You Can Now Share United Miles Among Your Friends and Family—Here’s How

United Airlines recently created the ability for groups to pool their miles and also unveiled a new seat alert option, making it the first major U.S. airline to do so. Here’s how the new tools work.

United Airlines airplane flying in a clear blue sky

Find your pooling group and make those miles go further.

Courtesy of Arkin Si/Unsplash

United Airlines recently announced a pair of new tools aimed at making travel a little easier.

The updates include the ability for up to five people to link their MileagePlus accounts and share some or all of their miles for free, plus an app feature that will notify you if your preferred seat becomes available. United is the only major U.S. airline that now offers these options.

Here’s what you need to know about United’s two new programs.

How does United’s mileage pooling program work?

Under the new MileagePlus pooling program, groups of up to five people can link their accounts together to share award miles in a single account. There are no rules about the group members being related—any small cluster (a mix of family, friends, coworkers, etc.) could feasibly make a pool.

Creating a miles pool is both free to set up and to share miles through. The only requirement is that the pool leader (whoever first creates the pooled account) must be at least 18 years old—all other members can be of any age, as long as they have an active MileagePlus account (which a parent or legal guardian can create for those under 18). Members can contribute however many miles they wish, but those miles cannot be taken back later.

To make a pool, the pool leader simply signs into their MileagePlus account and clicks “Create a miles pool.” From there, they can invite other members by typing their email address, MileagePlus account number, and date of birth. Once those other members accept, they’re added, although everybody does have to wait three days before shared miles can be used, and only the pool leader (or a member given redemption privileges by the pool leader) can redeem the miles. MileagePlus members can only be in one pool at a time, and if someone leaves, they can’t join another pool for 90 days. Similarly, nobody new can join the pool during that 90-day timeframe.

According to Sally French, travel expert at NerdWallet, United’s move to allow pooling offers its loyalty members more options.

“This could unlock more opportunities for families, where parents might have a huge mileage balance that they’ve accrued over the years,” French tells AFAR. “Parents can combine miles with their children to book award flights—even if the child doesn’t yet have many miles to their name. This also ensures that miles are less likely to go unused. So many loyalty rewards go wasted because there just aren’t opportunities to use them. This news lessens that likelihood.”

It’s worth noting that pooled miles can only be used to purchase United-operated flights—it’s not currently possible to book seats on partner airlines within the Star Alliance, like Air Canada or Turkish Airlines.

Airline loyalty programs that allow anyone to pool points are the exception, not the norm. United is now the only one of the “big three” U.S. airlines (the others being American and Delta) that offers this option. In the United States, the only other airline that allows it for all loyalty members is JetBlue via its TrueBlue program, which lets up to seven people pool miles for free. (Other airlines like Hawaiian, Frontier, and Spirit only allow those with elite status or a branded credit card to pool miles.) Internationally, such carriers as Air Canada, Emirates, Air France, and KLM have similar programs, although some require all members to live in the same house and to be related.

Rows of empty blue economy seats on a United Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft

If your seat of choice opens up, United is giving you the chance to grab it.

Photo by Benson Truong/Shutterstock

How does United’s new seat alert work?

Another new perk that United recently rolled out is the ability to get an alert when your desired seat becomes available, making United the only U.S. carrier to currently offer this service. If your preferred seat type isn’t available when you book your ticket, you may still be able to nab it if it does open up, for instance, when someone changes or cancels their flight reservation and frees up the seat, without doing anything.

Within United’s mobile app, passengers can request their desired seat type, and if it’s vacated at some point up to 12 hours before departure, United will automatically move you to that seat. This feature applies to a window, middle, aisle, exit row, or bulkhead seat within your class of service. You won’t be able to book a seat in the back of the plane and request a business-class seat.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at Afar. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More from AFAR