Using Miles to Upgrade on United

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Wiki Link
UA website page - Use your miles to upgrade and fly in a premium cabin.
Details on "Request an upgrade", "Pricing", "FAQs","Terms and conditions" can be found at the UA site

N.B., There are several changes to the policy below due to the introduction of PremiumPlus / Premium Economy. This needs to be updated.
for aircraft with PP, also see How does GPU/ Mileage Upgrade waitlist for business work with PremiumPlus?

To see the mileage + copay requirements - see
Interactive travel destinations awards chart * or PDF version (see pages 4-5 for upgrades) **
  • UA offers the opportunity to upgrade with miles and a copay all paid fares - with exception of Basic Economy fares.
  • Elites are exempt from copays on CPU routes
  • Upgrades are on a space availability base and open seats in the premium cabin is not an indicator of upgrade space availability.
  • Upgrades from economy to the next cabin is based on PZ R space (PN space for GS). For F on 3-class aircraft, it is ON space.
  • To see fare class / upgrade space information at booking, enable Expert Mode
  • If space is not available at the time of the request, the request will be waitlisted. More on waitlisting -- Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively
    Also, see [Consolidated] Chance of upgrade clearing on my flight
  • Double upgrades using miles or certs is not allowed (but cash upgrades may be available with a mileage / cert upgrades)
  • If no waitlisted segment clears, your miles & copay will be returned
  • If you waitlist for multiple segments including Polaris segments and none of the Polaris segments clear, your miles & copay will be returned and any cleared non-Polaris upgrades will be retained. UA Miles + $ CoPay Upgrade (refunded if no BF/GF/Polaris segments are upgraded)
  • For itineraries that have connecting flights, upgrade mileage is based on per direction basis from departing point to the destination. You can request upgrade on a per segment basis (e.g., requesting only IAD-SFO on a XXX-IAD-SFO itinerary). Once the longer segment clears, you can request to extend the upgrade on the shorter segment. This can only be done over the phone with an agent.
  • Upgraded passengers are provided the same perks as those on a paid ticket, including lounge access
  • Upgrading UA operated segments can be done even if booked on a non-016 ticket stock or booked as UA operated codeshare.
  • Your mileage / PQD earning will be based on the original purchased ticket and the upgrade (if successful) will not change the mileage earning. The upgrade copay does not receive PQD credit.
  • If you change or cancel your flight, the miles (and copay, if any) will be funded. You will have to make a new request for the new flight.
  • If there are irrops and/or schedule changes, UA will generally maintain your upgraded status (on UA operated flights) if possible.
  • Purchased E+ access fees will be refunded for a segment will be refunded if that segments upgrade clears (does not apply to E+ subscriptions)
  • Miles can come any account but waitlist priority is based in the passenger's status (Using GS miles, the waitlist will be for PN with the passenger's status)
Occasionally Miles and/or CoPay not deducted on award booking/ upgrade, usually this will be caught by check-in, very rarely it is not noticed

Mileage upgrades are possible (although only on highest fares) on partners but the process is different -- see How to upgrade with UA miles on Star Alliance carriers
*Interactive travel destinations chart hasn't been updated to include PE yet (as of 2/25/19)
** PDF link currently redirects to the Mileageplus Updates Page
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Old Aug 21, 13, 6:03 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Sep 2011
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Using Miles to Upgrade on United

Can anyone provide me some insight on how to book a flight (paying cash) and upgrade (using miles) for an upcoming trip to New Zealand? When I go on the Web and follow the instructions, every flight says "upgrade not available". I have got to the point where I am looking at random days and literally cannot find a single flight in which I can upgrade. I have looked at flying into Auckland and Sydney (yes I know Sydney is not in New Zealand!). Nothing.

Having done this flight before, I know I donít want to sit in coach. I want to finalize my travel plans, but I canít even get the flight booked. Secrets? Insight? Help!
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Old Aug 21, 13, 6:11 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
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Go into "Advanced Search" mode. At the bottom of the page is a check box that says "MileagePlus Upgrade Award". Make sure that is checked.

It may be that United has not released upgrade inventory for any of those flights yet.

Oh - And welcome to FlyerTalk!

Last edited by skimple; Aug 21, 13 at 6:41 am Reason: forgot to welcome new FT'er
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Old Aug 21, 13, 6:23 am
  #3  
 
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Laura - quick explanation in case you arent up on this..apologies if this is aimed too low.

