Are you a United elite looking for both a summer vacation and some Premier Qualifying Points to augment your elite status? Well, this may be one of the better opportunities I’ve seen. And you’ll fly in style, as it is a business class fare!
Quick Quick Personal Note on Mileage Runs and Elite Status
Mileage running for low-level status is pretty much pointless, especially with United. Most of the benefits you get are obtainable through a $95 per year credit card, and you even get two lounge passes out of the deal. Don’t shell out any money needlessly.
However, for the road warrior who flies United extensively for work, a run for your next status tier might be worth it if it means you’ll hit top tier. United moved to a Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) system starting this year, although you can qualify entirely on points as well. Points essentially equal spend, so United has essentially moved to a frequent spender program.
Luckily, you can shortcut the PQP (i.e. spend) requirement flying partners. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true.
Using Air Canada Business Class to Augment United Status
Air Canada business class deals are one of the better options for getting the most bang for your buck. They accrue 200% flown miles as redeemable miles, which means you get 40% flown miles as PQP. This is excellent. You can hardly do better with any fare.
But don’t make it just a mileage run. Make it a vacation. It’s totally fine to combine the two! Actually, this is the best approach, in my opinion.
If you’re already itching to head to Europe this summer, there is a decent Air Canada business class deal available. Anything south of $2,000 for a round-trip ticket from the West Coast to Europe is a decent deal, and this is right at $2,000. There are dates stretching from late July through August where you can spend anywhere from a long weekend to over a week in Madrid, originating in SFO or LAX.
Don’t drop the cash, though. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can burn just 133,333 Ultimate Rewards points for this fare (it is available through the Chase portal). This is better than transferring them to United and hunting for award space on Air Canada or other Star Alliance partners (plus, no elite earnings). Air Canada’s herringbone-configured 767s and A330s may not be the snazziest of business class products, but you’ll be in a lie-flat seat the whole way.
The itinerary (either SFO or LAX to MAD) will earn you ~24,000 redeemable miles (before Premier elite bonuses), which are worth $400+ in my book. You’ll also earn ~4,700 PQP, which nets you most of a status tier. This is 2.35 PQP per dollar spent, a whole lot better than the less than 1:1 that you get for purchasing a ticket directly through United!
There are comparable fares to Copenhagen and Dublin as well, with others in the $2,300 to $2,500 range for a few other destinations. Not the absolute best deals I’ve seen, but they’re still good, and the fact that they are available in late summer is pretty sweet.
Although I literally never take advantage of these sorts of deals myself, I’m always curious about ways to shortcut elite status and fly in comfort for less. This is an nice mix of the two, if you’re based on the west coast and looking for both a summer vacation in business class.