is zone based as follows:

Air India 1

There are a few things to note on the Star Alliance partner airline upgrade chart. First and foremost, on the majority of Star Alliance partner airlines, you need to be booked in fare classes Y, B (economy) or C, D (business) to be eligible for upgrades. There are a few exceptions as follows:

  • Air New Zealand – eligible classes include U, E, O, Y & B
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) – eligible classes include Y, B & S
  • Shenzhen Airlines – eligible classes include Y, B, M & H
  • Swiss Airlines – eligible classes include Y, B, J & C
  • Singapore Airlines – eligible classes include Y, B, S, Z, C, J & D

Additionally, upgrades are done segment-by-segment, which means that itineraries with connections will incur an additional charge to upgrade. Lastly, upgrades must be requested at least 24 hours prior to departure.

Transfer Partners:

The Air India Flying Returns program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Air India Flying Returns miles through butt-in-seat miles on Air India or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Given the segment-by-segment upgrade requirements and the fact that Star Alliance partner upgrades need to be on full-fare tickets to be eligible for upgrade, I really do not see any sweet spots in the upgrade chart. You are likely better off saving your Flying Returns miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Air New Zealand Airpoints

Air New Zealand utilizes their own Airpoints frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your Airpoints dollars (miles) to upgrade one class of service. You can upgrade via your Airpoints account online, or you can call Air New Zealand at 0800.247.764 or +64.0.9.357.3000.

Air New Zealand is somewhat unique among Star Alliance carriers as they offer a bidding system for upgrades called OneUp. I won’t touch on that here, but you can read more about it here. The Airpoints program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Air New Zealand, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by Air New Zealand, the upgrade chart is divided into zones and based upon the aircraft operating that route. This is because some of their routes offer a premium economy cabin and you are only allowed to upgrade one class of service. The Air New Zealand operated flights upgrade charts are as follows:

NZ 1

NZ 2

NZ 3

Your upgrade requests must be made at least 7 days prior to departure and can be confirmed as early as 355 days prior to departure.

For flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines, the chart is zone based as follows:

NZ 4
NZ 5

NZ 6

A few things to note with Star Alliance partner upgrades. First and foremost, upgrades must be requested at least 7 days prior to departure, with the exception of flights operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA), which may only be requested within 28 days of departure. Additionally, upgrades to first (Suites) and business class on Singapore Airlines’ 777-300ER, A380 and all business class A345 are not available.

Furthermore, on the majority of Star Alliance partner airlines, you need to be booked in fare classes Y, B (economy) or C, D (business) to be eligible for upgrades. There are a few exceptions as follows:

  • Air China – eligible classes include G, Y, B, J, C & D
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) – eligible classes include Y, B, E, C, D, Z & J
  • Ethiopian Airlines – eligible classes include Y, G, S & B
  • EVA Air – eligible classes include Y, B & K
  • Lufthansa – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D & J
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) – eligible classes include Y, B & S
  • Singapore Airlines – eligible classes include Y, B, S, C, D, J & Z
  • Swiss – eligible classes include Y, B, U, M, C, D & J
  • United – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D & J

Transfer Partners:

The Air New Zealand Airpoints program is a transfer partner for SPG Starpoints, so you do have a transfer option if you wanted to transfer in some miles for upgrades. Keep in mind that the transfer ratio is 65 Starpoints per 1 Airpoint, so the transfer rate will make a big difference as to whether using your Starpoints for an upgrade is worthwhile. As with all of the airlines on this list, you can also earn your miles the old fashioned way – through butt-in-seat miles on Air New Zealand or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

The rates to upgrade on long haul international flights operated by Air New Zealand are actually not terrible all things considered. It also appears that all fare classes would be eligible, which is a very nice added perk. However, given the fact that Star Alliance partner upgrades need to be on full-fare tickets to be eligible for upgrade, I really do not see any sweet spots in the Star Alliance partner upgrade chart. If you are flying on a partner airline, you are likely better off saving your Airpoints for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

All Nippon Airways (ANA) utilizes their own Mileage Club frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. You can request an upgrade via your Mileage Club account online, or you can call ANA at 03.6741.1120.

