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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

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Old Jun 3, 19, 7:05 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 Nov 11, 17, 7:33 pm
  #406  
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Originally Posted by Syzygies View Post
I recently waitlisted two GPUs for friends. Without prompting, the 1K phone representative explained to me that they'd have my status on the waitlist. .....
While that was once true, this changed a few years ago but some agents don't stay up-to-date with the changes.

This what UA states (twice)
Waitlist priority on all flights
If upgrade space is not available when requesting a MileagePlus Upgrade Award, Regional Premier Upgrade or Global Premier Upgrade, travelers may be placed on a waitlist. Travelers placed on a waitlist are prioritized according to the Premier status of the traveler. If the request includes multiple travelers, then priority is based on the highest Premier status on the reservation. Waitlists are processed based on Premier status of the traveler, then fare class, then time of request
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Old Nov 16, 17, 4:30 pm
  #407  
 
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How does this upgrade situation happen?

Flying with my wife (1K through me) and son (no status on UA) to Aruba (AUA), Had RPUs to use, so booked flights for myself and my wife IAD-EWR-AUA and applied RPUs. Both 1Ks. Sponsored my son starting in SLC through DEN to EWR and then with us to AUA.
His upgrade cleared and ours didn't (he let me sit up front but when a passenger in C didn't show they came to upgrade me--but since I was already in C they upgraded him and not my wife -- who let him have the upgrade).
How did this whole thing happen? Why weren't my wife and I (1K 2MM) upgraded before our son?
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Old Nov 16, 17, 4:36 pm
  #408  
 
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Only one upgrade space was open and the system skipped your reservation because there were two persons on your reservation. Once you checked in, you got the upgrade based on the standby list. I guess that your son was upgraded before T-24.
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Old Nov 16, 17, 4:39 pm
  #409  
 
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Originally Posted by Kmxu View Post
Only one upgrade space was open and the system skipped your reservation because there were two persons on your reservation. Once you checked in, you got the upgrade based on the standby list. I guess that your son was upgraded before T-24.
No fhe PNR was split
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Old Nov 16, 17, 5:35 pm
  #410  
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did you buy the other ticket earlier? When waitlisted in my experience it still goes with the priority of the certificate and not the passenger ... I know they say otherwise ...
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Old Nov 16, 17, 5:41 pm
  #411  
 
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Originally Posted by euslaner View Post
Flying with my wife (1K through me) and son (no status on UA) to Aruba (AUA), Had RPUs to use, so booked flights for myself and my wife IAD-EWR-AUA and applied RPUs. Both 1Ks. Sponsored my son starting in SLC through DEN to EWR and then with us to AUA.
His upgrade cleared and ours didn't (he let me sit up front but when a passenger in C didn't show they came to upgrade me--but since I was already in C they upgraded him and not my wife -- who let him have the upgrade).
How did this whole thing happen? Why weren't my wife and I (1K 2MM) upgraded before our son?
What was his ticket class compared to yours. I assume he has no status. I have had this happen when the other passenger, in this case your son, had a significantly higher ticket class.
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Old Nov 19, 17, 6:33 pm
  #412  
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Had a weird one on Friday. Was doing IAD-MCO-IAD (same plane, out and back--long story, but moved back my SGU trip to January but still wanted to get enough PQDs to put me past 1K now so I can start using GPUs for winter/spring travel).

Failed to clear on the outbound; finished #1 on the list. I suspect buy-ups; simply wasn't worth it to me. Never showed up on the return waitlist (which was about 25-30 deep at the time, with 4 seats available), and my BP didn't say "added to upgrade standby list," either. GA wasn't sure but said "check in Orlando."

I ended up waiting until after takeoff on IAD-MCO, went online and forced an undo-check-in (by bringing up the "Change Flights" page and picking the "other dates" option). Checked in again, and voila, 2nd on the waitlist, pretty much as expected for a 1K on an L fare checking in ~2 hours before departure. They cleared 3 of us. Still not sure if I really was "on the list" and would have been cleared or not; I've certainly had it happen where I didn't appear on the list at all but still cleared a CPU. But I suspect if I'd waited to talk to the GA in MCO, I might not have made it...
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Old Nov 21, 17, 12:53 pm
  #413  
 
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Originally Posted by exerda View Post
Still not sure if I really was "on the list" and would have been cleared or not; I've certainly had it happen where I didn't appear on the list at all but still cleared a CPU. But I suspect if I'd waited to talk to the GA in MCO, I might not have made it...
You're on the CPU list up until the flight is under gate control. If you did not show up on the visible list, you would get skipped by the GA manually clearing upgrades. No idea what you cause you to not get checked in correctly.
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Old Nov 21, 17, 1:10 pm
  #414  
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I wonder if the OP had the same plane number which confused the system.
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Old Nov 29, 17, 4:05 pm
  #415  
 
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Why did I not get upgraded?

I have seen flavors of this question below but was not sure that's what happened today. This was for my flight from the West Coast to DC today. I was first on the upgrade wait list until about 75 minutes before my flight with 1 seat still available in First. Then someone else got upgraded and I remained first on the wait list and sat in the back. I can't believe that someone bought a FC ticket just 75 minutes before the flight or that a GS flyer showed up at the last minute. Also saw the guy who got upgraded and he did not at all look like a FAM. So no idea why someone leapfrogged me on the upgrade list.
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Old Nov 29, 17, 4:08 pm
  #416  
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Since you do not show on the displayed list until you have checked in, a good possibility is the upgraded passegner (higher status and /or higher fae) checked in at 75 minutes prior to departure and was upgraded soon afterward. You can chedk in as later as 30 minuteds prior to departure domestic with no checked bags.

Another possibilibity is a higher status passegner SDC'ed to your flight (possibility because of the upgrade opportunity or perhaps because their schedule had changed).

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Nov 29, 17 at 4:17 pm Reason: sdc option
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Old Nov 29, 17, 4:12 pm
  #417  
 
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Could have also been a Global Services SDC, or a 1K on a high fare doing SDC.
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Old Nov 29, 17, 4:46 pm
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Originally Posted by DLrunner View Post
...I can't believe that someone bought a FC ticket just 75 minutes before the flight or that a GS flyer showed up at the last minute...
Number one rule when staring at an upgrade waitlist - it only shows those who have checked in. You were number 1 only among those who checked in and were waiting.
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Old Nov 29, 17, 5:17 pm
  #419  
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Originally Posted by DLrunner View Post
I have seen flavors of this question below but was not sure that's what happened today. This was for my flight from the West Coast to DC today. I was first on the upgrade wait list until about 75 minutes before my flight with 1 seat still available in First. Then someone else got upgraded and I remained first on the wait list and sat in the back. I can't believe that someone bought a FC ticket just 75 minutes before the flight or that a GS flyer showed up at the last minute. Also saw the guy who got upgraded and he did not at all look like a FAM. So no idea why someone leapfrogged me on the upgrade list.
What is your status and what fare were you on?

As noted, the published upgrade waitlist list only shows checked in passengers. If a pax with higher priority checks in at T-75, there goes the upgrade.

As a 1K flying on a U or E fare, I've been jumped in this manner by GS many times.
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Old Nov 29, 17, 5:46 pm
  #420  
 
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In addition to a not-checked-in passenger (note that we believe check-in triggers a sweep), note that the visible list is not the order used even at T-75m. Was the person who cleared #2 on the list? Could have been someone winning the tiebreak on ticket purchase but losing it on check-in.
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