Over my many years here, I have seen many threads where folks were asking how to decipher the United upgrade fare codes - now visible on ual.com. And other questions as to what "T" class is, or "D" class or "I" class etc, or "exactly how can I upgrade to Australia" etc.
I and many others have posted assistance to these folks.
However the same or similar questions occur time and time again, as the codes and classes and rules are pretty confusing - even if you are otherwise savvy on UA and MP.
Also the upgrading of United flights is now often a very complex issue, and I have attempted to summarise below info to assist Flyertalkers understand 'how - and with what'
this may be done.
I've been a 1K every year since finding FT in 2000, and the 1K "Systemwide" upgrade certs remain the best option to upgrade of course.
Using the valuable and generous and knowledgeable input from many others, I have over the past 8 years consolidated this info all onto one thread, that possibly can then be referenced as a hotlink to future folks asking these questions. (In much the same way as www.seatguru.com
now assists a lot of folks with questions about specific seats on specific UA aircraft, rather than have the same thread conversations again and again about 8A on a 777 or exit row 15 on a 747 etc.)
Any corrections/amendments please add to the thread, and I will edit where needed, and hopefully it will keep pretty much up with any changes UA may institute in the future.
I do not read every word posted on FT, and the generous input of others re new changes over the years has helped keep this thread relevant.
Start here .........
United since 2002 has allowed us to see on their website (in most cases anyway) EXACTLY what free or upgrade seats are available on every flight. As I travel purely for leisure I can usually choose a day or two either side to fly and is thus very handy.
This feature lets one see up front where there is an immediate upgrade seat to lock-in, or at least select a flight so wide open with light revenue bookings it is likely one will shake out pretty readily if wait-listed.
When UA introduced this, very few other major airlines had this feature, and it was great to see UA allow us to access it.
Here is the short way to access this info:
1. First go to www.ual.com
2. Go to the tab heading 'Mileage Plus' up top
3. Click on 'Redeem Miles' option tab there
4. Click on 'Book flights with miles' tab
5. Log in with your Mileage Plus number and password when prompted
6. Click on 'Standard Awards'
circle button and enter your city pairs
7. Type in an itinerary and class sought - make sure 'Standard'
is checked - not "Saver"
8. Hover your mouse over "Show flight Details" to see what award or upgrade seats are possible.
9. As you can see, you can also hover your mouse over "Show Seat Map" - showing seats still available.
Using step #8 you will see something like this for each flight showing seats right now available in most inventory buckets, including free award seats, and upgrade seats. :
F9, P9, A7, C9, D5, Z5, Y9, B9, M9, H0, Q3, V4, W2, T0, S1, K0, L0, NF1, XF0, NC1, XC0, G2, NY9, XY9
Another site I personally
find quicker and easier to use is www.seatcounter.com
Under "Favourite airlines
(optional)" heading, in the 3 boxes shown there type UA into each of the 3 boxes and then your city pair search (usually!) gets you into "Expert mode" where all the UA class codes will show. (Early 2009 update .. this site got told by UA not
to display award/upgrade classes .. it has yet to be resolved.)
There are special "new" (to us!) classes UA uses that show on this and other similar sites, that need "translating" into terms and award classes we understand. And that UA staff understand - most have little or no clue what "X" or "I" class is, as they are referred to verbally and printed on boarding passes etc as "NF" and "NC" etc.
'R' = XF = First Class - free ticket using miles
'X' = NF = First Class UPGRADE from Business*
'O' = XC = Business Class - free ticket using miles
'I' = NC = Business Class UPGRADE from Economy
'N' = XY = Economy Class - free ticket using miles
is a special USA/Caribbean/Central American AWARD
for 1Ks only - 25,000 RT for lower 48. 35K Caribbean/Central America etc, 40K Hawaii - as far as I can determine. Often easier to get than XY. Indeed the 3 agents I phoned on this tell me there is seldom an issue getting NY seats. (And update - FT reports from July 2009
confirm special "NY" award bucket for 1K/GS, now covers most, if not all, UA worldwide routes!)
You will then see a series of codes like this (but more extensive of course) for each flight:
R4 - X4 - O1 - I5 - N7
This shows how MANY seats are available right now
in each class. Remember that "9" is the maximum
they ever show. There might be really 12 x N seats still on hand etc when you see "9". However you can see getting 2
x "O" (Biz award tickets) is not possible right now on example above. But if you want 2 seats to UPGRADE to Business you are fine, as I5 tells you so.