There are open seats, and open upgrade seats. Airlines don't 'release' the seats for upgrades even if there are seats available because they know from historical data exactly when the seats will be sold.

Its possible on a popular flight that upgrade seats are never released, so upgrade availability is never guaranteed.

The classic mistake is to look at the seat chart and see open First Class seats and wonder why you cant upgrade to FC...
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Old Aug 21, 13, 6:59 am
  #4  
 
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Originally Posted by LaserSailor View Post
The classic mistake is to look at the seat chart and see open First Class seats and wonder why you cant upgrade to FC...
The classic mistake is never get involved in a land war in Asia, slightly less well known is that one should never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line. Right after that comes thinking seat charts are meaningful.

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Old Aug 21, 13, 8:06 am
  #5  
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Originally Posted by laurat55 View Post
Can anyone provide me some insight on how to book a flight (paying cash) and upgrade (using miles) for an upcoming trip to New Zealand? When I go on the Web and follow the instructions, every flight says "upgrade not available". I have got to the point where I am looking at random days and literally cannot find a single flight in which I can upgrade. I have looked at flying into Auckland and Sydney (yes I know Sydney is not in New Zealand!). Nothing.

Having done this flight before, I know I donít want to sit in coach. I want to finalize my travel plans, but I canít even get the flight booked. Secrets? Insight? Help!
International upgrades are difficult. You are trying to get a $6,000+ seat for much much less and United does not make that easy (since they are in business and would prefer to sell that seat for full fare if possible). You have two basic issues to consider: (1) What are my available routing options; and (2) how do I find upgrade space? The most basic answers are, you may need to get creative on routing - for example through HNL or Asia (i.e., NRT-SIN-AKL). You also need to learn how to look for upgrade inventory - it's R fare class, and you can see this in "expert" mode on UA.com or - even better - by getting an Expert Flyer subscription. You can research these subjects further here on FT. Do some reading.
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Old Aug 21, 13, 8:16 am
  #6  
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Join Date: Sep 2011
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Thanks. I feel like I should be smart at this (Platinum on United closing in a million miles), but I rarely use miles.

So...it sounds like I need to purchase the upgradeable ticket and just hope that a couple seats open up? This makes me so uncomfortable (I am not a coach girl going that far!). Any ways to increase my chances of getting the upgrade?

And thanks for the welcome to Flyer Talk. I have been stalking on and off for years, including getting the regular emails, but just never activated my account!
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Old Aug 21, 13, 8:21 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
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Originally Posted by wildbill412007 View Post
The classic mistake is never get involved in a land war in Asia, slightly less well known is that one should never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line. Right after that comes thinking seat charts are meaningful.

:-::-::-::-::-::-::-:^^^^^^
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Old Aug 21, 13, 8:24 am
  #8  
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Originally Posted by laurat55 View Post

So...it sounds like I need to purchase the upgradeable ticket and just hope that a couple seats open up? This makes me so uncomfortable (I am not a coach girl going that far!). Any ways to increase my chances of getting the upgrade?
No, your best chance of upgrading is to find available R space at booking. If you want to buy and take a gamble on the waitlist (and make no mistake - it is a gamble), there is a thread that discusses the best days of the week to upgrade on the Australia flights: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/unite...lights-10.html
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Old Aug 21, 13, 8:24 am
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
International upgrades are difficult. You are trying to get a $6,000+ seat for much much less and United does not make that easy (since they are in business and would prefer to sell that seat for full fare if possible). You have two basic issues to consider: (1) What are my available routing options; and (2) how do I find upgrade space? The most basic answers are, you may need to get creative on routing - for example through HNL or Asia (i.e., NRT-SIN-AKL). You also need to learn how to look for upgrade inventory - it's R fare class, and you can see this in "expert" mode on UA.com or - even better - by getting an Expert Flyer subscription. You can research these subjects further here on FT. Do some reading.
Thanks Kacee...very helpful!

Kacee, Found Expert mode Going to do some more reading. One more question for you...when do these "R" fares typically open up or does this completly vary? So, if we are going February 2015, should we look for fares as soon as they are available and if they aren't available assume they never will be....or (and I am guessing this is the case)...they can open up when the airline decides to open them up?

