Updated 2019: United Airlines is the second largest airline in the world. They offer flights to destinations all around the world from a number of hubs in the US and at some of them they are the dominating airline. They are one of the founding airline of StarAlliance, the largest carrier partnership in the world, and I have collected more miles in their rewards program than any other program. Yet they also have many critics due to their mediocre service – find out all you need to know about their fleet, destinations, safety and quality ranking, the experience to expect and their rewards program United MileagePlus!
The Airline: United Airlines (airline code UA) is the second largest commercial airlines in the world, headquartered in Chicago, USA. They are serving 342 destinations in 60 countries with a fleet of 742 planes!
SkyTrax rates them as a 3 (out of 5) star airline, the same rating Delta and American Airlines received. AirlineRatings gives them a perfect 7 (out of 7) safety rating.
United is part of StarAlliance, the largest airline alliance in the world. Get more details about the fleet and destinations in United – Facts & Figures
The Experience: United Airlines is a full-service carrier, offering a wide variety of cabins and services depending on the routes and planes. United has been slow in renovating planes, making it confusing for customers and difficult to figure out, what experience to expect on your flight!
On US domestic flights, offers a First Class (recliner seats comparable to international PremiumEconomy), EconomyPlus (economy seats with extra legroom), Economy class and Basic Economy (Economy with reduced services). On US transcontinental flights, First Class recliners are replaced with Business Class flat-beds, same as international business class. On flights to Latin America and the Caribbean, Business Class is sold with the same seats as Domestic First or International Premium Economy.
Confused yet? Wait, there is more – on international long-haul flights operates a fleet mixed with their new flagship offering Polaris, a high-density business class with flat beds and direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 layout. It was announced to much fanfare in 2016, yet only a fraction of the fleet has been retrofitted. On many planes you’ll still find Polaris First (the former GlobalFirst product) or worse, the old Global Business Class with flat seats in a 2-4-2 or 2-2-2 layout, which is not really competitive anymore!
On international flights, you’ll also find EconomyPlus, Economy and Basic Economy services. In addition, some routes are served by new or renovated planes that offer a true Premium Economy Product, called Premium Plus, with extra seat width and legroom.
Apparently, United can’t really make heads & or tails of their offerings either – there is no comprehensive overview of what experience to expect on a United flight on their website. But fear not, here is a handy overview of the products, from best to worse:
United offers more than 45 United Clubs at their hubs and major international destinations. You have access to the lounge on international flights in Business Class. Similar to other US airlines and in a break from international norms, you need to be a member to access the lounges on domestic flights, regardless of cabin class.
The Rewards Program: United is running one of the largest rewards programs in the travel industry, United MileagePlus. With hundreds of United flights and as a member of StarAlliance, the largest airline alliance in the world, there are lots of opportunities to earn miles on flights.
You earn miles based on revenue not distance flown, making it much harder for the vast majority of travelers to earn points by flying. But there are countless other options to earn points, including hotel and car rental partners, multiple credit cards or shopping and dining. You can redeem those points for flights on United or any of its partners, including some of the best airlines in the world, like Singapore Airlines, giving you access to destinations around the world. You can also use your points for hotels, cars or merchandise, although at much lower values! MileagePlus also has one of the most elaborate system of benefits for its frequent fliers. The program has a total of 6 levels with increasing benefits, including additional miles earned, upgrades, priority services and lounge access, making travel for elite members a much better experience! MileagePlus is a large, complex program that can be very rewarding and is worth exploring more in my review!