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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Old Feb 7, 17, 12:28 pm
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Last edit by: leftysauce
Types of Upgrades

UA's Upgrades overview

UA has multiple methods for upgrading to a higher cabin. Examples include: Economy to Domestic First, Economy to International Business or Business (ex-p.s. flights) or Economy to Premium Economy ("Premium Plus").

In this regard, seating in Economy Plus is considered Economy.

Not all upgrade methods are available on all flights (see table).
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPU) are available for most North American flights, Central America flights, and some select Oceania flights. "ex-PS" flights (EWR/JFK-SFO/LAX) and Hawaii-EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN, GUM, MAJ and v.v. are not CPU eligible. CPUs are available for all paid fares and in some cases on award tickets with certain credit cards. A CPU is requested automatically for all elites as long as there is a maximum of one non-Premier as only one companion on the same PNR is also eligible for CPU. CPUs cannot be confirmed until inside the particular window:
Global Services: 120 hours
Premier 1K: 96 hours
Premier Platinum: 72 hours
Premier Gold: 48 hours
Premier Silver: 24 hours
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  • Plus Points (provided to Plats and above) are the upgrade currency of United elites. This wiki of this thread has more details about pricing of various Plus Points upgrades.
  • Mileage Upgrade Awards (MUA) can be requested for all UA flights with a higher cabin on all paid fares. This a varying amount of miles and a $ copay (elites are exempt from the co-pay for CPU eligible flights) -- mileage+copay calculator
    Note the miles and copay are due at time of the request and will be returned if unsuccessful.
  • Instant Upgrades are space available for all elites on Y & B fares for CPU-eligible flights at booking or thereafter. For Platinum and below these require PZ space. For 1Ks and GS, this can be done on Y, B & M fares and requires PN space. These Instant Upgrades, if not cleared at booking, cannot be waitlisted and one must keep checking to see if the instant upgrade space opens up. However, CPUs will process, as discussed above.
  • Paid/cash upgrades are a different mechanism and are only available if confirmable -- no waitlisting. Depending on methods, paid upgrades can clear into almost any fare class. If the class would otherwise be used for upgrades, the cash upsell can show up on the cleared upgrade list.
Plus Points and MUA (also called "miles+cash upgrades") are collectively referred to as instrument-supported upgrades, as they are considered with equal priority once applied. They may also be used on Copa (CM), Lufthansa (LH), and ANA (NH) flights.
Waitlisting for a premium cabin award and all forms of Economy Plus are not considered upgrades.


Upgrade Priority and Required Inventory

All upgrades other than CPU may clear immediately if the required inventory class is available. If you request an upgrade when there is not inventory to confirm your upgrade immediately, you will be added to the upgrade waitlist. The required inventory classes are as follows:

RN class is required for all upgrades to Premium Economy (United Premium Plus)
PN class is required for Instant Upgrades to Business/First from Y, B, and M fares for Premier 1K members, and for all upgrades to Business/First of any type for Global Services members.
PZ class is required for all other upgrades to Business/First except CPUs.

Note: The display of the upgrade lists is rather complicated at the moment. There seems to be more information available than usual, but its accuracy is disputed. The following is how it has historically functioned in terms of public visibility.

Passengers with unconfirmed upgrade requests will be added to the upgrade waitlist. This is not the same as the upgrade standby list which you can see on the Flight Status page. You cannot see this list by any means. The ordering of the upgrade waitlist is as follows:
Fare Class priority is J, C, D, Z, P, O, A, R, Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G, N.

Waitlist priority for all flights
  • United Global Services requests
  • PlusPoints upgrades and MileagePlus Upgrade Awards
  • Premier status of the traveler*
  • Fare class
  • Chase United MileagePlus Club cardholders and Presidential Plus cardholders
  • United Corporate Preferred participants
  • United Chase Cardmembers with $25,000 in annual spending
  • Date and time of request



If we haven't confirmed your upgrade by the time you check in for your flight, you will be added to the Upgrades list at check-in, so there's nothing that you need to do after submitting your original request. Our upgrade systems process requests until three hours before flight departure, at which point our gate agents will handle all remaining upgrade requests.

