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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

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Old Nov 1, 22, 11:07 am   -   Wikipost
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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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Old Sep 23, 22, 10:08 am
  #1681  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
No, it isn't. UA is not stupid. Selling "advice" with "free PlusPoints" may make somebody feel clever, but it's UA's program and they can (and will) close accounts for that too.

Some of those listings are likely UA. Some of the customers are likely UA. And some people get away with it. Others end up here on FlyerTalk, complaining about how unfair UA is to them, and how they "didn't know" that PlusPoints can't be sold (but somehow were still just "selling advice") or that they thought UA should have warned them to stop first.
Not sure what you mean that some of the listings are UA and some of the customers are UA as well? UA is selling and buying plus points on eBay (perhaps indirectly as "advice")? Do mean as a setup to catch people who are doing this against the rules? Sorry for my naivete; I just was never aware the people actually do this until that other poster mentioned it and I looked it up.

In either case, my point really was that regardless of the risks you mention, the practice exists among GS members which puts others on the upgrade list at a disadvantage.
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Old Sep 23, 22, 10:10 am
  #1682  
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
Getting caught buying or selling upgrades is a great way to get (a) your upgrade canceled and (b) your account closed. I suspect there are some GSes who simply give them away to everyone they know, but I doubt there are many GS members actively selling them. UA’s pretty good at noticing these things.
I have a non-FTer GS friend (or did, before the pandemic killed business travel). Definitely common for GS to hand out upgrades to their friends like candy since they don't have any idea how they would use them personally. I felt awkward accepting them occasionally since I felt like every GPU was worth hundreds of dollars... he thought they were worthless trinkets
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Old Sep 23, 22, 10:12 am
  #1683  
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Originally Posted by friedablass View Post
. Do mean as a setup to catch people who are doing this against the rules?.
Yes.
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Old Sep 23, 22, 10:20 am
  #1684  
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Originally Posted by friedablass View Post
Not sure what you mean that some of the listings are UA and some of the customers are UA as well? UA is selling and buying plus points on eBay (perhaps indirectly as "advice")? Do mean as a setup to catch people who are doing this against the rules?
Sorry, I should have ben more clear. Yes, that's exactly what I mean. UA has shown no qualms about doing this in the past.
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Old Sep 23, 22, 4:31 pm
  #1685  
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
No, it isn't. UA is not stupid. Selling "advice" with "free PlusPoints" may make somebody feel clever, but it's UA's program and they can (and will) close accounts for that too.

Some of those listings are likely UA. ..
While that has been speculated, don't recall a single incident of a purchaser being penalized except as a part of penalizing the seller.

Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
Some of the customers are likely UA.....
There is no shortage of reports penalized sellers of upgrade instruments / PlusPoints nowadays
MP Accounts Closed by UA Alleging Fraud/Misuse

But let's not get too far from the thread topic (Waitlist operation) as there is a thread (above and UA upgrades (GPUs/RPUs, now PlusPoints) for sale on ebay ) for the Ebay/ CL / ... activities
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Old Sep 25, 22, 3:43 pm
  #1686  
 
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Tons of content here. I tried very hard to look and read thru the wiki but Im having a hard time understanding when miles upgrades clear or even a guess.

flight is Thursday night. It went from 12 open f seats yesterday to 7 now today? Big jump. I didnt clear still says upgrade requested. Not a hub to hub or competitive route

I have a full Y fare ticket I put a miles upgrade in for months ago. Of course was waitlisted cause its united. Months went by I assumed maybe a month in or a week in it would clear. Its now thursday. A totally empty 319 12 f seats open yesterday now I see 5 seats got filled. I know there is no exact science but when do they open the cabin for upgrades to clear generally? Is like 72 hours a good guess?? I guess 5 people could have come along and redeemed miles or purchased tickets but dont miles upgrades clear before the status upgrades but it seems like a big jump.

any idea when they start to clear miles upgrades? According to wiki my miles upgrade should clear before any status upgrades right? Still a lot of seats open 7 even if the 5 somehow got filled
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Old Sep 25, 22, 4:00 pm
  #1687  
 
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Originally Posted by lunchtime View Post
Tons of content here. I tried very hard to look and read thru the wiki but Im having a hard time understanding when miles upgrades clear or even a guess.

flight is Thursday night. It went from 12 open f seats yesterday to 7 now today? Big jump. I didnt clear still says upgrade requested. Not a hub to hub or competitive route

I have a full Y fare ticket I put a miles upgrade in for months ago. Of course was waitlisted cause its united. Months went by I assumed maybe a month in or a week in it would clear. Its now thursday. A totally empty 319 12 f seats open yesterday now I see 5 seats got filled. I know there is no exact science but when do they open the cabin for upgrades to clear generally? Is like 72 hours a good guess?? I guess 5 people could have come along and redeemed miles or purchased tickets but dont miles upgrades clear before the status upgrades but it seems like a big jump.

any idea when they start to clear miles upgrades? According to wiki my miles upgrade should clear before any status upgrades right? Still a lot of seats open 7 even if the 5 somehow got filled
People took upgrade offers.

