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Old Jul 29, 12, 4:13 pm   #1
 
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International Premium Cabin Capacity

Just had a general question. It seems like some airlines will run an empty business/first cabin over upgrading elite members to fill the cabin and some will try to fill open up open premium cabin seats with upgrading elite members from Y. What is UA's stance on this? Also is it more of a practice of the USA airlines because it seems like the Middle Eastern/Asian carriers do NOT have this practice where they upgrade its elite members from Y. Am I wrong or right here and if someone could shed light if there is a general standard with this practice or does it vary with airline?
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Old Jul 29, 12, 4:22 pm   #2
 
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Originally Posted by FlyGuy24 View Post
Just had a general question. It seems like some airlines will run an empty business/first cabin over upgrading elite members to fill the cabin and some will try to fill open up open premium cabin seats with upgrading elite members from Y. What is UA's stance on this? Also is it more of a practice of the USA airlines because it seems like the Middle Eastern/Asian carriers do NOT have this practice where they upgrade its elite members from Y. Am I wrong or right here and if someone could shed light if there is a general standard with this practice or does it vary with airline?
The only way to upgrade on international flights marketed at BusinessFirst or GlobalFirst is to either pay, use miles, or with an upgrade certificate. Sometimes if you are EXTREAMLY lucky and coach is over sold, they may do an operational upgrade. There are no complimentary upgrades and yes, the seats will go empty.
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Old Jul 29, 12, 4:23 pm   #3
 
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Please do a little research before you post. Any previous threads or United.com are your friend.

United upgrades elite members free of charge on flights within the USA, Canada, Mexico, and Micronesia for the most part.

On all other flights you need to use miles+money, a Regional Premier Upgrade, or a Global Premier Upgrade.

Again, a few minutes research will find you the details.
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Old Jul 29, 12, 4:29 pm   #4
 
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It's pretty much United policy not for premium cabin seats to go empty if there are customers waitlisted for that premium cabin. However, you have to get on the waitlist with a valid instrument: GPU/RPU or miles+money.

Last edited by sannmann; Jul 29, 12 at 4:35 pm..
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Old Jul 29, 12, 4:29 pm   #5
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Originally Posted by zigenbock View Post
Sometimes if you are EXTREAMLY lucky and coach is over sold, they may do an operational upgrade. There are no complimentary upgrades and yes, the seats will go empty.
Yup, they will, and have, flown with empty Biz seats internationally.

In the last ten years or so of flying to Asia about twice a year got my first op up (as did quite a few others) earlier this year

Of course they cancelled my return flight, but that's another story

But they do sell quite a few upgrades using Miles and Ca$h in addition to the SWUs that 1K can use. Er, GPUs

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Old Jul 29, 12, 4:33 pm   #6
 
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A little reasoning for the upgrades:

Domestically:

very few people pay for first class. it's good but not necessary enough for most people to justify the cost. united's goal is to make the most money possible from each plane. no matter how good they make first class domestically, not that many people will pay for it. so they've made it a decent product that gets a lot of upgrades. the upgrades make elites happy and keep elites buying ua tickets and also frees up last minute space for standby and more importantly last minute economy fares (which are expensive=$$$ for united).

Internationally:

at least in the case of BusinessFirst (GlobalFirst is a bit different right now):

people do value this and pay big bucks for this or instruments (ie. miles and global premier upgrades which frees united of previous committments). United makes revenue this way; if they give these away for free no one will buy the seats. Since they make so much money off BF seats, it's more worth UA's while to leave a couple empty than to make a practice of giving them away. Also the last minute economy seats available are not as big of a deal since people jump onto a last minute international flight less often.

GlobalFirst-supposed to be very luxurious, exclusive for very posh customers or instrument supported upgrades. these days not as luxurious, ua management looks to be trying to phase out.
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Old Jul 29, 12, 4:35 pm   #7
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OP mentions that there are air carriers which do freebie UG's on intl. Without hair-splitting about short cross-border hops to Canada/Mexico, which carriers do give out free UG's (as opposed to OPUPS)?
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Old Jul 29, 12, 4:53 pm   #8
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Originally Posted by EmailKid View Post
Yup, they will, and have, flown with empty Biz seats internationally. ...
my ex-FRA to USA flight last week had a couple of empty business cabin seats.

