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Some Paid Upgrades Count Towards PQD & mileage bonus and some DON'T!

Some Paid Upgrades Count Towards PQD & mileage bonus and some DON'T!

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Old Nov 11, 18, 4:05 am   -   Wikipost
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One of the more confusing aspects of cash upgrades is "does this upgrade get premium cabin mileage bonus and is the fee included in PQD?"

The best assumption is no bonus and fee is not included in PQD but there are some cases where there will be a premium cabin bonus and amount will count toward PQD.

There are multiple cash upgrade paths and different ones are offered at different times (and can be quite hard to separate).

The key is what is the new fare basis after the upgrade. Note R, RN, P, PN, ZN, ON, A and others have been reported.
  • Many of the upgrade offers results in R/PN/ZN fare class (and post as Zx) -- so like a regular upgrade the mileage posting is based on the original fare class. The upgrade fee does not earn PQDs.
  • Others bump the fare basis to a -UP fare which reports as a P/Z/A fare class, these are now earning PQMs at the up-fared fare class and the up-fare costs earns PQDs.
  • And others book into a true P/Z/A fare basis and will earn the PQM bonus and the up-fare cost will earn PQDs.

The following are generally not eligible for PQD or bonus:
  • Pop-up upgrade immediately following purchase on united.com
  • Last minute upgrade at check-in
Generally these will be priced as $xx9 (ending in 9 dollars) and reflected on the receipt as
Additional Charges:
Date/CreditCard XXXX was charged xxx USD for the Merchandising / EDD
xxx USD for: Premium Cabin Upgrade
However the offer, in "My Reservations" via the cash method tab "Buy Up to First" under "View {Upgrade} Options" is likely to be eligible for PQDs & PQM bonus.
**** Due to UA changes in May 2018, this statement may not be relieable ****
**** This now appears to be an Upgrade Fee (no PQDs) and may book into Upgrade fare class (no extra PQMs) or into a mileage earning bonus fare class (PQMs earning). Unclear if that is a way to tell which will happen ****

Generally these will be reflected on the receipt as
Add Collect: An additional amount for the difference in fare was charged to {card} on {date}. $yyy USD per ticket for an additional total of $yyy USD was collected.
Notice the words "generally" and "likely" -- those are weasel words to protect the wiki author because of the lack of transparency in this system
For instance, some time of checkin paid upgrades that book into P, will earn PQM bonus but not earn PQDs.
Checking the actual fare basis during booking when you are given access (or using the Saudi site) is key in understanding the outcome.


UA Insider commented on this a while back, but there has been no improvement in the confusion / clarity in the meantime.
Originally Posted by UA Insider View Post
Hi Everyone,

Iíve done a little bit of research on this, and I wanted to share some background on the scenario vandrei shared.

At a high level, and as a some of you have noticed more recently in the thread, the buy-up offer we sometimes present immediately upon booking an economy ticket is indeed distinct from the one presented when viewing a reservation in My Account at some point after the flight has been ticketed and confirmed. For example, the offer at booking enables customers to the flexibility to confirm an upgraded seat on a segment-by-segment basis, whereas the one in My Reservations is based on the line of flight.

Additionally, from a functional perspective, the offer immediately upon booking does not change the underlying fare basis for the original purchased fare (even though the visible fare class is reflective of the buy-up inventory), whereas the one in My Reservations results in a complete re-issue of the existing ticket. It is this aspect of the functionality which drives mileage accrual, which is based on the original purchased fare for the offer immediately after booking, but based on the new fare class for the offer in My Reservations. These policies are disclosed in each offerís respective (and indeed, different) terms and conditions.

Longer-term, the vision is indeed to align mileage accrual policies between the two types of offers. In the meantime, the tradeoff between the two offers continues to be one of additional miles vs. the flexibility to confirm on a segment-by-segment basis.

Aaron Goldberg
Sr. Manager - Customer Experience Planning
United Airlines
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Old Apr 29, 13, 7:52 pm
  #1  
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Unhappy Some Paid Upgrades Count Towards PQD & mileage bonus and some DON'T!

In Jan. 2013, I booked tickets for two trips this month, one to SFO and a second to SLC. I believe that the original tickets were in L class.