(and to clarify, I know that Feb 2015 dates are not open yet, I am a crazy planner and checking out how the website and upgrades work well in advance!)

Last edited by iluv2fly; Aug 21, 13 at 10:32 am Reason: merge
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Old Aug 21, 13, 8:40 am
  #10  
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Originally Posted by laurat55 View Post
Kacee, Found Expert mode Going to do some more reading. One more question for you...when do these "R" fares typically open up or does this completly vary? So, if we are going February 2015, should we look for fares as soon as they are available and if they aren't available assume they never will be....or (and I am guessing this is the case)...they can open up when the airline decides to open them up?

(and to clarify, I know that Feb 2015 dates are not open yet, I am a crazy planner and checking out how the website and upgrades work well in advance!)
From our perspective, UA opens R space at random. Start looking right at 330 days out. If you don't mind the $10 per month, sign up for Expert Flyer alerts, and that will send you an e-mail when R space opens.

Also, just to be clear, you don't actually buy an R fare. R is a fare code for upgraded economy. So you buy one of the normal economy fare classes (e.g., Y, B, M, W, etc.), apply the upgrade, and clear into R.

Finally, note that since UA no longer flies to AKL, your longest upgrade potential is to SYD through SFO or LAX. Other options I mentioned (through HNL or SIN) will feature segments that are on other airlines (NZ or SQ) and thus not upgradeable through UA.
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Old Aug 21, 13, 8:51 am
  #11  
 
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Laura

Welcome to the upgrade gamble, where the odds seem to be getting worse all the time. Up until this year I had reasonable success in simply buying a W fare and hoping that R would become available. This year, I'm less than 50% in clearing on that basis, and rarely is any R space available for any convenient travel dates - so much so that I have 6 GPUs left to burn. Another upgrade failed the other day, when in previous years it would have been a dead cert in August TATL, when there are traditionally few business travellers.

At least in your situation, the co-pay (which, you should be aware, will be quite hefty) won't get charged if you don't get the upgrade.

For me, it seems now the best way to go is to book an acceptable flight in a low fare class and hope that I can same day change into W with R available - at least that means I don't lose the gamble.
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Old Aug 21, 13, 8:56 am
  #12  
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Originally Posted by lhrsfo View Post
Laura

Welcome to the upgrade gamble, where the odds seem to be getting worse all the time. Up until this year I had reasonable success in simply buying a W fare and hoping that R would become available. This year, I'm less than 50% in clearing on that basis, and rarely is any R space available for any convenient travel dates - so much so that I have 6 GPUs left to burn. Another upgrade failed the other day, when in previous years it would have been a dead cert in August TATL, when there are traditionally few business travellers.

At least in your situation, the co-pay (which, you should be aware, will be quite hefty) won't get charged if you don't get the upgrade.

For me, it seems now the best way to go is to book an acceptable flight in a low fare class and hope that I can same day change into W with R available - at least that means I don't lose the gamble.
Discussion of W fare irrelevant and likely to confuse OP, as she is using miles/co-pay, not a GPU.
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Old Aug 21, 13, 9:02 am
  #13  
 
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Originally Posted by lhrsfo View Post
At least in your situation, the co-pay (which, you should be aware, will be quite hefty) won't get charged if you don't get the upgrade.
Just to clarify this point... you will be charged the co-pay at time of request. If the upgrade doesn't clear then it will be refunded after your flight, so if you book way in advance you'll be out the cash for however long that is.
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Old Aug 21, 13, 9:04 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
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Maybe this is obvious and I know your original post focuses on upgrading, but if don't typically use miles and your primary concern is getting business or first guaranteed, have you considered just booking an award ticket with miles at one of those levels? Assuming if you're closing in on million miler and don't typically use miles, you've got some to consider burning on this.
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Old Aug 21, 13, 9:11 am
  #15  
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All very helpful. In 2008, we took this same trip (flying into Sydney...with a jump over to NZ) and I don't recall this being so difficult! Booked the flight and got the upgrade all in one booking. I would agree that the odds are getting worse. I have enough miles banked to book us both in business using a standard award....starting to think it may be worth it. Though I would prefer to spend a couple dollars to (1) get more miles from the flight (2) have more miles leftover for more trips!

I am going to keep researching...next decision will be do I book the hotels not knowing when I will be flying!

Thank goodness I don't have a full-time job and other things going on in my life. Oh wait....
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