*On flights equipped with United Premium Plus, we will process requests to upgrade to business class for customers ticketed in United Premium Plus (fare classes O, A, R) before processing requests for customers ticketed in economy.

Upgrade priority on United Premium Plus
On aircraft with United Premium Plus, well first process United Polaris business class or United Business waitlists for all members who have purchased United Premium Plus seats, using the same priority order that applies to all upgrades. Well then process waitlists for members with United Economy seats.

New waitlist requests for MileagePlus Upgrade Awards can be made until 24 hours before departure. New waitlist requests for PlusPoints upgrades can be made up until the flight check-in cutoff time.

United will periodically run sweeps from this list. The required inventory class for your upgrade does not need to be available in order to be upgraded from the standby list; passengers on the list will be upgraded at the discretion of United's systems. (You can also think of it as space was opened and then you immediately took it.)

For flights with Premium Plus, those with paid Premium Plus fares will be prioritized above those with paid economy fares even if status is lower. However, GS with paid economy are higher on the list than non-GS customers with paid Premium Plus fares. Therefore, GS with paid Prem Plus, then GS with paid economy, then other Prem Plus pax (1Ks, then Plat, then Gold, etc), then Economy (1Ks, then Plat, then Gold, etc). Not clear if this applies to GS in economy -- certainly not pre-gate waitlist (as they are waitlisted for PN) but unclear what happens at the gate merged waitlist.
How does PlusPoints/GPU/ Mileage Upgrade waitlist for business work with PremiumPlus?

Once check-in starts a new waitlist will be generated for use at the gate. The pre-gate list will continue to process until the flight goes to the gate, typically one to three hours prior to departure. This new list is the visible one on the Flight Status page. Generally they will have the same order, but there can be some differences in priority ordering of the two lists -- usually due to the time tiebreaker -- which is time of request for the pre-gate list and time of check-in (sequence number) for gate list. The visible (upgrade standby) list is not used until the flight is under gate control and the gate agent manually processes an upgrade.

The upgrade list sometimes also shows passengers who have been upgraded. Advance-cleared upgrades will not show on the gate list as cleared -- only passengers who clear after they check in will display with a green checkmark. Some paid Premium Plus fares may show as a confirmed upgrade to Premium Plus.

For both cases, display cleared upgrades will appear in alphabetic order and regardless if checked-in (as long as a seat has been assigned). Uncleared, waitlisted requests will appear in priority order.

Upgrades and Companions
Main article: Comprehensive Companion Upgrade Questions

The following applies ONLY to the invisible upgrade list.

Up to one companion on the same PNR as you is entitled to a CPU based on your status. However, because PNRs must consist only of passengers with the same itinerary, you will only be eligible for an upgrade if all passengers on your PNR have the same upgrade eligibility. For CPUs, you may extend your CPU status to one companion, and then the system will take the status of the lowest passenger on the reservation.

This is a little complicated. Here are some example PNRs:

1K and non-status companion: both are eligible to CPU as 1Ks
1K and two non-status companions: no one is eligible to CPU
1K, Gold, and non-status companion: the companion gets "1K CPU status" but the Gold cannot, so all three pax have Gold priority

The situation for instrument supported upgrades is slightly different. Waitlisting an instrument is also all-or-nothing on the PNR. Either all pax must have a waitlisted upgrade, or none may. If you have a waitlisted upgrade for a multiple passenger PNR, it will have the priority of the highest Premier status on the reservation. Thus:

1K and non-status companion, 2x PlusPoints applied: both are eligible as 1Ks with PlusPoints
1K and three non-status companions, 4x PlusPointsapplied: all four are eligible as 1Ks with PlusPoints

Multi-pax PNR upgrades are all or nothing - you may (or may not) be skipped over if there are fewer available seats than members in your party. If you do not like the treatment of your PNR, you may split it into smaller pieces at any time and be treated as smaller groups or individuals.


Now, what happens if you haven't cleared by check-in?

Multiple pax PNRs are not eligible for the (visible) upgrade standby list. If you wish to be added to the list, you must split the PNR at check-in. This often happens even if you didn't intend to. Note, however, that the hidden list is active until 3 hours before departure and splitting your PNR changes it. Therefore, you may wish to delay check-in until the airport. On the other hand, the tiebreak for the gate list is time of check-in, so you may wish to do so immediately. It depends on your situation.