Quote:
Originally Posted by EmailKid View Post
... In the last ten years or so of flying to Asia about twice a year got my first op up (as did quite a few others) earlier this year ....
Out of >50 TATL/TPAC over 20+ years, most in Y, only one Op-Up.
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Old Jul 29, 12, 6:14 pm   #9
 
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Does Ua ever offer a double upgrade? Ie..upgrade from coach to bus with miles and than offer a chance to move to global first?
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Old Jul 29, 12, 6:19 pm   #10
 
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Originally Posted by Jalen500 View Post
Does Ua ever offer a double upgrade? Ie..upgrade from coach to bus with miles and than offer a chance to move to global first?
There's a thread for that.

It's very rare, and almost always for the airline's convenience (i.e. in an oversold condition). It has been against policy to allow passenger-initiated double upgrades (using instruments, cash, etc.). There were reported instances where it did happen a few years ago on PMUA ("Premium Cabin Upsells") from already upgraded tickets, but those days are long gone.
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Old Jul 30, 12, 12:00 am   #11
 
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
my ex-FRA to USA flight last week had a couple of empty business cabin seats.
Can confirm that from personal experience and friends I have booked on UA.
Mostly were mid-week flights. For more details plse refer to the "SWU upgrade success" where I generally report such everybody-got-upgraded-flights.
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Old Jul 30, 12, 2:07 am   #12
 
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I think where the OP did get the right impression is that it is far harder to get into the business cabin in many non-US airlines. Upgrades require more (whether cash or instruments), and they are generally happy to let an entire cabin go out almost empty. Again, op-ups may come into play but I get the impression that these are less frequent on all airlines nowdays than they use to be say 15 years ago (when I used to get them relatively frequently on international roures even with carriers where I had no status).
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Old Jul 30, 12, 3:32 am   #13
 
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Originally Posted by OtleyFlyer View Post
Again, op-ups may come into play but I get the impression that these are less frequent on all airlines nowdays than they use to be say 15 years ago (when I used to get them relatively frequently on international roures even with carriers where I had no status).
Got my first op-up at the gate on UA two weeks ago MAN-IAD after 3 years as 1P/1K. Y was oversold. Doing the route again today and don't expect it will happen again
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Old Jul 30, 12, 7:11 am   #14
 
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I've been lucky with op-ups.

From 3 roundtrips between NRT and SEA I've had free BF upgrades from a Q fare on 3 of the 6 segments. On one other occasion I paid around 600 for the upgrade and the other 2 times I sat in Y

Last week I paid a HODs ($560) upgrade from a Q fare to BF flying SFO->NRT. I was then given an op-up to GF.

I am also routinely offered a double buy up (if I buy up to BF I will usually be offered a buy up to GF for around 1.5 times the BF buy up cost). This seems to be a website glitch however, caused by OLCIs failure to handle international customers who are resident in a country that is different to the one that issues their passport.

Before everyone gets too excited I think the reason for my luck is two-fold:

1) I always happened to be on the old config. No one would really pay full fare for BF or GF in this case would they? Especially since the new config operates on these routes too.

2) I often fly close to holidays so there are no doubt a lot of families filling up Y.

I guess buying a Q fare may have helped...I only bought that because it was the cheapest available at the time but that often costs around $2000.
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Old Jul 30, 12, 10:08 am   #15
 
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The original post hints at a more interesting question: why is it that Asian and Middle Eastern carriers fly so much more often with empty premium seats? Taking ORD-HKG as an example, on UA I have never seen an empty seat (except maybe for a very late no-show or something aberrant) whereas on CX there are routinely at least few empty seats. I remember flying ICN-HKG on KE last year and I swear 1/2 the upper deck of A380 was empty. Then flew Qatar long-haul last week and 1/3 of the business cabin was empty. Somehow I never see this kind of thing on UA international long-haul flights.

Maybe they're convinced that offering mass upgrades devalues the product and is ultimately deleterious to both revenue and brand positioning?
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