The Mileage Club program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by ANA, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by ANA, the upgrade chart is distance based. For upgrades from business class to first class, only fare classes J, C, Z & Z are eligible for upgrades. For flights originating from Japan, from economy class to business class, only fare classes Y, B, E, M and U are eligible for upgrades. For upgrades on flights originating from everywhere else, from economy class to business class, only fare classes Y, B, E, M, U and H are eligible for upgrades. The ANA operated flights upgrade chart (one-way) is as follows:

ANA 1

For flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines, the chart is distance based as follows:

ANA 2

A few things to note with Star Alliance partner upgrades. First, mileage upgrades cannot be used to upgrade to Suites class, first class or business class on Singapore Airlines’ A380 and 777-300ER flights. Second, on the majority of Star Alliance partner airlines, you need to be booked in fare classes Y, B (economy) or C, D (business) to be eligible for upgrades. There are a few exceptions as follows:

ANA 3

ANA 4

Transfer Partners:

The All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club program is a transfer partner for American Express Membership Rewards points and SPG Starpoints, so you do have some transfer options if you wanted to transfer in some miles for upgrades. As with all of the airlines on this list, you can also earn your miles the old fashioned way – through butt-in-seat miles on ANA or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Given the requirements for full-fare or near full-fare tickets before you are eligible for upgrades, I really do not think there are any sweet spots in ANA’s upgrade chart for the average traveler. If you are a business traveler on a full-fare ticket though, the upgrade costs for one way are actually fairly decent. You will get more mileage (ha!) out of your Mileage Club miles using them for award tickets, but if you have a lot of miles to burn, ANA is probably the program I would try to book with/through for upgrades.

Asiana Airlines Asiana Club

Asiana Airlines utilizes their own Asiana Club frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. Asiana makes upgrade requests simple as you can request an upgrade via your Asiana Club account online.

The Asiana Club program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Asiana, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by Asiana, the chart is zone based. It does not appear that there are any restrictions on which fare classes can be upgraded, so that makes the Asiana Club uniquely generous in the Star Alliance. The upgrade redemption chart (round-trip – deduct 50% for one-way upgrades) is as follows:

OZ 1

In addition, Asiana charges an additional 10,000 miles one-way for certain routes. Those routes include:

OZ 2

Lastly, Asiana utilizes a peak and off-peak system whereby upgrades requested during peak dates will cost you 50% more miles. That is outrageous in my opinion, but the peak/off-peak travel dates are as follows:

OZ 3

For Star Alliance partner upgrades, the upgrade charts are zone based. Asiana utilizes 11 zones for partners, so I will only post up the North America specific upgrade chart. You can find the remainder at the bottom of this page though. For North American upgrades, the upgrade chart is as follows:

OZ 4

Keep in mind that these are one-way rates, while the Asiana operated rates are round trip rates.

One thing to note for partner upgrades, on the majority of Star Alliance partner airlines, you need to be booked in fare classes Y, B (economy) or C, D (business) to be eligible for upgrades. There are a few exceptions as follows though:

OZ 5

Transfer Partners:

The Asiana Airlines Asiana Club program is a transfer partner for SPG Starpoints, so you do have a transfer option if you wanted to transfer in some miles for upgrades. As with all of the airlines on this list, you can also earn your miles the old fashioned way – through butt-in-seat miles on Asiana Airlines or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

For upgrades on Asiana operated flights, the intra-Asia upgrade costs are not horrible – though they also are not exactly what I would call great or generous either. As to Star Alliance partner upgrades, given that you need to be on a full-fare ticket, these upgrades are not really useful for the average traveler. If you are a business traveler on a full-fare ticket, the sweet spot seems to be flights to South America 2, Europe and the Middle East. Overall though, you are likely better off saving your Asiana Club miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Austrian Miles & More

Austrian utilizes the shared Miles & More frequent flyer program. The program allows you to upgrade to a higher class of service with miles online, at the airport check-in counter, or by calling in to the Miles & More program.

Upgrades start at 10,000 miles one-way from full-fare economy fares (Y or B ticket class) and you can find the full upgrade chart here.

It is worth noting that the program specifically excludes upgrades to Singapore Airlines’ Suites class on the A380, though it does not seem to exclude other Singapore Airlines upgrades. Additionally, for flights operated by Lufthansa or LOT Polish Airlines that offer a premium economy cabin, there are specific rates for upgrades from both economy to premium economy and from premium economy to business class.

Transfer Partners:

The Austrian Miles & More program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Austrian Miles & More miles through butt-in-seat miles on Austrian or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

As with most upgrade awards, there are not many (if any) sweet spots in the chart. 15,000 miles to upgrade most tickets from economy to business class on a North America to Hawaii route seems like a potentially good option. Especially if you are able to land an upgrade on one of the United flights out of Newark (EWR) which feature fully lie flat seats in the business class cabin.

Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca utilizes their own LifeMiles frequent flyer program. The LifeMiles program is highly prized by award travel enthusiasts as they often sell their miles are relatively low rates and offer a pretty decent award ticket chart. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. To request an upgrade you must call the Avianca call center at +01.8000.95.3434. Be forewarned though, Avianca representatives in my experience are about as bad as it gets. For marginally better service, try the European call center at +0.800.0314.206.

The LifeMiles program appears to utilize two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Avianca, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by Avianca, the one-way upgrade costs are as follows:

AV 1

The LifeMiles program is rather generous in that all fare classes, with very limited exceptions, are eligible for upgrades. Those exceptions include:

  • Super Promo and Promo fares on domestic flights within Colombia
  • Super Promo fares on domestic flights within Ecuador and Central America
  • Promo fares on domestic flights within Peru

For flights operated by Star Alliance partners, I could not find a published chart for upgrade costs. From what I can tell, you must have purchased a partner ticket in fare classes B, Y (economy) or C, D (business) to be eligible for a Star Alliance award upgrade. To request an upgrade, you need to have an already ticketed flight on record – which at the time of writing this I did not have. If I end up booking one of the cheap Avianca fares, I will update this section accordingly.

Transfer Partners:

The Avianca LifeMiles program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Avianca LifeMiles miles through butt-in-seat miles on Avianca or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Honestly, I do not see any potential sweet spots with the Avianca operated. You are likely better off saving your Miles + Bonus miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Brussels Airlines Miles & More

Bruseels Airlines utilizes the shared Miles & More frequent flyer program. The program allows you to upgrade to a higher class of service with miles online, at the airport check-in counter, or by calling in to the Miles & More program.

Upgrades start at 10,000 miles one-way from full-fare economy fares (Y or B ticket class) and you can find the full upgrade chart here.

It is worth noting that the program specifically excludes upgrades to Singapore Airlines’ Suites class on the A380, though it does not seem to exclude other Singapore Airlines upgrades. Additionally, for flights operated by Lufthansa or LOT Polish Airlines that offer a premium economy cabin, there are specific rates for upgrades from both economy to premium economy and from premium economy to business class.

Transfer Partners:

The Brussels Airlines Miles & More program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Brussels Airlines Miles & More miles through butt-in-seat miles on Brussels Airlines or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

As with most upgrade awards, there are not many (if any) sweet spots in the chart. 15,000 miles to upgrade most tickets from economy to business class on a North America to Hawaii route seems like a potentially good option. Especially if you are able to land an upgrade on one of the United flights out of Newark (EWR) which feature fully lie flat seats in the business class cabin.

Copa ConnectMiles

Copa utilizes their own ConnectMiles frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service.  You can request an upgrade by calling Copa at 844.287.0304.

The ConnectMiles program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Copa, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by Copa, upgrades require both miles and a co-pay. The co-pay is waived for ConnectMiles members who have status with the program. Notably, the co-pays are reasonable and range from $25-75. With that said, Copa’s business class product is akin to standard U.S. carrier domestic first, so you really are not getting all that much for your money all things considered. To see the cost of upgrades on Copa operated flights, select your origin and destination for the drop down menu here. It appears that all fare classes are eligible for these upgrades.

For Star Alliance partner upgrades, the ConnectMiles program utilizes a zone based chart containing 20 zones. I will not post the chart here as getting it all on one page makes it nearly unreadable. You can find the full partner upgrade chart here however.

A few things to note about Star Alliance partner upgrades. First, upgrade requests must be made 24 hours prior to departure. Second, there are no co-pays for partner upgrades as there are with upgrades on Copa operated flights. Lastly, it appears that all fare classes are eligible for partner upgrades, which makes Copa the most generous program out there for Star Alliance partner upgrades.

Transfer Partners:

The Copa ConnectMiles program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Copa ConnectMiles miles through butt-in-seat miles on Copa or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Given that Copa’s business class product is nothing to write home about and that there are co-pay requirements, I really do not see any sweet spots in the Copa operate upgrade chart. However, under the partner upgrade chart, and assuming all fare classes are eligible, there are a few somewhat enticing sweet spots such as 25,000 miles for upgrades on flights from the U.S. to Europe and Japan, 30,000 miles for North Asia and Oceania and 35,000 miles for South Asia, Australia and New Zealand. With that said though, you are still likely better off saving your ConnectMiles miles for outright award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Croatia Airlines Miles & More

Croatia Airlines utilizes the shared Miles & More frequent flyer program. The program allows you to upgrade to a higher class of service with miles online, at the airport check-in counter, or by calling in to the Miles & More program.

Upgrades start at 10,000 miles one-way from full-fare economy fares (Y or B ticket class) and you can find the full upgrade chart here.