Immediately after booking each of the tickets, I was presented with a cash buy-up offers to first class. According to the offers, I would earn additional MileagePlus miles based on the new fare class (in this case, both tickets were booked into P class, which should earn 150% PQM/RDM and 1.5 PQS).

I ended up taking both offers because I felt that the price was reasonable and, frankly, flying across the country (or almost all the way, in the case of SLC) in domestic first class is still way ahead of flying in economy.

Note that you can get similar cash buy-up offers by opening up a future reservation in your United.com account and clicking "Upgrade Your Flight," if available. Clicking on "What's the difference?" yields the following screenshot, taken from one of my future reservations:



Also note that these were NOT TOD/OLCI upgrade offers (which will book into ZL class for a L class ticket) or mile-based upgrades. The offers changed the underlying fare basis on both tickets from L to P, as reflected on the itinerary and receipt pages that I received by e-mail and can still view on my United.com account. The Premier Desk agent whom I called (see further below) confirmed that both tickets were P class tickets.

[United Hub also has a chart illustrating the difference between buy ups and mile-based upgrades.]

Anyways, this month, I went on both trips and had a lot of fun.

However...

When I got home, I found out that both flights were credited to my MileagePlus account as if they were booked in L class.



I called both the MileagePlus Service Center and the Premier Desk.

The MileagePlus Service Center pointed me to this Web page that, under "Exceptions," states:
"Note that the booking class that appears on your ticket may differ from the booking class that the operating airline uses to determine flight miles earned."
and this Web page that, under FAQs, states
Will I earn additional miles for upgrading to a premium cabin?

No. Paid upgrades are considered a special offer. Mileage accrual will be based on the original purchased fare.
On that basis, the MileagePlus Service Center refused to credit my account with additional PQM/RDM/PQS.

When I called the Premier Desk, the agent, who was far more helpful, confirmed that both of my tickets were P class tickets...but, when I mentioned the cash buy-up offer, she said that United's policy was that the tickets would only credit into the original L class because they were obtained through a cash buy-up offer. Other P class tickets (at higher prices) would credit into P class.

The agent seemed a bit confused and very cautious. The agent also mentioned that there were other Premier members calling, unhappy that they were not receiving the additional advertised PQM/RDM/PQS for cash buy-ups. The agent in fact told me that if I had not mentioned the cash buy-ups, she would have thought both tickets were P class tickets.

At this point, I'm not sure what to do. I feel that I have been deceived (bait and switch), and I am looking for next steps.

Moderators, if you feel this should be merged into another thread, please do so. Thanks.
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Old Apr 29, 13, 7:58 pm
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Call back and mention that your P-class tickets credited incorrectly, as L, and that you want the bonus miles for P. Don't get into the buy-up, etc.
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Old Apr 29, 13, 8:05 pm
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I agree that the text you were shown at time of purchasing was misleading.

Frankly, an outright lie. It's seems that they were trying to cheat you deliberately and without shame.

How else could anyone interpret these words:

"Bonus award miles and Premier Qualifying earnings based on the new fare."

There was a link, it said: "See Chart"

The only way I could be convinced that this was not an outright lie is if the "See Chart" contained clearly visible text that described the exceptions you were subsequently pointed to.

But, even then, why say: "Bonus award miles and Premier Qualifying earnings based on the new fare?"

Who, and under what circumstances, would get what was promised by that statement? It sounds like - nobody, ever. Never.

Did you click on the link to the chart? Do you recall what it said?

Even the exception text that they sent to you doesn't hold water:

"Paid upgrades are considered a special offer. Mileage accrual will be based on the original purchased fare."

Because, how do you know when you have a paid upgrade or when you were simply buying up to the P fare?

As we all know very well, some of these offers are TODs/HODs when they allow you to get into F without paying the prevailing fare.

But, *everyone* has the option to "buy up" into F, at all times. For those not getting a special offer, it's just the fare difference from current fare to prevailing F fare. And, to the user, both options look identical. Only someone with intensive knowledge could hope to determine when it's an upgrade, when it's a special offer, or when it's just paying the normal fare difference.

That is not an "upgrade" - that is a change of fare.

This is sleazy beyond anything I've seen thus far.

This may fall into DOT jurisdiction and I'm sure it falls under FTC jurisdiction.

Kudos to you for capturing the screen shots. One cannot do *anything* with this airline anymore without documenting every last pixel.

