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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

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Old Feb 5, 19, 8:42 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 F, Economy to International Business or Business (ex-p.s. flights) or Polaris Business to Polaris First (select 3-cabin planes).

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

Not all upgrade methods are available on all flights (see table).
Paid/cash upgrades are a different mechanism and are only available if confirmable -- no waitlisting. Depending on methods, paid upgrades can clear into P/Z/A or R/RN/PN/ZN. The later group can show up on the cleared upgrade list.

RPU, GPU, 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) 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:

PN class is required for Instant Upgrades from Y, B, and M fares for Premier 1K members, and for all upgrades from Economy of any type for Global Services members.
PZ class is required for all other upgrades from Economy except CPUs.


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:
  • All Global Services members (presumably prioritized similar to other members below), including those awaiting a CPU.
  • For CPU eligible flights, Premier 1K members on eligible Y-, B- and M-class fares that were not cleared at time of booking are prioritized by fare class and then time of request.
  • All travelers on waitlisted Global Premier Upgrades, Regional Premier Upgrades (where valid) and MileagePlus Upgrade Awards: Prioritized by Premier status of the traveler, then fare class and then time of request. There is no priority difference between GPU, RPU & MUA requests.
  • For CPU eligible flights all remaining Premier members: Prioritized by Premier status of the traveler and fare class (award tickets are considered the lowest fare class)

Recent announced modification
Effective August 14, 2018, upgrade waitlists are processed in the following priority order:
  1. Premier status of the traveler
  2. Fare class
  3. Chase United MileagePlus Club cardholder
  4. United Corporate Preferred participant
  5. Time of request
Later in 2018: We will include upgrade priority for primary Chase United MileagePlus Cardmembers who have met the $25K annual spend Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) waiver on a Chase MileagePlus co-brand card. Priority order for these Cardmembers will fall after United Corporate Preferred participants and before time of request.
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.)

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 has only checked-in passengers and 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. For non-CPU flights, cleared instrument supported upgrades will not show on the gate list as cleared -- only gate cleared upgrades will display with a green checkmark. On CPU-eligible flights, the gate list will show any passenger that cleared (green checkmark) into R/RN/PN -- this includes any instrument supported upgrades (including pre-gate), some paid upgrades and any early CPU. Gate cleared upgrades will also show. (Confirmed ->) JN standard awards will also show with a green checkmark.

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, once checked in, in priority order. But until all have checked in, the visible gate waitlist is incomplete.


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

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, GPU 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 the upgraded passenger was not checked in. Remember that the upgrade standby list (the visible list) only shows passengers who have checked in.

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)?

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 May 29, 17, 8:54 pm
  #226  
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: ORD
Programs: UA-Gold; 1MM
Posts: 37
More upgrade anomalies

On a recent MYR-ORD flight (return segment of the ORD-MYR-ORD itinerary) a month ago, my PNR had 6 passengers: my self (a 1MM flyer), my 1MM status-nominee (flies 1-2 times a year), 2 no-status, no-FF# companions booked into E+ and 2 no-status, no-FF# companions booked into E-. All paid the same fare.

F class has 6 seats and our PNR got the last 2 F seats as a CPU.

The interesting thing is that the F seats went to the 1MM nominee and one of the E+ travelers. I was #1 on the wait list with the other E+ companion #2 on the wait list. You'd think the seats might have gone to the two with the *G status (me and the 1MM nominee). Alphabetically, the F seats went to #1 and #3 of the 4 CPU eligible last names. It's possible the two with the CPU seats were paired as companions -- the 1MM nominee is #1 alphabetically and I'm #4 .

I don't recall the actual order of checking in, but I processed all of the check ins, not as one single event for the whole PNR, but each one on the PNR was checked in separately.

It just seems odd the one with all the BIS miles gets left behind when everything else is equal.

Last edited by JubJub; May 29, 17 at 8:58 pm Reason: remove hyperlinks inserted by FT
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Old May 29, 17, 9:12 pm
  #227  
 
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Originally Posted by JubJub View Post
F class has 6 seats and our PNR got the last 2 F seats as a CPU.

I don't recall the actual order of checking in, but I processed all of the check ins, not as one single event for the whole PNR, but each one on the PNR was checked in separately.
What you describe is impossible. You cannot have people in different cabins on the same PNR; the system simply doesn't work that way. At some point -- perhaps on the outbound -- your PNRs were split. That also explains why you would have had to check each person in separately. If they were on a single PNR, you wouldn't have had to do that.

Once the PNRs are split, all bets are pretty much off in terms of who gets priority within the travel group.
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Old May 29, 17, 9:13 pm
  #228  
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Originally Posted by JubJub View Post
I don't recall the actual order of checking in, but I processed all of the check ins, not as one single event for the whole PNR, but each one on the PNR was checked in separately. ...
Given all were on the waitlist with the same status (companions -- MMer and non-status companion inherited status for the purpose of upgrades of the Golds) and since all had been on one PNR at one time, all must have had the same fare class, so the time tie-break came into effect.