It is worth noting that the program specifically excludes upgrades to Singapore Airlines’ Suites class on the A380, though it does not seem to exclude other Singapore Airlines upgrades. Additionally, for flights operated by Lufthansa or LOT Polish Airlines that offer a premium economy cabin, there are specific rates for upgrades from both economy to premium economy and from premium economy to business class.

Transfer Partners:

The Croatia Airlines Miles & More program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Croatia Airlines Miles & More miles through butt-in-seat miles on Croatia Airlines or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

As with most upgrade awards, there are not many (if any) sweet spots in the chart. 15,000 miles to upgrade most tickets from economy to business class on a North America to Hawaii route seems like a potentially good option. Especially if you are able to land an upgrade on one of the United flights out of Newark (EWR) which feature fully lie flat seats in the business class cabin.

Egypt Air Plus

Egypt Air utilizes their own Plus frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. You can request an upgrade by calling Egypt Air at 0900.70000.

The Plus program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Egypt Air, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by Egypt Air, only tickets with fare classes of Y, B, H, M, Q and K are eligible for upgrades. For flights operated by Egypt Air, the upgrade chart is as follows:

Egypt 1

For Star Alliance partner upgrades, the Plus program uses a zone based upgrade chart as follows:

Egypt 2

Interestingly, a Star Alliance upgrade can only be booked online with Egypt Air, while upgrades on Egypt Air operated flights can be upgraded by calling. Only tickets in fare classes Y, B, C & D are eligible for Star Alliance upgrades using Plus miles. Upgrade requests must be made at least 24 hours prior to departure and can be confirmed as much as 355 days prior to departure.

Transfer Partners:

The Egypt Air Plus program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Egypt Air Plus miles through butt-in-seat miles on Egypt Air or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

The upgrade chart for those flights operated by Egypt Air does have some decent upgrade options – especially Europe 1 to the Middle East for 8,000 miles. However, when you factor in the limited fare classes that are eligible for the tickets, it is not a very useful chart for the majority of flyers. With the Star Alliance partner upgrade chart, Europe 1 to Southern Africa represents about the only potential sweet spot – though again you need to be a full-fare ticket to utilize the system. As such, you are likely better off saving your Plus miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Ethiopian ShebaMiles

Ethiopian utilizes their own ShebaMiles frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. You can request an upgrade by calling Ethiopian at 800.445.2733.

The ShebaMiles program appears to utilize two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Ethiopian, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

However, I could not find a published chart for award upgrades on Ethiopian operated flights. Ethiopian also makes reference to making sure you book in an appropriate fare class to be eligible to upgrade using your ShebaMiles, however I could not find anything that listed which fare classes were eligible. As a result, I would posit that it is likely only available for full-fare Y and B tickets.

Conversely, there is an upgrade chart published by the ShebaMiles program for Star Alliance upgrades as follows:

Ethiopian 1Ethiopian 2Ethiopian 3

Eligible fare classes include Y, B (economy class) and C, D (business class) on all Star Alliance flights, as well as the following specific to each airline:

Ethiopian 4

It is also worth noting that upgrades need to be requested between 56 days and 24 hours prior to departure, with the exception of upgrades on Air New Zealand, which need to be requested between 28 days and 24 hours prior to departure.

Transfer Partners:

The Ethiopian ShebaMiles program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Ethiopian ShebaMiles miles through butt-in-seat miles on Ethiopian or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

There are two mind blowingly amazing sweet spots on the ShebaMiles Star Alliance upgrade chart – Central America/Caribbean to Australia/New Zealand for a mere 15,000 miles one-way; and South America to Australia/New Zealand for a mere 20,000 miles one-way. That is just way too good to be true in my opinion and would likely make purchasing a full-fare ticket worthwhile on those routes! Otherwise, you are likely better off saving your ShebaMiles miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

EVA Air Infinity MileageLands

EVA Air utilizes their own Infinity MileageLands frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. You can request an upgrade via your Infinity MileageLands account online, or you can call EVA at 310.362.6600.

The Infinity MileageLands program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by EVA, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by EVA, only fare classes K, L, T, Y, B, M and S are eligible for upgrades. The upgrade chart is zone based and reads as follows:

EVA 1

Notably, upgrade requests must be made before check-in, though no specific timeline is stated in the terms and conditions.

