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When we booked $640 round trip business class tickets with Qatar Airways from Europe to Tokyo, we thought it couldn’t get any better. Then ANA came along with a very briefly lived error fare, offering round trip business class from Vancouver to Sydney (via Tokyo) for just $636. Since you really only do live once (as far as we know), an upgrade from business class to first class seemed like the perfect way to take this deal to the next level. Here’s how you can do the same.

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We Used 25,000 United Points To Upgrade To ANA First Class.

Though it’s buried in paperwork, United allows you to upgrade select fares on almost all Star Alliance airlines to the next cabin. In the case of ANA, they even allow discount business class fares- which this deal was. Using 25,000 points per person, we were able to upgrade our Tokyo to San Francisco flights to ANA’s stunning first class. For reference: 25,000 is the “when in doubt” amount for upgrades on Star Alliance carriers.

a glass of champagne next to a bottle of champagneANA Serves Nearly $200 A Bottle Champagne In First…

Many points enthusiasts enjoy putting value to points. Most people would agree that 25,000 United miles are worth at least $250, which means the “cost” in miles can be made up in champagne alone. Hey, when it’s “free”, who’s counting? Turning a $675 round trip business class ticket into a rare opportunity to experience ANA’s award winning first class for just 25,000 points is an exciting opportunity. We haven’t even touched upon the gigantic bed, multi course dining or impeccable service yet either…

an airplane with a seat and a blue pillowTo Do This: Go To United.com, Regardless Who You Booked With.

You’ll need your confirmation number, and enough miles to upgrade everyone in your booking. If you only want to upgrade some of the passengers, you’ll need to “split” your PNR. Once all that is in place: click this link. Proceed to press “request” Star Alliance Upgrade Award. Before doing this- it’s great to confirm that there’s upgrade space available: which you can do by searching for “Saver” space using miles in the cabin you’d like to upgrade to- not your present cabin. Note: some airlines combine first and middle names into the first name section.

a plane flying in the skyYou Can Upgrade Economy To Business, Business To First…

These Star Alliance upgrades are unfortunately restricted to generally more expensive fare classes, making this difficult for most every day travelers. If you managed to secure an amazing deal (as we did) or have someone else (like, work) paying for your tickets- it’s really quite easy to take advantage of this lucrative upgrade program to improve your journey. To see what kind of seats and fares are eligible (if you can do it on your ticket), and with which airlines- click here for everything you need to know.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Where can I find the fare codes for various star alliance airlines? I see in the star alliance page it lists which flights/fare codes can be upgraded, but don’t know what they are until I book.

    forgive me…. newbie here!


  2. When I read the chart it looks like 25k to upgrade from economy to business and 50k from business to first (US to Japan). What am I doing wrong? Also, is it a per segment upgrade or can you upgrade the entire outbound leg for US to Australia price?

  3. This means something but I’m not sure what: “For reference: 25,000 is the “when in doubt” amount for upgrades on Star Alliance carriers.”

    The chart shows 50K for Business North America to Japan.

    1. The chart is wrong or the engine is wrong, but low and behold if you try and replicate you’ll get 25,000 each way. It’s possible the chart is meant for round trip but worded incorrectly. Happy to provide screenshots. They don’t make it easy do they?

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