Pre-gate the lowest ticket number was the determinator and at the check the check in order.

Originally Posted by JubJub View Post
.... It just seems odd the one with all the BIS miles gets left behind when everything else is equal.
Not factor in the priority.
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Old May 29, 17, 9:16 pm
  #229  
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
What you describe is impossible.
Also, if the PNR has two or more non-Premiers, the reservation is not CPU eligible.
If two or more travelers on the reservation are not Premier members, it will not be processed automatically. In these cases, Premier members should call the Premier Priority Desk to request a separate reservation for themselves and the eligible companion.
Complimentary Premier Upgrades.
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Old May 30, 17, 12:29 pm
  #230  
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
What you describe is impossible. You cannot have people in different cabins on the same PNR; the system simply doesn't work that way. At some point -- perhaps on the outbound -- your PNRs were split. That also explains why you would have had to check each person in separately. If they were on a single PNR, you wouldn't have had to do that.

Once the PNRs are split, all bets are pretty much off in terms of who gets priority within the travel group.
Yes, my confusion and mistake in explaining - I went back to look closer at the outbound boarding passes. The 4 in E+ ended up getting split into 4 separate PNRs on the outbound. That explains why each had to have separate check ins while the two in E- could be checked in together. Thank you.

Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Also, if the PNR has two or more non-Premiers, the reservation is not CPU eligible.
If two or more travelers on the reservation are not Premier members, it will not be processed automatically. In these cases, Premier members should call the Premier Priority Desk to request a separate reservation for themselves and the eligible companion.
Complimentary Premier Upgrades.
Thank you. I looked closer at outbound boarding passes. What I thought was a single PNR actually turned out to be 5 PNRs (the 2 in E- stayed together and the other 4 in E+ (MMs and companions) ended up getting split onto individual PNRs. Sorry for the confusion.

Thank you, WineCountryUA for post #421

Last edited by WineCountryUA; May 30, 17 at 12:41 pm Reason: merging consecutive posts by same member
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Old Jun 2, 17, 4:54 pm
  #231  
 
Join Date: Apr 2016
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Just witnessed some bizarre UG list shenanigans on an intl flight.

1. I check someone in (call them A) at T-24 exactly. They appear as the only person on the gate list.
2. ~10 mins later, a few more appear above A. Since the gate waitlist is prioritised by status then fare class then time of check-in, those people must have higher status/FC than A, as I checked A in before them.
3. A few mins later, multiple people clear the waitlist, including A, but the person at #1 stays where they are. In fact, ~5 people have now cleared, but #1 remains the same and un-cleared.

I don't understand how this can be a difference between EUA and the gate list: since #1 must have had a later check-in time than A, the only reason to be above is higher status/FC, which would also give them priority over others in clearing under EUA. Additionally, I can't believe the "secret sauce" variable that gives priority to people who recently missed upgrades can be so powerful as to let half a dozen people skip over the top-listed person on the WL.

Any ideas?
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Old Jun 3, 17, 7:40 am
  #232  
 
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Some interesting behavior I've now observed twice at IAD...

Nearly all first class seats and 8 or more E+ seats are booked at the same time, early on. Then, between 48 and 72 hours before flight departure, nearly all of the first class seats open (i.e., the tickets were cancelled). Then, 3-24 hours before the flight, 6-8 or more non-elites jump from E+ to first class, at the same time, ahead of a Platinum on a Y fare.

Last edited by KAFlyer; Jun 3, 17 at 7:49 am
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Old Jun 3, 17, 6:05 pm
  #233  
 
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I'm trying to figure out how there are 4 people on the Polaris business upgrade list when the flight is J3R3 and the 4 people are NOT standby listed/cleared. The flight is still a day away as well.

Only thing I can come up with is that the upgrade system is "stuck" on a reservation and is just queuing everyone.

Thoughts?

-RM
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Old Jun 3, 17, 7:19 pm
  #234  
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Originally Posted by sfo789 View Post
Just witnessed some bizarre UG list shenanigans on an intl flight.

1. I check someone in (call them A) at T-24 exactly. They appear as the only person on the gate list.
2. ~10 mins later, a few more appear above A. Since the gate waitlist is prioritised by status then fare class then time of check-in, those people must have higher status/FC than A, as I checked A in before them.
3. A few mins later, multiple people clear the waitlist, including A, but the person at #1 stays where they are. In fact, ~5 people have now cleared, but #1 remains the same and un-cleared.

