Overview of Upgrading on (legacy) United

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by Rob, Feb 12, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Rob
    Original Member

    Rob Gold Member

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    Who knows what the combined program will bring...

    Unlimited Domestic Upgrades (UDU)
    UDU replaces the old 500 mile upgrade program. On every United-metal, United code flight booked with a upgradeable revenue fare within the United States, except for Premium Service flight between JFK and SFO/LAX, a request should automatically be created at booking time. Unless you're booking within your clearance window, the request will be pending for a while. Occasion lly, the upgrade status will be listed as denied. This is usually harmless, but you can always call in double check. Once your clearance window opens, the status should go to either conf rmed or waitlisted. Sometimes the status will stay as pending, and calling reservations to delete the request and re-request the upgrade will clear things up.
    Global Services may clear starting 120 hours before flight.
    1Ks may clear starting 100 hours before flight.
    Premier Executives (and Continental Presidential Platinums, Platinums, and Golds) may clear starting 72 hours before flight.
    Premiers (and Continental Silvers) may clear starting 48 hours before flight.
    Upgrades are not necessarily confirmed right when the window opens.


    Confirmed Regional Upgrades (CRU or CR-1)
    Region 1 consists of the United States, Canada, Central America, Caribbean and Mexico. Regional upgrades can be used on United-metal, United code, upgradeable revenue fares, have no copay can be used to sponsor upgrades for other people, can be used to upgrade on Premium Service flights, and for multiple segments (until you hit a stopover or an airport you've already flown through). Eligible fares are J C D Y B E M U H Q V W S T K L G. They can clear any time from booking until the gate. If any segment clears and is flown, then the regional upgrade is ded cted from your balance. Prior to 2011 (and in 2011 as a transition period), 1Ks earn two regional upgrades per quarter in which they fly at least 10,000 butt-in-seat revenue miles in Unit d or United Express metal. Additionally, Million Mile flyers earn two regional upgrades per year. During 2011, in addition to the old earning method, two regional upgrades are earned by ny elite that flies 75,000 elite qualifying miles, with an additional two regional upgrades after every additional 25,000 elite qualifying miles. After 2011, only the elite qualifying mil s method of earning will be used. Regional upgrades expire one year after being earned, rounded to the end of the month.


    System Wide Upgrade (SWU)
    SWUs can be used on United-metal, United code, upgradeable revenue fares, have no copay, can be used to sponsor upgrades for other people, and can be used for multiple segments (until you it a stopover or an airport you've already flown through). People have been able to upgrade LHR-SFO-SYD using one SWU for example. When used in region 2 or between regions 1 and 2, fares eligible to be upgraded are: J C D Y B E M U H Q V W. When used solely in region 1, fares eligible are J C D Y B E M U H Q V W S T K L G. When buying a ticket, make sure the inter-contin ntal segments are of an appropriately high fare class by either specifying on the website that you want to upgrade using a systemwide region 2 or calling in and telling a reservations agen . They can clear any time from booking until the gate. If any segment clears and is flown (even a domestic connection), then the systemwide upgrade is deducted from your balance. Prior o 2011, 1Ks earned six systemwides at the beginning of the calendar year and an additional two systemwides per 50,000 elite qualifying miles above 100,000. During and after 2011, members arn six systemwides at 100,000 elite qualifying miles and an additional two systemwides per 50,000 elite qualifying miles after that. Systemwide upgrades expire one year after being earne , rounded to the end of the month. SWUs can also be used on Lufthansa metal on a one SWU per Lufthansa segment on a standby basis at the airport. They must be printed and mailed to the m mber, and can be used by anyone. Reports are that Lufthansa has occasionally been sticky about letting a third party use a SWU. To upgrade something like SFO-FRA-ATH with the SFO-FRA seg ent on UA and the FRA-ATH segment on Lufthansa would require two SWUs.


    Mileage Plus Upgrade Award (Miles+Copay)
    All public paid revenue fares are eligible. The number of miles and the amount of the copay vary widely depending on which regions the flights go through. Within the continental U.S., Al ska, and Canada, elite members don't have to pay any cash when they're one of the party flying. If you waitlist for an upgrade, the miles get pulled immediately, but the copay only gets c arged when the upgrade clears and you checkin. These upgrades can be used on multiple segments until you hit a stopover or an airport that you've already flown through. If any segment cl ars, the full price is charged. If some subset of segments clear that would have a lower cost than the originally quoted copay, the lower cost will be charged. These awards can be sponso ed for other people, and the passenger flying is the one that pays the copay.


    Upgrade for Cash (UFC)
    Upgrades for cash are offered when checking in for a flight or at the airport. They are supposed to only be available when the appropriate NF or NC upgrade space is available and all wait isted elites have already cleared. Prices can vary widely by flight and can only be purchased on a per-segment basis. The prices do not vary by elite status and this upgrade is available to anyone willing to pay the cash.

    Premium Cabin Upsell (PCU)
    Technically, this isn't an upgrade. When you're booking a ticket, sometimes United will offer you premium cabin seating for an extra amount of money. Generally this then books into eithe an A fare or a Z fare and earns the appropriate level of miles for those fares.

    Rebooking/Voluntary Denied Boarding
    Gate agents will occasionally offer to rebook passengers in a premium cabin in exchange for voluntarily denied boarding or just as a way of getting a passenger to their destination if no l wer classes of service are available. This is never guaranteed to happen and depends heavily on elite status and gate agent mood.