Last edited by FlyWorld; Apr 29, 13 at 8:10 pm
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Old Apr 29, 13, 8:11 pm
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Originally Posted by mitchmu View Post
How else could anyone interpret these words:

"Bonus award miles and Premier Qualifying earnings based on the new fare."

There was a link, it said: "See Chart"

The only way I could be convinced that this was not an outright lie is if the "See Chart" contained clearly visible text that described the exceptions you were subsequently pointed to.

But, even then, why say: "Bonus award miles and Premier Qualifying earnings based on the new fare?"

Who, and under what circumstances, would get what was promised by that statement? It sounds like - nobody, ever. Never.

Did you click on the link to the chart? Do you recall what it said?

Even the exception text that they sent to you doesn't hold water:

"Paid upgrades are considered a special offer. Mileage accrual will be based on the original purchased fare."

Because, how do you know when you have a paid upgrade or when you were simply buying up to the P fare?

As we all know very well, some of these offers are TODs/HODs when they allow you to get into F without paying the prevailing fare.

But, *everyone* has the option to "buy up" into F, at all times. For those not getting a special offer, it's just the fare difference from current fare to prevailing F fare.

That is not an "upgrade" - that is a change of fare.

This is sleazy beyond anything I've seen thus far.

This may fall into DOT jurisdiction and I'm sure it falls under FTC jurisdiction.
The chart took me to this page on United's Web site. Per that page, P class earns 150%.

My itinerary and receipt for both itineraries shows me in P class on both tickets.
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Old Apr 29, 13, 8:11 pm
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Interesting ...

I haven't seen that text before as I always assumed buy-ups aren't eligible for bonus RDMs/PQMs (however fare changes to a higher class are). Maybe this a change that wasn't relayed to the agents (as it seems like we have to do a lot of the relaying)?
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Old Apr 29, 13, 8:11 pm
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Originally Posted by exerda View Post
Call back and mention that your P-class tickets credited incorrectly, as L, and that you want the bonus miles for P. Don't get into the buy-up, etc.
I will try again tomorrow.

At this point, I'm tired after getting sent in circles for two hours.

Originally Posted by edcho View Post
Interesting ...

I haven't seen that text before as I always assumed buy-ups aren't eligible for bonus RDMs/PQMs. Maybe this a change that wasn't relayed to the agents (as it seems like we have to do a lot of the relaying)?
According to United's Web site, cash buy ups are eligible for bonus PQMs/RDMs/PQS.

I don't remember the specific threads on FT, but I remember reading that cash buy ups change the actual fare class, whereas OLCI/TOD offers or mile-based offers book into (Z-whatever the original class was).

Also, this was an actual fare class change. The Premier Desk agent confirmed that the tickets were in P class.

Last edited by iluv2fly; Apr 29, 13 at 9:00 pm Reason: merge
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Old Apr 29, 13, 8:27 pm
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Originally Posted by vandrei View Post
According to United's Web site, cash buy ups are eligible for bonus PQMs/RDMs/PQS.

I don't remember the specific threads on FT, but I remember reading that cash buy ups change the actual fare class, whereas OLCI/TOD offers or mile-based offers book into (Z-whatever the original class was).

Also, this was an actual fare class change. The Premier Desk agent confirmed that the tickets were in P class.
Try calling MP again (don't mention buy-up ... say it was a fare change). Agents see many things differently so you might got a few bad ones.
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Old Apr 29, 13, 9:47 pm
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Hmm, I had the same problem. I bought up to P EWR-EZE and only got credit for my original K fare.
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Old Apr 29, 13, 10:03 pm
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No issue here. Bought-up to P fare, got 150% EQM.

Hang up and call again. This time, don't mention the buy-up.
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Old Apr 29, 13, 10:09 pm
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Same thing happened to me. Talked to a GS MP agent who had things sorted out in 7 min.
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Old Apr 29, 13, 10:20 pm
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What was the fare basis you upgraded into? If it was still an economy fare with some premier or other upgrade upgrade than you do only get the economy miles. The bonus miles are based on the fare code not the booking code. The booking code is what shows on your reservation page and is usually 1 or 2 letters. The fare code is usually 3 or more letters (and sometimes some numbers). It's really confusing but fare codes and booking codes are at best loosely related and sometimes not related at all. When it comes to bonus miles, the fare code is what matters.