I don't understand how this can be a difference between EUA and the gate list: since #1 must have had a later check-in time than A, the only reason to be above is higher status/FC, which would also give them priority over others in clearing under EUA. Additionally, I can't believe the "secret sauce" variable that gives priority to people who recently missed upgrades can be so powerful as to let half a dozen people skip over the top-listed person on the WL.

Any ideas?
Just a guess

#1 was an awardee Plan B waitlister? Waitlisted for I?
Shows on the gate list

Pre-gate folks clear into R but I does not open up?
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Old Jun 3, 17, 8:13 pm
  #235  
 
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
Just a guess

#1 was an awardee Plan B waitlister? Waitlisted for I?
Shows on the gate list

Pre-gate folks clear into R but I does not open up?
Aha! I didn't even consider this possibility because I thought people WLd for I(N) only showed up for Plan B upon begging an agent at the UC/gate, but more recently people have reported SHARES handling the PR-1 status automatically at OLCI. Will work with that explanation -- thanks WineCountryUA!
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Old Jun 4, 17, 6:24 am
  #236  
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Originally Posted by RobOnLI View Post
I'm trying to figure out how there are 4 people on the Polaris business upgrade list when the flight is J3R3 and the 4 people are NOT standby listed/cleared. The flight is still a day away as well.

Only thing I can come up with is that the upgrade system is "stuck" on a reservation and is just queuing everyone.

Thoughts?

-RM
Maybe R just opened up and there hasn't been a sweep yet? Don't forget that R space only clears when a sweep runs - so anyone on the list if it was R0 won't clear until both R becomes available, and a sweep is run (I liked the PMUA system better where the list was 'push' - and you might clear without ever seeing NF space open.
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Old Jun 4, 17, 10:48 am
  #237  
 
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Originally Posted by RobOnLI View Post
I'm trying to figure out how there are 4 people on the Polaris business upgrade list when the flight is J3R3 and the 4 people are NOT standby listed/cleared. The flight is still a day away as well.

Only thing I can come up with is that the upgrade system is "stuck" on a reservation and is just queuing everyone.

Thoughts?

-RM
Employees/NRSAs? R just made available, but upgrade sweep not yet done?
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Old Jun 5, 17, 8:40 pm
  #238  
 
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Originally Posted by emcampbe View Post
Maybe R just opened up and there hasn't been a sweep yet? Don't forget that R space only clears when a sweep runs - so anyone on the list if it was R0 won't clear until both R becomes available, and a sweep is run (I liked the PMUA system better where the list was 'push' - and you might clear without ever seeing NF space open.
Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post
Employees/NRSAs? R just made available, but upgrade sweep not yet done?
Upgrade sweep was not the issue. It sweeps every single time someone checks in and the same people who were on the list when I posted were still on the list when it was T minus 1 hour at ORD.

I don't believe they were NSRAs because they were not on the standby list at all. All of the names that were on the standby list did appear properly on the upgrade list (at the bottom).

The flight was J7R7 when I booked onto it. It was J3R3 right before departure. So R didn't just open up. Even if, when I booked onto it and then did OLCI it would have forced an upgrade sweep to run.

-RM
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Old Jun 6, 17, 10:13 pm
  #239  
 
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Originally Posted by KAFlyer View Post
Some interesting behavior I've now observed twice at IAD...

Nearly all first class seats and 8 or more E+ seats are booked at the same time, early on. Then, between 48 and 72 hours before flight departure, nearly all of the first class seats open (i.e., the tickets were cancelled). Then, 3-24 hours before the flight, 6-8 or more non-elites jump from E+ to first class, at the same time, ahead of a Platinum on a Y fare.
Official gov travel? Feds tickets don't book until T-72, but seats are held at the time of reservation, and the tickets are refundable. Feds do earn status for travel like the rest of us, but in my experience, do end up having travel plans change at the last minute a LOT (the refundability of tickets enables that).

How can you tell the E+ travelers are non-elite? And do you mean true Y fare, or are you using that as shorthand for an economy-class ticket?
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Old Jun 8, 17, 5:43 pm
  #240  
 
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Upgrade wait-list priority

I am 1k with 117k PQM and $54k in spend year to date. GS next year, but united keeps denying my mid-year requests for GS.

Flying DEN-LAX today and found myself #23 on the upgrade list (didn't much matter, every first seat was full due to the $129 upgrade offer at check in). It has been 5ish years since I wasn't in the top 10.

When I got to the airport I stopped by the customer service desk opposite B38 and the agent couldn't tell me why I was so low on the list. She said there were 2 GS, 3 1k, then 15 plat, 1 gold, and 1 general member ahead of me on the list. Her theory was that they paid a higher fare for their ticket as she didn't see any that we're award, RPU, or GPU pending.

It was my understanding that CPU was processed based on status, then fare. Did this change?
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