United Airlines is introducing unlimited domestic upgrades for elite members and one traveling companion beginning in the second quarter of 2010. An upgrade request will automatically be submitted for elite members when they purchase a qualifying flight on United or United Express within the U.S. (including Hawaii and Alaska), Canada, Caribbean, Central America and Mexico. When upgrades become available, upgrade requests will be processed according to elite status, ticketed booking class and time of request. Upgrades will be processed for Global Services members 120 hours prior to departure, 1K members 100 hours prior to departure, Premier Executive members, 72 hours prior to departure and Premier members 48 hours prior to departure. If your upgrade has not cleared by the time you check-in, you will be placed on the upgrade list at check-in and elite members will receive upgrades at the gate according to status and booking class.
Complimentary upgrades will not be offered on United’s transcontinental p.s. service between New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco but members can use mileage upgrades, regional upgrades or systemwide upgrades on these flights. To read more about the new policy, visit http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?1925
Bottom line: 1K elite members will benefit the most from United’s new unlimited domestic upgrade policy. While United explains that the upgrade process is simpler and easier since members will no longer need to request an upgrade, now all elite members will qualify for upgrades on every flight (except p.s. service), which means that Premier members at the bottom of the elite pecking order have a slim chance of receiving an upgrade. Elite members flying on less expensive booking classes will also be at a disadvantage since flyers on higher booking classes will be upgraded first. Blogger Gary Leff points out that “there will be far fewer upgrades at booking and more upgrades pushed to the complimentary upgrade window.” Which makes achieving 1K status even more important if you want to be first in line for receiving an upgrade.