Mileage Run with United: SFO to TPE

Ron Pragides
4 min readDec 29, 2018


I never thought I would be one of “those people” who would do a mileage run to achieve premier status — in this case, MileagePlus Premier 1K on United Airlines.

I’ve qualified for MileagePlus Premier 1K for the past 5 years, due to international work travel. For 2 consecutive years, I even held elite Global Services status and enjoyed benefits nicely summarized by The Points Guy. But with the end of 2018 approaching, I was about to lose Premier 1K status for the first time in half a decade. I had accumulated “only” 89,563 Premier Qualified Miles (PQMs) from United so far. To maintain Premier 1K status for 2019, I’d need to earn another 10,437 PQMs before the end of the year!

Reviewing the benefits of Premier 1K status — which includes Regional Premier Upgrades (RPUs) as well as Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) — I figured that a reasonably priced itinerary to secure Premier 1K status was worthwhile. The value of Premier 1K as calculated by The Points Guy was $8800 for 2018.

Armed with this information, I decided to take my first significant Mileage Run before the clock strikes midnight on January 1st 2019. I started my research from the United website by searching for Nonstop Destinations from my home airport, San Francisco International. Looking for a value (and, opportunistically, an international destination I hadn’t visited yet), I decided on a round-trip fare from SFO to Taipei. Redeeming two of my Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs), I would be able to travel in Polaris Business Class for $1200 round-trip.

I booked my round-trip itinerary as SFO-TPE on December 28, returning TPE-SFO on December 30. I started my trip as usual: stopping by a United kiosk and printing out a paper boarding pass. (I’m a stickler for tradition.)

I’ve previously flown Polaris Business Class and was familiar with the perks of my home airport: one of the few United Polaris Lounges in the country. Polaris Lounges are only available for travelers on long-haul international travel in business class (flights to Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Carribbean do not qualify). Polaris Lounges were introduced by United in 2018 at major hub airports, and are a significant enhancement to the travel experience. If you are able to visit one of these lounges I highly recommend it! After passing through security via TSA Pre-Check, I headed straight for the United Polaris Lounge in the International Terminal at SFO.

United Polaris Lounge at SFO

I wanted a bite before my flight, so grabbed a seat in The Dining Room in the Polaris Lounge. I decided to order the Chicken Katsu Bento Box which was a popular choice (several tables around me ordered the same).

After lunch, I ventured towards the full bar to order a cocktail. The bartender suggested the Polaris Old Fashioned, made with bitters from the San Francisco Bitters Company.

I finished my drink and proceeded to the gate for boarding. The aircraft was a Boeing 777 equipped with the new Polaris seats in 1–2–1 configuration.

Not all United routes have this seat upgrade, but I knew at time of booking this flight would have the new Polaris configuration. Each seat feels like a personal cocoon.

I settled into my seat, enjoyed a tasty lunch, and had a great “flight” of Syrah, Côtes du Rhône, and Cuvée!

Our flight arrived at Taoyuan Airport after 8PM. Since my return flight is in the morning, I opted to stay inside the airport. Referencing the airport map and the Star Alliance Lounge Finder, I was happy to find quite a few lounges that would be accessible with my Star Alliance Gold status.

I’ll explore the Taoyuan Airport until my return flight to SFO tomorrow. I’m looking forward to all the places I’ll go in 2019. Happy New Year!



Ron Pragides

Led pre-IPO teams at @BigCommerce @Twitter @Salesforce. Follow me on twitter: @mrp