New 1K - Cant find any date to use SWU SFO-LHR

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by ClarkyBoy, Apr 19, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. ClarkyBoy
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    ClarkyBoy Silver Member

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    Hi all,

    First year as 1K, only used my SWU once on a PS flight.

    Now I need to go to London (SFO-LHR), and I have a few days flexibility on going and returning even though it's a buisiness trip - spent 30 min on the phone with the most non-caring 1K helpdesk person I've experienced (SPG Plat/Hilton Diamond/1K - all customer care are ups and downs, but this one was horrible).

    Anyways, am I missing something being a 1K newbie or I just assumed to much that i can find a SWU open business seat 30 days in advance?

    Any tips, or tools i can use to look for myself, or just accept it and move on?

    Thanks!

    ClarkyBoy
     
  2. mherdeg
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    mherdeg Silver Member

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    To upgrade from economy to business class, your flight will need to have availability in the "NC" bucket.

    You can find this availability online.

    Step 1: Sign in to united.com (not shown).

    Step 2: Make sure you're in expert mode (you only need to do this once).
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Step 3: Make an award booking and check the "flight details". Caveat: the flight must have at least 1 seat for sale in any cabin for this method to work. Usually not a problem if you're looking to buy and SWU a flight :)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Some bonus tips:
    1. Last time I checked, there was a 747 ORD-LHR that often had ample upgrade space. The business class product there is awesome, especially on the upper deck!
    2. Last time I checked, the following domestic flights had the new configuration business class:
      UA364 LAX-DEN
      UA750 LAX-DEN
      UA728 DEN-ORD
      UA972 SFO-ORD

      UA894 DEN-LAX
      UA698 DEN-LAX
      UA907 ORD-SFO
     
  3. ClarkyBoy
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    ClarkyBoy Silver Member

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    Thanks mherdeg for the amazingly detailed and educational reply!
    I looked across 2 days of May 14/15 RT 21/22 and got tons of flights, but non with NC+. I did get some NF+ but assuming those are TA first class open seats i can't upgrade to with the SWU.

    i'll keep looking...Maybe resort to miles :(

    Thanks

    ClarkyBoy
     
  4. ClarkyBoy
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    ClarkyBoy Silver Member

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    er.. do miles upgrade have other buckets, or still need NC+?
     
  5. RichardInSF
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    RichardInSF Silver Member

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    And then search and search and you will discover that there is no confirmable Y->C space for months at a time.

    As you may already know, you have to pay at least a W fare to upgrade with SWUs. In the past, the difference between W and the lowest available fare was small, often less than $50. That's changed, now it can be hundreds of dollars.

    You can book in W and hope your upgrade clears, but if not, you're left with an expensive coach seat. And it happens, more than you'd like. I personally don't pay W unless I can confirm the upgrade at time of booking.

    Note that while SFO-LHR and return are usually operated with new configuration 777's, the last time I took it, it was downgraded one way to the old configuration a few days before flight time. So even if you get the upgrade, you still might not end up in a flat bed seat -- although even in the old configuration, the difference in comfort to Y is considerable.

    BTW, while NC space is very hard to get, NF space (from paid business to first) is easy. But SWUs cannot be used on business class tickets booked into Z class.

    All upgrades come out of the same NC bucket. Miles+cash, SWU, etc.
     
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  6. ClarkyBoy
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    ClarkyBoy Silver Member

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    Thanks Richard!
    I was afraid that would be the answer....

    Is there anyway to know what the waitlist on between flights? AKA i'll take a chance on flight A vs. B because i have better chances?

    1K desk said no, but as i wrote before, that lady sounded like she wants me to hang up on her...

    ClarkyBoy
     
  7. lhrsfo
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    lhrsfo Silver Member

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    I have found it very rare indeed to see any NC space available on any dates I've ever wanted to fly this route (I have some flexibility on dates, but usually within a window of a week or so). I have also found that when I am waitlisted for a SWU, on the Eastbound flight it clears about 2/3 of the time at the gate or within a day or so of departure and fails about 1/3 of the time. Westbound is better, clearing about half the time a week or so before the flight and then, of the rest, about 3/4 of the time on the day before, on the day or at the gate.

    As RichardinSF says, the difference between the lowest fare and a W fare can nowadays be quite high - although the nearer we get to summer, the less it is IME (principally because the lowest fares are no longer available).
     