And if you choose "Standard" and not "Saver" option as I have outlined above, you get to see the standard revenue fare classes available for that flight. So, if you are thinking of wait-listing for an free "XY" coach seat and there are no or few cheaper class H/Q/V/W for sale, you can pretty much bet your free seat is unlikely to ever clear. Choose another flight or date.
Likewise, sweating on an "O" (Biz free ticket wait-list) will be usually pretty pointless if there are few or none revenue C or D class seats for sale showing on that flight etc.
The following is an "A" to "Z" alphabetical listing of every fare class I have been able to determine that is used by UA for buyable or readily obtainable tickets - i.e. no staff, prize tickets, heavily discounted industry tickets or similar internal classes are included on this initial list.
This list INCLUDES
the award ones above, that many on FT need to look up. I have updated and amended this over the years as changes have been spotted by Flyertalkers. Many thanks for their updates, as these classes have often changed.
A = Discounted Fare First Class. Round The World First is booked in this class.
B = Almost Full Fare Economy with minimal restrictions - also used Star * RTW
C = Full Fare Unrestricted Business Class
D = Discounted Fare Business - used also on all "Business" Class Star RTW fares
E = 'Ted' and some low web/discount fares from early 2005. Now officially elevated to above H class!
F = Full Fare Unrestricted First Class
G = Travel Industry Economy Class fares. Feb 2011 rolled out on many lowball bookable coach fares.
H = Higher level Economy Class with few restrictions. Some "RTW" coach is H
I = Business Class Upgrade class from Economy (Better known as 'NC' class)
J = Supposedly Full Fare Business to replace 'C/D' - but C/D still very active as at July 2010 update.
K = Seasonal Economy heavy discount Promotional Fares/Reduced Fare Gov’t contract etc
L = Discount Fare Economy often with a lot of restrictions
M = Almost Full Fare Economy with very few restrictions
N = Economy Class AWARD TICKET (Better known as 'XY' class)
O = Business Class AWARD TICKET (Better known as 'XC' class)
P = Premium USA Transcon First Class on 3 classers
Q = Discount Economy with moderate restrictions. (Bereavement tix are often in Q)
R = First Class AWARD TICKET (Better known as 'XF' class)
S = Real Lowball coach with lot of restrictions. Reports that some are not mile earning ex UK/Brazil etc.
T = Heavy discount Fare Economy - often with a lot of restrictions
U = Showed up Nov/03 as booking class for "TED" also in mid 2005 a high level mainline class!
V = "Mid level" Discount Fare Economy, often with quite a few restrictions
W = "Mid level" Discount Fare Economy, often with some restrictions
X = First Class UPGRADE AWARD from paid Business* (Better known as 'NF')
Y = Full Fare unrestricted Economy class - generally fully refundable
Z = Heavily discounted Business Class - generally NOT "legally" upgradeable.
( * = Applies to THREE class equipment. In TWO class equipment, upgrading from coach to First is also in "NF" class. Two class aircraft [at present!] only run on North American routes. "Two class upgrades" are officially
not allowed for paying pax - i.e. nothing one can do - whether with miles, and/or coupons of any kind will "officially" take you from paid coach to First on a THREE class aircraft.)
United advised end April 2009 that this below is the official "pecking order" in order of fare class hierarchy.
From United's own http://content.united.com/ual/asset/COC22APR09final.pdf Contract of Carriage page 21:
United Airlines, Inc. Updated: April 22, 2009
FARES ARE PUBLISHED IN THE FOLLOWING DESCENDING CLASS OF SERVICE/BOOKING CODE ORDER:
1) FIRST CLASS:
BOOKING CODE: F
2) RESTRICTED FIRST CLASS:
BOOKING CODE: P
BOOKING CODE: A
3) BUSINESS CLASS:
BOOKING CODE: C
4) RESTRICTED BUSINESS CLASS:
BOOKING CODE: D
BOOKING CODE: Z
5) COACH CLASS:
BOOKING CODE: Y
6) RESTRICTED COACH CLASS:
BOOKING CODE: B
BOOKING CODE: M
BOOKING CODE: E
BOOKING CODE: U
BOOKING CODE: H
BOOKING CODE: Q
BOOKING CODE: V
BOOKING CODE: W
BOOKING CODE: S
BOOKING CODE: T
BOOKING CODE: K
BOOKING CODE: L
BOOKING CODE: G
UPGRADES ... and yes it IS now very complicated - blame United! ...