For flights operated by Star Alliance partners, EVA uses a zone based upgrade chart, as follows:

EVA 2

Keep in mind that only full-fare Y, B, C & D class tickets are eligible for upgrades, with a few exceptions, including:

  • Air Canada – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D & O
  • Air New Zealand – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D O, E & U
  • Lufthansa – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D, E, G & J
  • Swiss – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D, U, M & J
  • Shenzhen Airlines – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D, G & M
  • Ethiopian Airlines – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D, G & S
  • China Airlines – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D, G & J
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D & S
  • South African Airways – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D & M (domestic only)
  • Singapore Airlines – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D, J, Z & U
  • United Airlines – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D & J
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) – eligible classes include Y, B, C, D & Z

It is also worth noting that you cannot upgrade from a U class ticket on Singapore Airlines to first class or Suites class.

Transfer Partners:

The EVA Air Infinity MileageLands program is a transfer partner for Citi ThankYou Points and SPG Starpoints, so you do have some transfer options if you wanted to transfer in some miles for upgrades. As with all of the airlines on this list, you can also earn your miles the old fashioned way – through butt-in-seat miles on EVA or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Given the full-fare ticket requirements to be eligible for an upgrade award, I honestly do not see any potential sweet spots for upgrades. You are likely better off saving your Infinity MileageLands miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

LOT Polish Airlines Miles & More

LOT Polish Airlines utilizes the shared Miles & More frequent flyer program. The program allows you to upgrade to a higher class of service with miles online, at the airport check-in counter, or by calling in to the Miles & More program.

Upgrades start at 10,000 miles one-way from full-fare economy fares (Y or B ticket class) and you can find the full upgrade chart here.

It is worth noting that the program specifically excludes upgrades to Singapore Airlines’ Suites class on the A380, though it does not seem to exclude other Singapore Airlines upgrades. Additionally, for flights operated by Lufthansa or LOT Polish Airlines that offer a premium economy cabin, there are specific rates for upgrades from both economy to premium economy and from premium economy to business class.

Transfer Partners:

The LOT Polish Airlines Miles & More program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your LOT Miles & More miles through butt-in-seat miles on LOT or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

As with most upgrade awards, there are not many (if any) sweet spots in the chart. 15,000 miles to upgrade most tickets from economy to business class on a North America to Hawaii route seems like a potentially good option. Especially if you are able to land an upgrade on one of the United flights out of Newark (EWR) which feature fully lie flat seats in the business class cabin.

Lufthansa Miles & More

Lufthansa utilizes the shared Miles & More frequent flyer program. The program allows you to upgrade to a higher class of service with miles online, at the airport check-in counter, or by calling in to the Miles & More program.

Upgrades start at 10,000 miles one-way from full-fare economy fares (Y or B ticket class) and you can find the full upgrade chart here.

It is worth noting that the program specifically excludes upgrades to Singapore Airlines’ Suites class on the A380, though it does not seem to exclude other Singapore Airlines upgrades. Additionally, for flights operated by Lufthansa or LOT Polish Airlines that offer a premium economy cabin, there are specific rates for upgrades from both economy to premium economy and from premium economy to business class.

Transfer Partners:

The Lufthansa Miles & More program is a transfer partner for SPG Starpoints, so you do have a transfer option if you wanted to transfer in some miles for upgrades. As with all of the airlines on this list, you can also earn your miles the old fashioned way – through butt-in-seat miles on Lufthansa or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

As with most upgrade awards, there are not many (if any) sweet spots in the chart. 15,000 miles to upgrade most tickets from economy to business class on a North America to Hawaii route seems like a potentially good option. Especially if you are able to land an upgrade on one of the United flights out of Newark (EWR) which feature fully lie flat seats in the business class cabin.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) EuroBonus

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) utilizes their own EuroBonus frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. You can request an upgrade via your EuroBonus account online.

SAS utilizes a unique system whereby for flights operated by SAS, you can bid on upgrades using either cash or EuroBonus miles. You can bid to upgrade yourself to either SAS Plus (think premium economy) or SAS Business (business class). Oddly, tickets that have been purchased in Japan are explicitly excluded from use in the bid system.

For flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines, there is an upgrade chart, which reads as follows:

SAS 1

To be eligible for a Star Alliance partner upgrade, you must be booked in the following fare classes:

SAS 2

As you can see, it is mostly full-fare economy (Y, B) and business (C, D, J) class tickets which are eligible.