Companions may be eligible for the upgrade standby list even after splitting the PNR, if it is split at check-in. The behavior of your companion(s) depends on whether the reservation had instruments applied. You may have one CPU companion, who will be waitlisted with your Premier priority but with an effective fare class below X (namely, last). If your companion was on a different PNR originally, or you want to designate a different companion, an airport agent can do that for you. Therefore, the list of 1Ks might be:

1) 1K on an S fare (you)
2) 1K on a K fare
3) Your no-status companion
4) Plat on a B fare

If your reservation had instruments applied, however, this process is different. In this case, if the reservation is auto-split at check-in, all travelers will have your Premier priority with their fare class. Say you are a 1K with three non-status companions, all with GPUs applied. Then you have

1) 1K on a V fare,PlusPoints applied
2..5) you (1K) and your three companions on W fares, ordered by sequence number
6) Plat on a Q fare, miles+cash applied


Frequently Asked Questions

I was #1 on the upgrade list, but someone else got the upgrade instead. What happened?
The most likely answer is that a higher status passenger or fare moved to your flight.

I'm #1 on the upgrade list but seats in the forward cabin keep disappearing. No one is being upgraded. What's going on?
There are two major sources of this. First, once your flight is within 24 hours of departure, it is eligible for SDC. Passengers with paid premium tickets can change to your flight and take seats. Many experienced flyers, especially FT members, underestimate the volatility of flight loads on the day of departure. Additionally, United usually makes a time-of-departure upsell offer available at check-in. Purchasers of this upgrade may often appear similar to last-minute revenue bookings.

I was waitlisted for I (or IN) class and did not clear. Am I now eligible for an upgrade?
"Upgrade" is the wrong terminology. You should be automatically placed on the standy list for business or first (whichever applies). Historically there have been problems with this occurring automatically, but that seems to have mostly been fixed. The exact priority compared to passengers who are waitlisted for an upgrade is unclear and a matter of some dispute. See discussion of GG ONESTANDBY lines 32-55.

Who are these people who are on standby lists for both Business and First?
These are non-revs (i.e., UA employees and family members) - either NRPS (non-rev positive space) or NRSA (non-rev standby). Non-revs can list for any cabin. NRPS are traveling on company business (e.g., deadheading pilots) and will clear into open space ahead of upgraders. NRSA travel standby and will be last in priority after all paid passengers. Why would someone be listed on both standby & upgrade list(s)?
Originally Posted by leftysauce View Post
I want to note the distinction that this only applies to NRPS that book the specific cabin directly (eg. if NRPS are eligible for J, they will clear into J immediately if any J seat is available). Otherwise, if NRPS book a lower cabin, they will be waitlisted after all paid (cash+award) pax but before NRSA for upgrades to higher cabins.
Deadheading Pilots Will Have Upgrade Priority Over Elites
Can you have one companion on a different PNR?
Yes, but only at the airport/gate and some agents are not familiar with the process. They are at the bottom of your status group.

Related threads
Ever see (+X blocked) in booked column on upgrade list?
Consolidated "Waitlist for Award Seats Questions/Issues"
[Consolidated] Chance of upgrade clearing on my flight
Decoding the alphabet soup - fare buckets for UA
Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively [Archive]




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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Old Sep 11, 22, 10:47 pm
  #1651  
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
Sprung for a cash upgrade?? And if that goes to PZ which it can, it looks like an regular upgrade
Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
It doesn't even have to go into PZ. My last buy-up showed as an upgrade when booking into P.
That make sense, thanks both. Curious how much he have paid consider the last minute SFO-SIN J fare is well over $10k.

Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
The agent should not be sharing that info. I'd be pissed if an agent was sharing info about my status and/or how I got my J/F seat.
To be fair the agent didn't tell me their status, just 'waitlisting global/1k upgrade space'.
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Old Sep 12, 22, 1:41 am
  #1652  
 
Join Date: Dec 2019
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PA - The Priority A waitlist. Officially for folks using upgrade certificates (SWUs, CR1s, 500-milers, etc). Clears before PB and PD waitlist in a "first on, first off" sequence.
PB - The Priority B waitlist. Officially for folks using MUAs. Clears before PD waitlist in a "first on, first off" sequence.
PD - The Priority D waitlist. We don't know what this is, but it clears after PA and PB.
found this from the pre-merger thread. Does anyone know what this translates to now?
It seems like CPU doesn't show up as a separate segment thus no action codes (PA-PD) but using MUA or PP does.