There are several ways that the buy-ups work (I focus on domestic travel here).
  • Sometimes they book into an actual first class fare basis (typically F, J, FUA or JUA[1]) and these usually show a booking code of F and obviously get the bouns.
  • Sometimes they book into an instant upgrade economy fare basis. In this case the fare basis will be something like V2UP14N3 or Q2UP7Y3 and the booking code will be P or A. In this case you should also get the booking bouns since UA considers those fare basises "revenue" first class despite them being actually economy fares[2].
  • Other times, if you are elite, they book into an economy fare basis (not a _UP fare) of Y, B (or M if you're 1K+) and they apply the instant upgrade for elites. In this case your fare basis remains Y, B, M based and only your booking code changes. These usually book into PN but sometimes also P. The mileage credits are based on FARE BASIS not booking code.

Unfortunately your screen shots don't show anything but what I described above (particularly that your miles are based on your new FARE not booking code). UA's on-line process is really bad in that unless you click on the right terms and conditions link on the payment page there is no way to know what fare basis you're booking into. (Remember fare basis is usually a several letter code like MA0GY, KA21GN, YUA with the first letter usually matching with the booking code). The highlighted section in your post could actually be read to be alerting you of this fact (that you may not get a bonus) but it's not worded very well.

It sounds like your routing was IAD to SLC via SFO back in Jan 2013. I couldn't find historical fare information on EF but looking at future fares the lowest published fare is S (in UA's hierarchy L is below S) which is about $250 for the OW and full F fares are about $2500. It sounds like you ended up someplace in the middle and it's hard to figure out where. I also think that UA may be bending the "1K only" M elite upgrades for other elites so who knows.

If you want to settle it...call UA and ask them to tell you what your "fare basis" was for those coupons of the ticket. If they only give you one letter they aren't looking at the right thing (unless they say its Y, J or F). If your fare basis is M, B or Y something (or Y by itself) than UA is right and you only get the economy points (so only a bonus if you were ticketed as B or Y). If it is Y___ or B____ than you are owed a bonus for full-fare economy and if it's F, J or anything with a __UP___ in it than you are owed the first class bonus. I wouldn't mention the buy-up just say, if it is indeed a basis you should have gotten bonus miles on, that you didn't see the bonus credited and ask them to sort it out. I think others are right that mentioning the buy-up can short-circuit some agents directly to the NO answer without even listening to the rest of the issue.

In my experience, the system UA uses to determine if you're eligible for a bonus is usually pretty good. I fly often on fares that are eligible for bonus including some upgrades via this process and haven't had a miss (in either direction) since summer 2012.


Notes:
[1] Don't give me crap about J being business...UA uses it to sell discount seats in domestic first...check it out.

[2] Basically they are a premium over the associated economy fare. For example BOS-SFO a QA7GN fare is $396OW and the paired instant upgrade Q2UP7Y3 is $1797OW. For reference the economy fare filed range from $164-1994OW and the actual first class fares are $2341-3342 so the QUP fare is quite a discount.

Last edited by kenn0223; Apr 29, 13 at 10:31 pm
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Old Apr 29, 13, 10:35 pm
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happened to me last year, i got into the buy-up option discussion because they were able to see the original fare code. i walked the first two MP agents through to the "upgrade reservation" pop-up window and both claimed that they would screencap and send (wherever) since that was something they both "had never seen before" and contrary to their manual. to try and force an issue resolution i argued it was a material misrepresentation to display the pop-up window if the language "just pay the fare difference" suggests buying up to the lowest next-class-up fare and "...earnings based on new fare" but they both said it would have to be reviewed by corporate.

i called back a third time and the MP agent was much more agreeable; she understood the exact problem, said it was a common problem, her fix was a little odd though - she had to delete my original flight and then create a new flight record in order to get the system to credit me properly.
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Old Apr 29, 13, 11:26 pm
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I did a buy up on one leg of a R/T in March. Orignal booking class was T, buy up was P. When posted, the Activity line item showed T and no bonus. I submitted a missing mile credit on the web site and explained the situation (buy up to P but flight posted as T) and provided 3 screen shots - one of the receipt from the website circling the Flight/Class (ie UA419 P), one of the activity posting from the web site circling the leg in question and one of the Premier Earnings on United Chart from United.com showing Z,P earn 150%. I received a very prompt reply (same day), explaining they will fix it and it will show up in 48-72 hours and it did. Oh and they corrected the other 3 people on my reservation.
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Old Apr 29, 13, 11:35 pm
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Originally Posted by kenn0223 View Post
What was the fare basis you upgraded into?
No clue. I can call the Premier Desk tomorrow and ask the agent to look up the fare basis on both tickets.

