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United Airlines

Here’s How to Upgrade Your Seat With United’s New System

Here’s How to Upgrade Your Seat With United’s New System
Joe Cortez

Newly minted and heritage United Airlines MileagePlus elites are getting used to a whole new system to request upgrades. Now called “PlusPoints,” how can FlyerTalkers actually use them to fly in style around the world?

Both longtime and new United Airlines MileagePlus high-tier elites have a major change to navigate when it comes to requesting their earned upgrades. Moving away from the old Regional Premier and Global Premier Upgrade system, flyers can now resolve their upgrade requests with “PlusPoints.”

Why are holiday flyers now dealing with a new system, how can you actually use those points? More importantly, is it wise to earn those points now for an upgrade?

Global Premier Upgrades, Regional Premier Upgrades and “PlusPoints”

Prior to 2020, high-tier United MileagePlus elites were granted a number of Global Premier Upgrades and Regional Premier Upgrades upon hitting their status. As their namesake suggests, these upgrades could be used to secure upgrades on regional routes (within North America, Hawaii and Oceania) or global routes, everywhere United and their Star Alliance partners fly.

However, United is making a major change in 2020, moving away from the Premier Upgrade system to the “PlusPoints” system. Instead of getting a set number of Premier Upgrades to use, flyers will receive a pool of points, by which they can bid on upgrades where available. PlusPoints received a mixed review on the FlyerTalk forums: while the points do grant some flexibility, they can also be hard to use and leave flyers with an un-redeemable amount left over at the end of the year.

Using PlusPoints for Upgrades

Under the new system, is it possible to still get a good upgrade on United? Some FlyerTalkers are reporting confirmed upgrades for future flights. On the forums, FlyerTalker Aussienarelle confirmed an upgrade to United Polaris flying from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to London Heathrow Airport (LHR). It cost them 30 PlusPoints and was an easy request with everything correctly aligned.

After the transition, United Premier and 1K members received a number of PlusPoints based on their status. Premier Platinums qualifying in 2019 received 40 PlusPoints, while Premier 1K flyer received an additional 280 PlusPoints.

To request an upgrade, flyers can log onto United.com or use the United smartphone app. If their itinerary is qualified for an upgrade, they can request one using their PlusPoints balance. If the upgrade is successful, the points will be deducted from their account and their upgrade will be processed. If not, no points will be taken from their account.

Depending on how you want to upgrade, it may cost you different amounts of points. A short-haul upgrade inside North America, northern South America, Hawaii, and Guam may cost as little as 20 PlusPoints, while international flights can cost as much as 80 PlusPoints. To price your itinerary, check out the United website.

If you are a United Premier 1K or Global Services flyer and can’t use your points, you may be in luck. FlyerTalkers report United will extend the life of some points expiring Dec. 31, 2019, if you request it.

Were you successful in requesting a PlusPoints upgrade? Share your experience on the FlyerTalk forums!

View Comments (6)

6 Comments

  1. bagwell

    December 18, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    amazes me when I see 35 people on an upgrade list on an international UA flight, IAH-AMS being the most recent. This NEVER used to be the case, never would happen.

  2. White Eagle

    December 18, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    UNITED is always finding a way to cheat their PAX out of their mileage. After UNITED stole my last 80,000 miles, I decided to leave UNITED’S UNfriendly skies forever. I just chuckle sardonically when I read about UNITED’S silly new schemes to filch their frequent flyers of every single inch, let alone mile…

  3. sfcharles1

    December 19, 2019 at 8:51 am

    As a 1k you received 4 intl upgrade coupons- usable for 4 flights
    Now you get 280 points..
    So if you need 80 points for an upgrade now, you get only 3 flights.
    And you got 6 regional upgrade coupons.
    Thanks United!
    Way to discover a way to screw your loyal customers…
    But you know technically, since over the last five years you almost never have been able to use an upgrade coupon for domestic or international… They really haven’t changed anything, have they?
    But my favorite screw is this sham called “instant upgrade “– or the M class fare…. I recently tried to use it and could not because no instant upgrades were available… So I bought the business class ticket and in selecting my seat found that not one single business class seat had been sole… They were completely empty.. every seat Orange…and open…

    Just another scam.

  4. FiveMileFinal

    December 21, 2019 at 11:24 am

    Want F? Buy F.
    Want J? Buy J.
    Believe it or not, you’ll spend less money this way.
    United plays for itself at the end of the day.

  5. Klick23

    December 25, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    I have already had success booking upgrades to Shanghai from Newark; SFO to Auckland; Sydney to Houston; and Tokyo to LAX. All for 40 points each and around $1,200 for airfare. System seems very similar to last year in terms of availability.

  6. denver19

    January 2, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    United 1K here. Get 1K based on flights between Maui and the Mainland monthly. Couldnt upgrade witht the old RPU/GPU. Cant upgrade now with points. Its aggravating.

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