Transfer Partners:

The Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) EuroBonus program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your SAS EuroBonus miles through butt-in-seat miles on SAS or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Since the upgrade system for SAS operated flights is bid based, there is definitely the potential to score some upgrades at fantastic prices. It also does not appear that there are any fare class restrictions on who can bid on an upgrade, so that really makes SAS unique and valuable to the average flyer. Even their Star Alliance partner upgrade chart has a few sweet spots in it like 10,000 miles to upgrade a flight from North America to Hawaii and 25,000 miles to upgrade a flight from North or Central America to the Pacific. Even factoring in the added cost of a full-fare ticket, there is still some potential value to be had in SAS’ Star Alliance upgrade chart. Outside of those limited sweet spots though, you are likely better off saving your EuroBonus miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Shenzhen Airlines PhoenixMiles

Shenzhen Airlines shares their PhoenixMiles frequent flyer program with Air China. The program allows you to redeem your PhoenixMiles miles to upgrade one segment, one class of service. If you have multiple segments on your itinerary, you need to request those upgrades segment-by-segment, which can make upgrades in this program expensive.

Like the Aeroplan and Air China programs, you must upgrade all passengers on the reservation, but no more than 4 passengers on a reservation can be upgraded. Unlike Aeroplan however, Shenzhen Airlines allows you to call in to have the PNR split into multiple records to help facilitate upgrades for only part of the passengers on the reservation. This is important for those traveling with families who seat their children in economy class, while the parents upgrade to business class for the flight.

The PhoenixMiles program has two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Shenzhen Airlines, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partners.

For flights operated by Shenzhen Airlines on Mainland China routes, the upgrade chart is based on the one-way distance (keep in mind the distance is in kilometers and miles) of your flight. These are the one-way upgrade costs for those routes:

Shenzhen 1

For flights operated by Shenzhen Airlines on all other international routes, the upgrade chart is zone based. These are the one-way upgrade costs for those routes:

Shenzhen 2

For flights operated by Star Alliance partners, I could not find a published chart for upgrade costs. To request an upgrade you need to have an already ticketed flight on record – which at the time of writing this I did not have. If I end up booking one of the cheap Air China fares, I will update this section accordingly.

Transfer Partners:

The Shenzhen Airlines PhoenixMiles program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Shenzhen Airlines PhoenixMiles miles through butt-in-seat miles on Shenzhen Airlines or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Honestly, I do not see any potential sweet spots with either of the Shenzhen Airlines operated flights upgrade charts – especially considering the upgrades have to be requested segment-by-segment. You are likely better off saving your PhoenixMiles miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Singapore Airlines utilizes their own KrisFlyer frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. You can request an upgrade via your KrisFlyer account online.

The KrisFlyer program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Singapore Airlines, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by Singapore Airlines, upgrade rates are determined by zones. Singapore also offers standard and saver rates, as well as rates for upgrades from economy to premium economy, from economy to business class, from premium economy to business class and from business class to first/Suites class. As the rates are so varied, you are better off checking the upgrade award rates here. The rates quoted are for one-way upgrades. The downside is only fare classes Y, B or E are eligible for upgrades using miles.

For flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines, the KrisFlyer program uses a zone based upgrade chart, which reads as follows:

SQ 3

To be eligible for a Star Alliance partner upgrade, you must be booked in the following fare classes:

SQ 4
SQ 5

As you can see it is mostly full-fare Y, B (economy) and C, D (business) fares that are eligible for upgrades. Additionally, upgrades must be requested at least 24 hours prior to departure. Oddly, intra-European flights operated by Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) cannot be upgraded using Star Alliance partner upgrades.

Transfer Partners:

The Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is a transfer partner for all 4 transferable currencies – American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points and SPG Starpoints – so you do have more than a few transfer options if you wanted to transfer in some miles for upgrades. As with all of the airlines on this list, you can also earn your miles the old fashioned way – through butt-in-seat miles on Singapore Airlines or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Honestly, I do not see any potential sweet spots with any of these upgrade charts. You are likely better off saving your KrisFlyer miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

South African Airways Voyager

South African Airways utilizes their own Voyager frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. You can request an upgrade via your Voyager account online.

The Voyager program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by South African Airways, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by South African Airways, the Voyager program utilizes a zone based upgrade chart, which reads as follows:

SAA 5

As you can see, only fare classes Y, B, M & K are eligible for upgrades – which means mostly just full-fare tickets are eligible. South African Airways does not release upgradable seats until 48 hours prior to departure though, so although your request can be made at booking, it will not clear until T-48.

For flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines, the Voyager program also utilizes a zone based upgrade chart, which reads as follows:

SAA 1SAA 2

As with most Star Alliance partner upgrades, with some exceptions, only full-fare Y, B (economy) and C, D (business) class fares are eligible for upgrades. The required booking classes for the corresponding airlines are as follows:

SAA 3SAA 4

Upgrades must be requested at least 24 hours prior to departure.