Originally Posted by kenn0223 View Post
The booking code is what shows on your reservation page and is usually 1 or 2 letters.
The segments in question are showing up as P class. That's all I was shown when making the reservation - and UA's Web site actually indicated that I would receive 150% PQM.

Originally Posted by kenn0223 View Post
The fare code is usually 3 or more letters (and sometimes some numbers). It's really confusing but fare codes and booking codes are at best loosely related and sometimes not related at all. When it comes to bonus miles, the fare code is what matters.
In the future, if I go for a cash buy up, how do I figure out the fare code before accepting or declining?

Originally Posted by kenn0223 View Post
Sometimes they book into an instant upgrade economy fare basis. In this case the fare basis will be something like V2UP14N3 or Q2UP7Y3 and the booking code will be P or A. In this case you should also get the booking bouns since UA considers those fare basises "revenue" first class despite them being actually economy fares[2].

Other times, if you are elite, they book into an economy fare basis (not a _UP fare) of Y, B (or M if you're 1K+) and they apply the instant upgrade for elites. In this case your fare basis remains Y, B, M based and only your booking code changes. These usually book into PN but sometimes also P. The mileage credits are based on FARE BASIS not booking code.
I am starting to wonder if that second part is what happened.

Originally Posted by kenn0223 View Post
It sounds like your routing was IAD to SLC via SFO back in Jan 2013. I couldn't find historical fare information on EF but looking at future fares the lowest published fare is S (in UA's hierarchy L is below S) which is about $250 for the OW and full F fares are about $2500. It sounds like you ended up someplace in the middle and it's hard to figure out where.
My actual routing is IAD-SFO-IAD from April 19-21, followed by IAD-IAH-SLC-IAD on April 22-today. The segments upgraded using cash buy-up offers were IAD-SFO and SLC-IAD.

Originally Posted by kenn0223 View Post
If you want to settle it...call UA and ask them to tell you what your "fare basis" was for those coupons of the ticket. If they only give you one letter they aren't looking at the right thing (unless they say its Y, J or F). If your fare basis is M, B or Y something (or Y by itself) than UA is right and you only get the economy points (so only a bonus if you were ticketed as B or Y). If it is Y___ or B____ than you are owed a bonus for full-fare economy and if it's F, J or anything with a __UP___ in it than you are owed the first class bonus. I wouldn't mention the buy-up just say, if it is indeed a basis you should have gotten bonus miles on, that you didn't see the bonus credited and ask them to sort it out. I think others are right that mentioning the buy-up can short-circuit some agents directly to the NO answer without even listening to the rest of the issue.
I will call back in the morning, ask for the fare basis on both segments that were upgraded, and then bring it back here. At the very minimum, I want to at least figure out exactly how these cash buy-ups work - they are very confusing, from what you're telling me, and UA's Web site doesn't help much at all - for my future reference.

Originally Posted by ORDFlyer33 View Post
I did a buy up on one leg of a R/T in March. Orignal booking class was T, buy up was P. When posted, the Activity line item showed T and no bonus. I submitted a missing mile credit on the web site and explained the situation (buy up to P but flight posted as T) and provided 3 screen shots - one of the receipt from the website circling the Flight/Class (ie UA419 P), one of the activity posting from the web site circling the leg in question and one of the Premier Earnings on United Chart from United.com showing Z,P earn 150%. I received a very prompt reply (same day), explaining they will fix it and it will show up in 48-72 hours and it did. Oh and they corrected the other 3 people on my reservation.
That's what I originally did.

The reply I received: "Miles are earned according to the booking code that you purchased originally, even if you upgrade your seat to a different booking class or cabin. Your booking code is usually noted on your ticket by a letter following the flight number."

Last edited by vandrei; Apr 29, 13 at 11:42 pm
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Old Apr 29, 13, 11:39 pm
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look up your eticket # on saudi airlines website. it will show you the fare basis.
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