    Star Alliance Upgrade Award
    United Mileage Plus members can use their miles to upgrade segments on a variety of other Star Alliance carriers if the passengers are booked into the C D Y B fare classes (with some addit onal fare classes on select airlines). Upgrades are generally expensive and on a per segment basis. These upgrades must be requested by calling United and cannot be waitlisted. No copay is required.
    Members of a variety of other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs can upgrade segments on United but should contact their own program to find out costs and eligible fares.


    Operational Upgrades (Op-Up)
    Occasionally a lower class of service will be oversold and United needs to move passengers to a premium cabin to get them in a seat. In such cases, agents will usually upgrade people with higher elite status or fares, but in a crunch, they can put anyone in any seat they need to. There is no guaranteed way to get this type of upgrade; it's really luck of the draw.

    Sales/Corporate Upgrades
    I've never had or used Sales Upgrades, but they sound pretty similar to regional upgrades.


    500 Mile Upgrades
    These are in the process of being phased out since March 29, 2010. They are no longer for sale nor being granted to elite members. They used to be sold for $325 for a booklet of four to eneral members or $200 for a booklet of four to elite members. United also used to grant a complimentary booklet of four to elites after flying every 10,000 butt-in-seat miles on United m tal in a calendar year. They could be redeemed in region 1 only (continental U.S., Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Central America, Caribbean and Mexico) at a rate of one 500 mile certificate per 500 flight miles, with an allowance for an extra 50 miles per direction. Within standard connection times, if the upgrades cleared before gate control, the number of upgrades pulled were quivalent to the distance between points and not the distance of the flights. I would go into more detail, but it really doesn't matter now. They were applicable to most published fares nd could clear anywhere from 120 hours prior to flight up until the door is closed. They could not be transferred to other members, but could be used to upgrade other people on the same i inerary as the owner.


    Perks Plus
    It's possible to earn points with Perks Plus and redeem them for systemwide or regional upgrades.


    Finding Upgrade Space
    Using united.com, enable expert mode and then do an award search. Click the 'flight details' link and take a look at the fare buckets. If you're on a 2-cabin aircraft in region 1 you want the NF bucket to be greater than 0 (except for Mexico, where you want the NC bucket to be greater than 0) or unless you're connecting from an international direct flight in which case you also want NC (although I'm not 100% certain of this). If you're on a 3-cabin aircraft you want NC if you're trying to upgrade from coach or NF if you're trying to upgrade from business.

    Sponsoring upgrades
    When you sponsor an upgrade for someone else online, there should be no extra work required. If you have to call in (or sponsor in person), you'll also need to sign an authorization generally known as a bluey. This has to be done before the sponsored traveller can check in but otherwise has no hard time requirement. You can wait to sign the form until the next time you're at the airport.

    Per united.com, "The list is prioritized based on Mileage Plus status: 1K® member status gets priority, then Premier Executive®, Premier® and other members." Global Services go ahead of 1Ks. Million miler status has no effect on the waitlist.

    Upgrading award tickets
    This is only possible for Global Services members, and upgrade space must be available when requested for it to clear. No waitlisting.

    Codeshares and Metal
    If you're booked on another partner's code but United metal, it's harder to get upgraded. For the most part, you can only waitlist when you checkin. For UDU, technically you're not supposed to be put on the waitlist at all.

    One exception is the Aer Lingus Washington-Dulles/Madrid flights (IAD-MAD) which even though operated by Aer Lingus are treated as United metal when booked under the United code.

    Ticket stock
    Being ticketed on stock other than United shouldn't matter. Segments that are part of Round The World (RTW) tickets can be upgraded like pretty much any other segment.

    Switching between upgrade types
    If multiple upgrade types are eligible for a given segment, it's possible to switch between them. Within region 1, it's very easy to switch between systemwides and regionals. If an upgrade hasn't been confirmed yet, it's easy to switch between miles and regionals/systemwides. If the upgrade has been cleared and there's still upgrade availability, it's easy to switch. If the upgrade has been cleared and there is no longer upgrade availability, it's a lot harder to switch between miles and regionals/systemwides, but still possible. If you want to switch from a miles/regional/systemwide supported upgrade to a complimentary UDU, there has to be upgrade availability within your clearance window and either a) if you're calling in, your original fare class has to be available, or b) if you're at the airport, your original class of service has to be available.

    Other issues
    There's a known glitch with United's IT systems where it's possible for a waitlisted upgrade to clear after a passenger checks in online but before the flight goes to departure management. In that case, the boarding pass is not necessarily automatically updated and when the passenger gets to the gate, they appear to still be waitlisted for the upgrade. In that case, the upgrade may be lost and someone else might receive it. If your upgrade status changes to confirmed (which may or may not generate an email or text message EasyUpdate), ask an agent to offload you then re-check you in.

    A lot of United's webpages state that G is not an upgrade eligible fare, but I believe them to be outdated as G only recently (written Feb 12, 2011) switched over to being a normal revenue fare.

    There's another glitch where sometimes United's website won't show certain options when requesting upgrades that should be eligible. For example, I just today requested an upgrade for a MIA-IAD-LAX-SFO itinerary with a regional upgrade. Going to the website only showed an option to upgrade with a systemwide, so I had to call in and request the upgrade with a reservations agent.

    In general, United does not allow double upgrades. The main exceptions to this are Upgrades For Cash and Operational Upgrades.

    See also
  2. thanks great post.
  3. lhrsfo
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    lhrsfo Silver Member

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    On SWUs you can in addition (at least, I have in the past) use them on UA metal but BD code flights booked into an upgradeable fare class. However, they cannot be applied until check in, so they are much less likely to clear.
  4. Rob
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    Rob Gold Member

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    Hi lhrsfo,
    That's what I meant in the Codeshares and Metal section.

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