Also, I was listed as PB when PP was first applied. Then had to change the flight with a waiver but now the waitlisted segment is shown as PD. Any idea what the difference is?
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Old Sep 12, 22, 2:05 am
  #1653  
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Originally Posted by leftysauce View Post
found this from the pre-merger thread. Does anyone know what this translates to now?
It seems like CPU doesn't show up as a separate segment thus no action codes (PA-PD) but using MUA or PP does.

Also, I was listed as PB when PP was first applied. Then had to change the flight with a waiver but now the waitlisted segment is shown as PD. Any idea what the difference is?
See discussion in United unofficial PNR viewer
where this was posted, can not vouch for it but best to continue the discussion in that thread
Originally Posted by Lux Flyer View Post
Officially, priority is based on the highest passenger's status in the reservation. Inventory bucket cleared into is based on the account the PP's come from. That being said there are times the system doesn't apply that properly and takes it from the sponsor's priority (or an agent manually chooses the wrong selection)
PA = global services
PB = 1K
PC = plat/gold
PD = silver/non-status

....
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Old Sep 12, 22, 7:58 am
  #1654  
 
Join Date: Aug 2022
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Well, my longhaul looks really bad (thats what you get for getting a one in a million Gold upgrade to domestic first class, huh?) -

UA 989
IAD - FRA
September 14th
UA Gold

currently sitting at #8 for Premium Plus with no (sigh) seats available. Lots of folks have apparently opted to go for both (PE and Polaris).

Do Polaris requests clear with a certain preference when you selected both?

And how is it that some folks are super high on the Polaris list and below me on PE list?

🤔
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Old Sep 12, 22, 8:14 am
  #1655  
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 9,393
Originally Posted by DeltaEchoYankee View Post
Well, my longhaul looks really bad (that’s what you get for getting a one in a million Gold upgrade to domestic first class, huh?) -

UA 989
IAD - FRA
September 14th
UA Gold

currently sitting at #8 for Premium Plus with no (sigh) seats available. Lots of folks have apparently opted to go for both (PE and Polaris).

Do Polaris requests clear with a certain preference when you selected both?

And how is it that some folks are super high on the Polaris list and below me on PE list?

🤔
They'll clear everyone to the highest available cabin requested in the waitlist order shown. So some PremiumPlus seats will open if people clear into Polaris.

If someone with low/no status has upgrade sponsored by GS, they go high on the Polaris list (waitlisted for PN rather than PZ) but low on the PremiumPlus list (waitlisted for RN as is everyone else).

Looks bad indeed, but good luck nevertheless. Given that 1. & 2. for Polaris are just ahead of you for PremiumPlus, it might not be totally hopeless.
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Old Sep 12, 22, 8:57 am
  #1656  
 
Join Date: Aug 2022
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
They'll clear everyone to the highest available cabin requested in the waitlist order shown. So some PremiumPlus seats will open if people clear into Polaris.

If someone with low/no status has upgrade sponsored by GS, they go high on the Polaris list (waitlisted for PN rather than PZ) but low on the PremiumPlus list (waitlisted for RN as is everyone else).

Looks bad indeed, but good luck nevertheless. Given that 1. & 2. for Polaris are just ahead of you for PremiumPlus, it might not be totally hopeless.
Of course, you are completely right!

Some people have confirmed PE seats and might want to upgrade into Polaris! Why did I not think of that - ooooof!

That makes much sense and there is probably some
movement until departure.
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Old Sep 13, 22, 10:10 pm
  #1657  
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Programs: United GS, *wood LT Plat
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So apologies in advance since I’m not sure what the right search terms would be to see if this has already been answered.

Long story short, booked a trip today in Fare Class “Y”. PN space available for the return segment so cleared the instant upgrade. GS agent was trying to tell me I’d have higher priority applying Plus Points to the outbound (also Y) then waiting to see if PN eventually opens. I thought I had read on here at some point (candidly don’t remember what year / decade) that applying PlusPoints could result in lower priority (though maybe this was for Platinum/1K and not GS). Am I just confused or was the agent wrong?