- You may upgrade all USA domestic
tickets with miles UNLESS the fare rules specifically preclude upgrading.
- With International
upgrades using MILES ONLY, there are only two levels of coach classes United PRESENTLY allows mileage upgrades on:
(a) Y and B classes
(b) M and H classes
The former (a) requiring FAR less points, (about HALF as many) reflecting the far higher $$$$ cost of those ticket classes in general. See detailed UA chart re miles upgrades here.
NO other coach classes may be upgraded officially using miles only.
BOTH classes access the "I" class inventory equally. (Or "R" in cases of 2 class aircraft on domestic legs.) In case of a Departure Management (DM) List tie-breaker, CLASS of ticket paid, along with Elite status and time added to DM list are the primary factors used to determine who gets the small number of upgrade seats left at gate.
Until July 2009, the ONLY official way to upgrade a "published" lower priced international
Q, V, W, coach fare was with a SWU, or certain Sales Dept or one-segment certs etc. (However as a "lottery" side bar to this, in 2006 United actively started offering PAID upgrades at check-in for many long haul International flights - $US750 one way
being a typical price point USA-SYD, and the linked thread has updates on this.)
Likewise, "Z" class heavily discounted Business Class fares CANNOT (officially) be upgraded
using either miles or SWU's or Sales Dept upgrade certificates.
From July 2009
a whole new system was unveiled -- official "co-pay".
This meant you could upgrade ANY buyable coach ticket in ADVANCE in upgrade inventory existed (or wait-list it) using a mix of miles AND money. For many months after announcing it, in 2008, hard data has been lacking on all aspects of it, and I'll post it here when it is. (Update - at the 11th hour they canceled the whole thing for the time being and it was supposed to roll out September 2009.)
(Historical note - the very last "PAPER" issue standard 1K Systemwide Upgrades (SWU) were valid mostly until March 31, 2004. (BP6U1K) They when issued VERY sadly did NOT allow International upgrades from fare classes other than (generally high priced) H, B, M, Y, C classes - and a much wider range of fare classes WITHIN North America.
The issue of these far more restrictive SWU's caused enormous discontent among 1Ks. Scores of FT threads were raging on the subject on FT. UA's only initial concession to the resulting RIOT was to add "D" (paid business) class to the It'l classes - and this was printed on back of most (but not all) "2003" mailed SWUs. SWU's mailed before they changed their mind (not very many) had the older wording.
In July 2003 FlyerTalkers were alerted that United were mailing EVERY person who was a current 1K as of a cut-off date in June - FOUR of a "new" type SWU, called "Sweet Spot" certs, Profile code PMO/UG-SWEET SPOT. (Allegedly mailed due to UA's sponsorship of the US Tennis Open.)
These were in effect a transferable SWU allowing use with virtually EVERY buyable fare type in business and coach class. These were valid July 15, 2003 to February 29, 2004 on UA and LH flights.)
In 2004, UA for the first time went to ELECTRONIC
"SWU's" - and all the 1Ks got 6 deposited into their accounts, and 'Million Milers' who were also 1K, got an extra 2, and 1Ks who flew certain specific mile targets during 2003 got extras as well. These e-certs generally expired end January 2005.
From 2005 onward essentially the same deal applied, but with extra SWU's
for folks with very high flown mile plateaus. These expired a year AFTER they were earned - getting away from the "January 31" log jam we used to have each year with masses expiring on same date.
Importantly, these e-SWUs allow relatively lowball priced It'l fares
like V, Q and W classes to be upgraded.
SWUs and Regional USA upgrades ('CR1s' - or 'HK49s' as we used to call them) are issued to 1Ks, and are allegedly transferable on-line. Sadly the UA website "United Dot Bomb"
is often fritzed, and this transfer in reality is often impossible to do in my experience. Or gets badly mangled up, taking hours for MP and CSR to unravel.
However as of 2007 they seem to have got many of these bugs corrected.
A single CR1 can be used to confirm up to 330 days in ADVANCE, any number of same day flights within North America, as long as no 'stop' of 4 hour takes place.
You can track at all times the status of your upgrade request (and even seating you have been allocated) via "My Itineraries" on www.ual.com
(Note that for INTERNATIONAL upgrades
clearing the "Easy Update" feature does NOT in my experience always page or email you when they clear.) Go to front page of www.ual.com
and on the drop-down box under your member sign in click on "My Itineraries" and follow
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