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  8. ClarkyBoy
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    ClarkyBoy Silver Member

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    Thanks lhrsfo, very helpful.
    What's the easiest way to force a W fare search in .bomb?
    Thanks
     
  9. Misplaced Texan
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    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

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    When you're on .bomb you should see a box for "I would like to use this upgrade" in the flight search menu. You need to select "systemwide region 2." If you don't see the box, try clicking on advanced search.

    Also, a few days of flexibility 30 days out isn't really a wide window to find NC space. You'd have better luck either many months out or within a few days of departure. In the first instance you're likely to find a few seats in both NC and XC around 330 days. In the second, if loads are light you'll start seeing more NC released. Of course, at that point you may have to buy well above a W fare dues to advanced purchase requirements.

    The other worthwhile piece of advice is to keep an eye out for Z bucket availability. Z is the discount business fare and if it is still available, then demand for paid business isn't super-high on that route/flight. There's no guarantee that you'll get upgraded on a flight that is Z9, but it's definitely true that you're less likely to find upgrade space on a flight that is Z0 because that means they have sold/expect to sell a lot of paid business.

    Finally, consider connecting through IAD rather than trying to go non-stop from SFO. If nothing else, it shortens the trip in economy compared to SFO-LHR if you don't clear. And from casual observation there seems to be less competition for upgrades on IAD departures to Europe than from SFO or ORD.
     
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  10. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Having done both in Y, I can agree with that. After the first 5 hr flying back from LHR to SFO, I was about ready to hand my CC to the FA and tell her to keep pouring until I pass out. That boring. Stopping in IAD was quite bearable. Also, even if the TATL legs in and out of IAD don't clear, at least you have a shot at a UDU for the domestic legs.
     
  11. MarkUK
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    MarkUK Milepoint Guide

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    You should be aware that if you waitlist for the upgrade, there are a lot of Global Services passengers in SFO and they will trump you for the upgrade. The last time I tried this I was 8th (of 9) at the gate upgrades.
     
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  12. joanek
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    joanek Silver Member

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    Here is another vote for trying flights with a connection. I've never missed an IAD upgrade as either a 1k or premex. Chicago a bit tougher, but even LA can work. Check all your possibilities daily.
     
  13. lhrsfo
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    lhrsfo Silver Member

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    Be aware, when searching for upgradeable fares, that .bomb has a well-known glitch in that, on certain flights, it returns fares that are not upgradeable, with a message saying as much. This is fine, but there is often W availability on those flights and the only way of accessing the W availability is to call.

    IME, LAX-LHR is a much easier upgrade than SFO, especially in winter. Personally I avoid the ones which stop in IAD or ORD as I would far rather have a very long and a short flight, rather than two long flights. Eastbound, it's much easier sleeping for a good time rather than two interrupted short sessions. Westbound, I find the whole Immigration routine at IAD to be extremely painful and this is compounded at ORD with the tram transfer between terminals. LAX is not great but acceptable. SFO is way the best and, in the days of DEN, that was an excellent option also.
     
  14. Infinite1K
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    Infinite1K Silver Member

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    Some other options:
    • If you are going the route of connecting, the second SFO-FRA (777) flight usually has a better shot for upgrades than the first SFO-FRA (747). You can then catch a LH flight to LCY or LHR. I find this to be better than connecting at LAX/IAD/ORD to LHR because you are in a proper C class seat for the biggest chunk of your flight. And for the return you fly in directly into SFO and the painless passport control facilities. Transferring at ORD, IAD, or LAX can be a zoo-like and time-consuming affair, involving a second screening and terminal changes in the case of ORD.
    • If you have flexibility and can break your flight into three legs, then flying through ORD to AMS/BRU/FRA/MUC or IAD to AMS/BRU/FRA/MUC will give you some better chances for the over the water segment for C upgrades.
     
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  15. RichardInSF
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    RichardInSF Silver Member

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    Curiously, if you fly LHR/LCY-FRA-SFO, the added tax will also be significantly lower than LHR-SFO since you won't be subject to anywhere near as high a UK departure tax. Should save $100+ on a C/F ticket. Another alternative is to take the Eurostar to BRU and fly BRU-ORD/IAD-SFO, this avoids the British departure tax entirely (and the Eurostar fare is often lower cost than the lowest tax) but it can require an overnight in BRU.

    However, now we are getting into "advanced" award ticketing!
     

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