Transfer Partners:

The South African Airways Voyager program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your South African Airways Voyager miles through butt-in-seat miles on South African Airways or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

Given the requirements of full-fare or near full-fare tickets to be eligible to upgrade an itinerary, it really destroys the value of the sweet spots in the upgrade chart. In particular, 23,000 miles for an upgrade between Southern Africa and the United States is a very solid value in my opinion. But needing to be on a full-fare ticket likely kills any potential value you gain out of the upgrade. As a result, you are likely better off saving your Voyager miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Swiss Miles & More

Swiss utilizes the shared Miles & More frequent flyer program. The program allows you to upgrade to a higher class of service with miles online, at the airport check-in counter, or by calling in to the Miles & More program.

Upgrades start at 10,000 miles one-way from full-fare economy fares (Y or B ticket class) and you can find the full upgrade chart here.

It is worth noting that the program specifically excludes upgrades to Singapore Airlines’ Suites class on the A380, though it does not seem to exclude other Singapore Airlines upgrades. Additionally, for flights operated by Lufthansa or LOT Polish Airlines that offer a premium economy cabin, there are specific rates for upgrades from both economy to premium economy and from premium economy to business class.

Transfer Partners:

The Swiss Miles & More program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Swiss Miles & More miles through butt-in-seat miles on Swiss or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

As with most upgrade awards, there are not many (if any) sweet spots in the chart. 15,000 miles to upgrade most tickets from economy to business class on a North America to Hawaii route seems like a potentially good option. Especially if you are able to land an upgrade on one of the United flights out of Newark (EWR) which feature fully lie flat seats in the business class cabin.

TAP Portugal Victoria

TAP Portugal (TAP) utilizes their own Victoria frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service per segment. You can request an upgrade via your Victoria account online.

The Victoria program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by TAP, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by TAP, upgrades are only available on flights to or from Portugal at the following rates:

TAP 1

It does not appear that there are any fare class limitations, so any fare class ticket should be eligible for an upgrade at these rates. Remember that these rates are per segment, so direct flights with no connections are going to offer you the most bang for your buck.

For flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines, the Victoria program utilizes a zone based upgrade chart, as follows:

TAP 2

TAP 3

Only full-fare Y, B (economy) and C, D (business) class fares are eligible for Star Alliance upgrades under the Victoria program.

Keep in mind the following booking windows:

TAP 4

Transfer Partners:

The TAP Portugal Victoria program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your TAP Portugal Victoria miles through butt-in-seat miles on TAP Portugal or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

TAP seems to offer some decent upgrade costs for their North America to Portugal routes, but outside of that I really do not see any other potential sweet spots with either of these upgrade charts. You are likely better off saving your Victoria miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus

Thai Airways utilizes their own Royal Orchid Plus frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. To request an upgrade you will need to call Thai Airways at 800.426.5204.

The Mileage Club program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Thai Airways, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by Thai Airways, the upgrade chart is distance based and starts at 12,000 miles. In true Thai Airways fashion, the upgrade chart is not functional enough to be able to get good screen shots showing the costs. So instead, you can just check it out for yourself here. The chart is for one-way upgrades and the rates are about as bad as Thai’s normal award ticket redemption rates.

For flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines, the upgrade chart is also distance based and starts at 25,000 miles for a one-way upgrade.

Thai 1

A few things to keep in mind with Star Alliance upgrades. First and foremost, with a few exceptions, only full-fare Y, B (economy) and C, D (business) class fares are eligible for upgrades. The exceptions include:

  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) – eligible fare classes include Y, B, E, C & D
  • Swiss – eligible fare classes include, Y, B, M, C, D & Z
  • EVA Air – eligible fare classes include Y, B & K

Also keep in mind that upgrades must be requested at least 24 hours prior to departure.

Transfer Partners:

The Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus program is a transfer partner for Citi ThankYou Points and SPG Starpoints, so you do have some transfer options if you wanted to transfer in some miles for upgrades. As with all of the airlines on this list, you can also earn your miles the old fashioned way – through butt-in-seat miles on Thai Airways or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

As with regular award ticket redemptions using Royal Orchid Plus miles, there is no value to be had with redemptions via the program. You are better off crediting your Royal Orchid Plus miles to another program instead and just avoiding the Thai Airways program entirely.

Turkish Airlines Miles & More

Turkish Airlines utilizes the shared Miles & More frequent flyer program, though it differs from the traditional Miles & More program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. You can request an upgrade via your Miles & More account online.

The Mileage Club program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by Turkish Airlines, and one for flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by Turkish Airlines, the program utilizes a zone based upgrade chart, which reads as follows:

TK 1TK 2TK 3

The Miles & More program also publishes a separate upgrade chart for regional flights.

