United’s scheduled roll-out of upgrade co-pays on award upgrades has been moved from July 1, 2009 to Jan. 12, 2010. In addition to delaying the co-pays, United is making a couple of changes to the policy “in response to member feedback,” according to United’s Web site. When the policy goes into effect Jan. 12, members who purchase B class (unrestricted coach) tickets and use their miles to upgrade will not be charged a co-pay. And tickets in Z class (discounted business class) will be eligible to be upgraded with miles and a co-pay. The co-pays can be as much as $500 one way to Hawaii and international destinations, plus 30,000 miles one way. The new upgrade co-pay policy is not all bad news. For the first time, travelers will be able to upgrade from discounted business Z class to get a first class seat at a discount. For example, a one-way upgrade to first from Z within North America will be 15,000 miles and $100.
And members who purchase full-fare coach tickets will benefit when the miles required for an upgrade will decrease. Under the current policy, to upgrade one way on flights within North America from full-fare coach (Y or B), you need 8,000 miles, which will be reduced to 5,000 miles when the upgrade award chart changes in January, with no additional co-pay.
Plus, two more fares (E and U) will be eligible to be upgraded with miles and a co-pay and many more eligible fare classes will be added to international flights. However, if you normally book discounted coach flights and upgrade with miles, the miles required will stay the same at 15,000 miles but a $50 co-pay for each flight will be added for flights within North America. Use miles to upgrade on a flight to Europe in coach class H and you will be paying 20,000 miles and $350 instead of the current 30,000 miles with no co-pay. Visit http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?1678 for details. And for an understanding of all the different fare classes, you can follow the FlyerTalk link “Thread listing all known UA revenue and award booking codes and a summary of each one” at http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?1679
Bottom line: American and Continental also charge upgrade co-pays and United is simply following their lead. If you are a member of United Mileage Plus, you’ve just been given a reprieve until Jan. 12, 2010.