Rundown of United Airlines’ MileagePlus for Canadians (updated December 28, 2016)

I recently tried to redeem my Aeroplan miles for a United Airlines flight; however, there was no availability. But when I logged into MileagePlus, I saw the award flight available. Unfortunately, that means that the reward seat has not been released to Aeroplan yet. As we get closer to the date, if that award availability is not booked, then it will probably be send to Star Alliance partners, including Aeroplan.

So it got me thinking about switching some of my business over to another Star Alliance partner, instead of Aeroplan. One option is United Airline’s MileagePlus frequent flyer program.

Star Alliance Members with no Taxes and Fuel Surcharges

Below is a list of airlines that do not charge taxes and fuel surcharges when redeeming your Aeroplan miles.

  • Air China
  • Brussels Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • SAS Scandinavian Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

As you can see, MileagePlus is included in the list. The challenge is, how do we earn miles as a Canadian?

Earning Miles

Personally, I find the 3 easiest ways for a Canadian to rack up MileagePlus miles is through airlines, car rentals and hotel stays. All the other alternatives are a little more challenging without a U.S. address. That being said, if you are a Canadian living in the United States, it would be a no-brainer to me that you earn MileagePlus miles.


The most direct way of earning miles is flying with United Airlines, which has the following ratios:

  • Earn 11 miles for every $1 spent on the base fare as a 1k member
  • Earn 9 miles for every $1 spent on the base fare as a Platinum Premier member
  • Earn 8 miles for every $1 spent on the base fare as a Gold Premier member
  • Earn 7 miles for every $1 spent on the base fare as a Silver Premier member
  • Earn 5 miles for every $1 spent on the base fare as a General member

But you can also earn miles by flying with any of its Star Alliance partners.

Car Rentals

When you rent a car, you can also earn MileagePlus miles instead of car rental points, with:

  • Hertz
  • Dollar Rent a Car
  • Thrifty Car Rental


Otherwise, you can earn miles through its hotel partners. Basically, when you stay with one of the following hotel chains, you can bank MileagePlus miles directly instead of hotel points:

  • Marriott Rewards
  • Hilton HHonors
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • IHG Rewards
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • Club Carlson
  • Wyndham
  • Choice Privileges
  • Golden Circle

Transfer Partner

If you have an E-Rewards account (invitation only), you can covert your E-Rewards dollars in the following increments:

  • $25 = 500 miles
  • $50 = 1,000 miles
  • $100 = 2,000 miles

Keep in mind that you can only convert once ever 30 days, which means that you can only redeem a maximum of 24,000 miles per year. Still a decent amount.

Destinations Departing from Canada

United Airlines may not make sense if you fly solely within Canada. However, if you are making international trips, chances are, you may be connecting through the United States. United Airlines or United Express both operate out of Canadian airports. 0

Below is an of flights departing out of Canadian airports (recent changes are in brackets or struck-through). Unfortunately, it seems like the list of available flights has continued to further trimmed down from last time.

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

Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport (YOW)

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

Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG)

  • United Express: Chicago-O’Hare, Denver

Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ)

  • United Express: Newark

Victoria International Airport (YYJ)

  • United Express: San Francisco

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

I really hope that United Airlines doesn’t get even more squeezed out of Canada as they are a valuable Star Alliance member when you redeem your Aeroplan miles. I really hope this has nothing to do with Air Canada squeezing them out, because Air Canada’s monopoly will continue to grow and that can’t be a good thing for Canadians.

What I would like to See

I would like to see a lot, but if I had to choose 1 thing, it would be a co-branded United Airlines credit card offered to Canadians. Even though I may have done relatively well with my Aeroplan account, I would still like to see some direct competition with them so that it keeps them honest.

Here’s hoping but not expecting.


  1. Thank you Mathew for an excellent summary. Being based in Calgary United has some excellent options for traveling Internationally. I can travel to Europe by fling from Calgary to Chicago then onward from their. I can travel to the Caribbean or S. America by going Calgary to Houston first. The options are also endless if you want to go to Asia from San Francisco. As all 3 of these American destinations are United hubs and served out of Calgary I am on board with United. I find that most United Domestic flights open up within 3 months of travel so you have to hope that your International flight is still available. I mainly use Aeroplan miles but strangely enough I use United Mileage Plan miles to book Air Canada flights to Europe as they don’t charge YQ or YR. If you’re flying a United flight internationally using United miles the MP miles required are sometimes less than Aeroplan would charge. I have generally found that if there is a Saver Award available on it should be available on the Aeroplan site (or simply call them).

    1. Awesome. Yes if you can just focus on United, they do have a better redemption with Air Canada than Aeroplan. Thanks for sharing your experience. I really do hope they add more options out of Calgary!

  2. I travel mainly to the U.S. from Ottawa and I always prefer clearing customs here than in Toronto or Montreal. The only U.S. carrier that has presence is United. American cut almost all their routes except to PHL, Delta has limited flights going to Detroit and Air Canada just serves non-hubs like LGA BOS and DCA (unless am travelling to these cities only). As Air Canada isn’t increasing their international or U.S. offerings here, I am limited. I can only hope United will see that Ottawa with its population over 1 million is a viable market for other United hubs like DEN, SFO or IAH, or simply add more connector routes to their secondary hub which is IAD. Although I dislike flying United because of their delays and often crappy customer service, here in Ottawa you don’t have much choice. I would also focus on United if Chase were to offer a credit card like they do for the Americans.

    1. Also the planes departing out of Ottawa are really small. So reward options are limited. The other issue is that Ottawa just doesn’t have the traffic. They just depend on connecting through the nearby bigger airports for long haul or international trips.

  3. The SPG Amex is a credit card that earns over 1 UA mile per dollar spent. You can transfer your SPG to Marriott then to United at a ratio that is a little better then 1 mile per dollar spent on the Amex. Not the greatest option but it does work. It is frustrating that most domestic Air Canada fares are not eligible to earn United miles. You need to by the Air Canada Economy Flex fares I believe to earn Air Canada miles and they are usually significantly more expensive then the basic Air Canada fares.

    1. Yes, the SPG AMEX is a decent option. Though it may not be around for much longer because of the merger with Marriott. So take advantage of it while you still can!

  4. Hi Matthew, great article. I am thinking to book all my travel via United and use my Mileage Plus account instead of Air Canada and Aeroplan. I am based in Toronto and travel mainly between Canada and the US. Do you think it is worth doing this based on your research.

    1. Hey Plonk. I would put more long term thoughts into your decision. So you plan to rack up the United miles? Do you have a way of keeping them active? As long as you have a long term plan.

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