Rant mode: I still don’t understand why UA won’t let us waitlist for PN space on Y fares instead of bird-dogging the fare class availability.
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Old Sep 13, 22, 10:38 pm
  #1658  
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Originally Posted by lilpisher View Post
So apologies in advance since Im not sure what the right search terms would be to see if this has already been answered.

Long story short, booked a trip today in Fare Class Y. PN space available for the return segment so cleared the instant upgrade. GS agent was trying to tell me Id have higher priority applying Plus Points to the outbound (also Y) then waiting to see if PN eventually opens. I thought I had read on here at some point (candidly dont remember what year / decade) that applying PlusPoints could result in lower priority (though maybe this was for Platinum/1K and not GS). Am I just confused or was the agent wrong?

Rant mode: I still dont understand why UA wont let us waitlist for PN space on Y fares instead of bird-dogging the fare class availability.
For 1Ks, applying PlusPoints would turn a PN waitlist into a PZ waitlist. For GS, that wouldn't apply, and you'd move from the GS instant-upgrade list to the GS instrument-supported upgrade list. I assume that's an improvement, although I can't point to anywhere in particular it'd be documented.
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Old Sep 14, 22, 1:24 am
  #1659  
 
Join Date: May 2017
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
For 1Ks, applying PlusPoints would turn a PN waitlist into a PZ waitlist. For GS, that wouldn't apply, and you'd move from the GS instant-upgrade list to the GS instrument-supported upgrade list. I assume that's an improvement, although I can't point to anywhere in particular it'd be documented.
Its an improvement in the sense that you can waitlist the space with PlusPoints so it will automatically process if the space comes available, whereas YBM would require a call in to force through (for no plus points). Of course the risk being someone with an instrument supported upgrade or another YBMer snags the spot before you call.
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Old Sep 14, 22, 7:43 am
  #1660  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
For 1Ks, applying PlusPoints would turn a PN waitlist into a PZ waitlist. For GS, that wouldn't apply, and you'd move from the GS instant-upgrade list to the GS instrument-supported upgrade list. I assume that's an improvement, although I can't point to anywhere in particular it'd be documented.
If OP (GS) has too many PPs to burn, apply the PP to the Y fare anyway to save the trouble for checking PN spaces daily (or more often).
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Old Sep 18, 22, 8:37 am
  #1661  
 
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Does GS in Y have higher priority than 1K in O when it comes to Polaris upgrade?
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Old Sep 18, 22, 8:43 am
  #1662  
 
Join Date: Dec 2019
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Originally Posted by myperks View Post
Does GS in Y have higher priority than 1K in O when it comes to Polaris upgrade?
PN is always ahead of any PZ
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Old Sep 18, 22, 9:32 am
  #1663  
 
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Originally Posted by leftysauce View Post
PN is always ahead of any PZ
Im seeing on a flight where the first 7 people on the premium plus list and the first 7 people on the Polaris list is the same (going solely by first 3 of last name and first initial) and a family member that is 1K in paid premium plus the 8th on the Polaris list only. So maybe the first 7 are GS in Y awaiting for both premium plus and Polaris.
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Old Sep 18, 22, 9:51 am
  #1664  
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Note that the PN list includes both actual GS and also anyone whose request is supported by GS points.
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Old Sep 18, 22, 12:33 pm
  #1665  
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
Note that the PN list includes both actual GS and also anyone whose request is supported by GS points.
But they may not be at the top of PremPlus list -- non-GS but GS supported will be listed based on their status for PremPlus

An upcoming flight

#1, #2 for Polaris are also #1, #2 for PremPlus (GS?)
#3 for Polaris is #7 for PremPlus (non-GS, but GS supported?)
#4 for Polaris is booked in PremPlus (me)

#5-#9 for Polaris are not on PremPlus list (all paid PremPlus?)
#10 on Polaris list is #3 on PremPlus (not in PremPlus but higher status then the non-GS but GS support individual}

May not matter as flight is J0O0
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Last edited by WineCountryUA; Sep 18, 22 at 12:46 pm Reason: more #5-#9
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