United’s Polaris Business Class seat will soon be found on the Auckland to San Francisco route between October 29th and March 22nd, with the US airline scheduling their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft over this period.
This is a welcome change on the route, especially seeing as they’ve now made it a seasonal flight rather than year-round as it was previously.
In this guide, we look at the new flight details, current redemption availability, and how you can redeem miles for the route.
The flight will operate with the following schedule:
- UA916 Auckland to San Francisco departing 3:30PM arriving 6:50AM
- UA917 San Francisco to Auckland departing 10:45PM arriving 8:55AM (+2 days)
The service will carry 366 passengers, with 60 business class seats, and 306 economy class seats.
- Business Class – Fully lie-flat – 1-2-1 format
- Economy Plus (extra legroom) – 34-inch pitch – 3-4-3 format
- Main Economy – 31-inch pitch – 3-4-3 format
Seats in all cabin classes are equipped with universal AC power, USB integrated entertainment systems, and onboard Wi-Fi.
From October 29th through December 17th, United will operate 6x weekly flights.
From December 18th through March 22nd, United will operate 7x weekly flights.
United Polaris Business Class Seat. Image courtesy of United.
United 777-300ER Business Class Award Availability
The biggest headache is trying to find award seats!
For couples, the United award calendar does not currently show much in the way of direct United Business Class awards to San Francisco on the 777-300ER, with only 31st October, and 2nd through to 5th November having at least 2 seats available.
Additional seats for solo travellers are available on the 26th December and 14th February.
Travelling home from San Francisco is just as sparse. At least 2 award seats are currently available on the 28th & 29th November. Additional seats for solo travellers are available on the 19th & 26th November, and the 15th January.
It is possible however that more seats may become available in coming months.
How to Redeem
There are a few ways in which you can redeem for a Business Class seat on the 777-300ER – the most accessible in New Zealand being with Air New Zealand, United, or Singapore Airlines.
However, if you’re adventurous, you could also look to a redemption through programs like Miles & More or ANA Mileage Club. They are not programs that we have yet covered here at Point Hacks, and there could be some intricacies in the booking process that we’re not aware of, but they do appear to offer good value redemptions on this route that can be accessed by Kiwis through credit card spend with American Express Membership Rewards.
The table below shows the redemption costs on the route using these different mileage currencies. All SPG figures are on the assumption that you are taking advantage of the 5,000-mile bonus that SPG give you for every 20,000 Starpoints that are transferred to an airline program (with the exception of United, which instead relies on a transfer via Marriott at a rate of 1:3).
If you’re not sure how transfers work using SPG as an intermediary, have a read of our guide to using American Express Membership Rewards to transfer points to American Airlines AAdvantage via Starwood.
We have also listed the price of how much it would cost to ‘purchase’ the miles, as a point of comparison.
|Frequent Flyer Program||Number of points/miles one-way (Business Class)||Amex Membership Reward Points||SPG Starpoints required||Cheapest cost in NZD to purchase the points/miles, excluding taxes and fees|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||2,040||357,000 direct||N/A||$2,040 via a Kiwibank-issued Air New Zealand Airpoints Mastercard|
|ANA Mileage Club||60,000 (return booking only, 120,000 total)||144,000 (288,000) via SPG||100,000 for return redemption (split into a 55,000 transfer, and a 45,000 transfer)||$2,315 ($4,629) via SPG Family Pooling|
|Miles & More||67,500||175,000 via SPG||58,000||$2,826 via SPG Family Pooling|
|United Mileage Plus||70,000 (for redemptions made before 1 November)|
80,000 (for redemptions made from 1 November)
|163,700 (for redemptions made before 1 November)|
187,900 (for redemptions made from 1 November) via SPG and Marriott
|54,000 (for redemptions made before 1 November) |
62,000 (for redemptions made from 1 November) via SPG and Marriott
|$2,635 (for redemptions made before 1 November)|
$3,025 (for redemptions made from 1 November) via SPG Family Pooling, and Marriott Transfer
|Krisflyer||97,500||195,000 direct||80,000 (split into a 60,000 transfer, and a 20,000 transfer)||$3,899 via SPG Family Pooling|
The average price for one-way Polaris flights from Auckland to San Francisco between October 2017 and March 2018 is currently $4,282, with a return flight being double – therefore, based on the figures above, this makes it exceptional value to purchase the required miles outright should you desire to fly this route.
So, what do I recommend?
- If you already have American Express Membership Rewards points, ANA offers great value if you want to redeem for a return trip, and Miles & More come out in front if you only want to make a one-way redemption.
Do you want to buy points to redeem outright? Then Air New Zealand is the clear winner. Tickets can be redeemed through the Air New Zealand Contact Centre on 0800 737 000. Make sure you call up first to make sure they can offer the same seats that show on the United website before purchasing a top-up on the Air New Zealand Airpoints Mastercard. There will be $100 fee per booking.
Keep your eye on United Mileage Plus ‘buy miles’ sales, which we cover here. This may tip the scale in favour of a direct miles purchase and redemption through United, which is obviously going to be the easiest, given these bookings can be made online.
While it’s disappointing that the United service is now seasonal, it is nice to see their most premium product offered over the summer months that they will be flying here. We haven’t reviewed the product yet, so let us know below if you have, and what your experience were.
The current award availability isn’t great, though there are a few there to snag for anyone who is interested in experiencing the new Polaris seats.
In terms of making a redemption, earning Starpoints through Starwood Preferred Guest and transferring them to ANA or Miles & More represents the best value for redeeming an award on United flights between Auckland and San Francisco – if you already have the points.
The Membership Rewards → Starwood Preferred Guest → Airline programme transfer route is a bit convoluted, but once you understand how the earn and transfer rates work for your specific card and each program, that can help make a better call on how you redeem your points.
If you’re looking to ‘purchase’ the seat outright, then Air New Zealand Airpoints offer exceptional everyday value – a welcome change for a program that receives little love!
Thank you to Lucky from One Mile at a Time for this news.