TK 4

Turkish’s Miles & More program is pretty generous in that most of their fare classes are eligible for upgrades using miles.

TK 5

For flights operated by Star Alliance partner airlines, the upgrade chart is also zone based and reads as follows:

TK 6TK 7

Upgrades must be requested at least 24 hours prior to departure and can be requested online. The following fare classes are eligible for Star Alliance partner upgrades:

TK 8TK 9TK 10TK 11

Transfer Partners:

The Turkish Airlines Miles & More program is not a transfer partner for any of the big 4 transferable currencies (American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points or SPG Starpoints), so you will have to earn your Turkish Miles & More miles through butt-in-seat miles on Turkish or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

As much as I want to like the Turkish Miles & More program, I really do not see any potential sweet spots with either of these upgrade charts. You are likely better off saving your Miles & More miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

United MileagePlus

United utilizes their own MileagePlus frequent flyer program. The program allows you to redeem your miles to upgrade one class of service. You can request an upgrade via your MileagePlus account online. United is a bit unique in that they allow you to upgrade flights on certain partners like Copa at United upgrade rates. The downside is that the United specific upgrades come with a co-pay ranging from $0 to $600 depending on your fare class.

The Mileage Club program utilizes two different charts for upgrades – one for flights operated by United and Copa, and one for flights operated by the remaining Star Alliance partner airlines.

For flights operated by United and Copa, the MileagePlus program utilizes a zone based upgrade chart. Each fare class corresponds to a different miles + co-pay redemption amount. If you hold MileagePlus elite status, certain routes are exempted from the co-pay requirement of the redemption.

For flights operated by the remaining Star Alliance partner airlines, the MileagePlus program utilizes a zone based upgrade chart.  Upgradeable booking classes include C, D (business) and Y, B (economy) fare classes, as well as the additional fare classes listed below:

  • Air Canada – O class
  • Air China – J and G class
  • Air New Zealand – E, U and O class
  • ANA – J, Z and E class
  • Ethiopian Airlines – G and S class
  • EVA Airways – K class
  • Lufthansa – J, E and G class
  • Scandinavian Airlines – S class
  • Shenzhen Airlines – M and H class
  • Singapore Airlines – S, Z, J and U class
  • South African Airways – M class (domestic only)
  • Swiss Air – J class

The following routes are not eligible for partner upgrades:

  • Intra-Scandinavian flights and flights to and from Finland on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  • Intra-Japan flights on All Nippon Airways (ANA) or Air Japan
  • Flights on Singapore Airlines’ A380s and 777-300ERs
  • Upgrades from D class fares on Swiss flights

Transfer Partners:

The United MileagePlus program is a transfer partner for Chase Ultimate Rewards points and SPG Starpoints, so you do have some transfer options if you wanted to transfer in some miles for upgrades. As with all of the airlines on this list, you can also earn your miles the old fashioned way – through butt-in-seat miles on United or other partner airlines.

Potential Sweet Spots:

The co-pay element really kills most of the United and Copa upgrade options for the average flyers. Even without the co-pays, I do not really see any potential sweet spots with either of these upgrade charts given that the Star Alliance partner upgrades require full-fare tickets. You are likely better off saving your MilieagePlus miles for award flights than spending them on upgrading your paid tickets.

Final Thoughts

Although I am not a big traveler on Star Alliance airlines, it seems like there are only a few potential sweet spots for upgrading your paid tickets. On the whole, I would say that for the average traveler, you’re really not going to see much value here or even really be able to utilize the Star Alliance partner upgrade awards due to the fare class restrictions. What’s more, the better value seems to be in utilizing your miles for a premium cabin award ticket instead of upgrading your paid ticket(s). However, if you are a business traveler who tends to travel on full fare tickets and has a stash of miles to burn on some comfort, there are a few good options out there.

Has anyone utilized a Star Alliance mileage upgrade? How easy/difficult was it?

Be sure you get all the latest content from the Jet Set Blog first by entering your e-mail address in the upper right hand corner of this page! Also be sure to like the Points Jet Setter on Facebook and follow @ThePointsJetSet on Twitter!

2 thoughts on “Using Miles For Star Alliance Upgrades

  1. awesome overview! thanks for all the hard work that must’ve gone into this! apparently aeroplan is the best program for star alliance upgrades, those rates are incredible

  2. I use ANA for most of freight just b/c it has good route. However, have to buy full price ticket to be eligible for upgrade and it’s terrible. Like you say, unless you have so much mile and you want to burn some mile.
    Usually you can buy discount Business ticket if you pay little more on Full Price Economy Ticket.

Leave a Reply