What was the price of full Y vs. discounted F at the time of fare purchase?
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Old Sep 25, 22, 4:07 pm
  #1688  
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Originally Posted by lunchtime View Post
any idea when they start to clear miles upgrades? According to wiki my miles upgrade should clear before any status upgrades right? Still a lot of seats open 7 even if the 5 somehow got filled
If you'd like to give the flight information, people can probably give you a pretty good guess as to your likeliness of clearing. It is very much if, not when. Without it, the best anyone can do is offer generalities.

As for what you're calling "status upgrades," I assume you mean complimentary upgrades (CPUs), and the answer is that you will be behind Global Service CPUs as well as 1K members on a Y/B/M instant upgrade -- but also that not all flights are CPU / instant upgrade eligible.

If you had to put in a miles upgrade on full Y, I assume it's either not a CPU route or you don't have status. If you don't have status, note that any instrument upgrade by anyone with status will clear ahead of you also.

On most flights, UA has been clearing down to 2 open seats 24 hours prior to departure, but that's far from a hard-and-fast rule.
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Old Sep 25, 22, 4:26 pm
  #1689  
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Originally Posted by lunchtime View Post
....According to wiki my miles upgrade should clear before any status upgrades right? Still a lot of seats open 7 even if the 5 somehow got filled
If you're talking CPUs, yes. But status also counts when applying for mileage or PlusPoint upgrades - higher status passengers with upgrade requests using miles or PPs will clear before lower/no status requests. You do have advantages within your staus group due to fare class.

Do you have Plat or better status? If you do, a full Y fare might be eligible for a YBM-up. If so, application of miles might have actually hurt your chances.

Last edited by IAH-OIL-TRASH; Sep 25, 22 at 4:31 pm
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Old Sep 25, 22, 5:03 pm
  #1690  
 
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Wow thank you everyone. I have a much better idea now. I def Mis interpreted some. United doesnt make it easy.

I have no united status this year .

Work trip no idea why they purchased a Y fare.

Not a lot of miles so I threw the upgrade on it months ago and no copay since its a y.

Ill cross my fingers and note when or if it upgrades in case that helps others to see when they clear miles upgrades. I see in the united app I can see the upgrade list soon , so that will be fun and offer some clarity when that opens.
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Old Sep 25, 22, 5:11 pm
  #1691  
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Unfortunately, w/o status you will be towards the tail end of a mileage/points waitlist. On the bright side, with a Y fare, you'll be ahead of most (if not all) other no-status passengers
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Old Sep 25, 22, 5:17 pm
  #1692  
 
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post
Unfortunately, w/o status you will be towards the tail end of a mileage/points waitlist. On the bright side, with a Y fare, you'll be ahead of most (if not all) other no-status passengers
but it looks like Ill be ahead of the CPU crowd? which I bet has to be the largest number of upgrade requests.
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Old Sep 25, 22, 5:21 pm
  #1693  
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Originally Posted by lunchtime View Post
but it looks like I’ll be ahead of the CPU crowd? which I bet has to be the largest number of upgrade requests.
Ahead of all CPUers except Global Services. There are a lot of miles and PlusPoints being tossed at flights nowadays, though.
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Old Sep 25, 22, 5:24 pm
  #1694  
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Originally Posted by lunchtime View Post
but it looks like Ill be ahead of the CPU crowd? which I bet has to be the largest number of upgrade requests.
Except for Global Services, yes. However, that's assuming that your route is even CPU-eligible in the first place. (Most domestic flights and short-haul international flights are).

That said, Platinum, 1K, and GS members all get PlusPoints, which are are treated equivalently to Miles + Copay upgrades. And, they've extended the expiration of all PlusPoints that were set to expire since 2020 through the end of the year or later -- so there are a lot of them in the system and some people will throw them at every flight.

As you said, you'll get a better idea when you can see the upgrade list.
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Old Sep 25, 22, 5:29 pm
  #1695  
 
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Companion and I are 2 and 3 on upgrade list - int'l, plus points from PE. Inside 24 hours and 3 seats left. At this point do they "skip" a couple? I'm wondering if at T-4 they'll do the usually clear all but 1, and clear #1, but with only one slot skip companion and me on same PNR, and go to #4.

Or do they just hold until they would clear those last two seats - us, unless someone pays or switches flights or uses some other way to grab a seat?
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