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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

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Old Aug 31, 22, 12:45 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) -- [[url=https://web.archive.org/web/20180328171925/http://mileageplusupdates.com/images/United-Award-Chart.pdf]archive link; prices in chart may be obsolete] 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:
  • 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 instrument-supported upgrades: Prioritized by Premier status of the traveler, then fare class and then time of request. There is no priority difference between types of instruments.
  • 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)
  • 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.

Additional factors in prioritization for some flights
  1. Premier status of the traveler
  2. Fare class
  3. Chase United MileagePlus Club cardholder
  4. United Corporate Preferred participant
  5. Chase MP cardholders who spent $25K using a cobranded card.
  6. 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.)

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 Feb 4, 19, 2:40 pm
  #31  
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Originally Posted by Fizzer View Post
Sorry if this is a dumb question.
I didn't think it was a dumb question. I've never really understood this perk.
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Old Feb 4, 19, 3:54 pm
  #32  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
No. It's only waived for upgrades on routes that would be CPU-eligible -- short-haul, not long-haul.
I thought it was too good to be true. Thanks for clarifying.
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Old Feb 5, 19, 10:42 am
  #33  
 
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GPU upgrade priorities

I'm trying to book 2 flights for me and my wife. My wife is relocating so her ticket was going to be a one-way ticket, while I'm flying round trip.

While trying to upgrade both tickets using GPU, 1k help desk told me that the tickets would be on a separate reservation and thus would not have the same priority (my wife is not a 1k). The desk said that the upgrade priority goes with the mileageplus status of the highest member in the group.

However, upon calling again just now, the agent on 1k help desk said something completely different. She said that it wouldn't matter if the reservation are different because the upgrade priority would depend on the account the GPU was used from.

So I'd like a clarification here: Which agent is correct?
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Old Feb 5, 19, 10:46 am
  #34  
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It should be the first agent, although there is a lot of uncertainty how various systems are coded.

Published policy is that on a separate PNR, your wife will be prioritized on her own status with the instrument.
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Old Feb 5, 19, 10:48 am
  #35  
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Originally Posted by pon18n View Post
So I'd like a clarification here: Which agent is correct?
The first agent was correct. All GS instruments are prioritized ahead of other instruments, regardless of the traveler's status, but after that, it's based upon the fare class of the highest-status traveler in the reservation. Your wife will clear based upon her status, not yours.
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Old Feb 5, 19, 10:52 am
  #36  
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It might be cheaper to book two RTs than a one-way and an RT.

Then the wife can use the remaining leg in the future after a change fee.

This way, you can apply the UGs and have the same status attached.
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Old Feb 5, 19, 11:56 am
  #37  
 
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Originally Posted by aacharya View Post
It might be cheaper to book two RTs than a one-way and an RT.

Then the wife can use the remaining leg in the future after a change fee.

This way, you can apply the UGs and have the same status attached.
That's what I ended up doing. I bought 2 round trip tickets and going to cancel the return trip after our outbound is complete.

For some reason, the united website would not allow me to apply GPU on the returning flight (anybody know why that might be?).

I called in the desk to apply upgrade telling them I only want to upgrade one. The agent told me the only way that's possible is splitting the ticket. I told her that splitting the ticket would bump my wife's priority down and she argued with me that that wasn't the case.

In the end I ended up getting waitlist on both return flights. I guess I'll just have to cancel one later.
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Old Feb 5, 19, 12:30 pm
  #38  
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Originally Posted by pon18n View Post
For some reason, the united website would not allow me to apply GPU on the returning flight (anybody know why that might be?).
Probably, precisely what you're running into.

Originally Posted by pon18n View Post
I called in the desk to apply upgrade telling them I only want to upgrade one. The agent told me the only way that's possible is splitting the ticket. I told her that splitting the ticket would bump my wife's priority down and she argued with me that that wasn't the case.
This is a bit of a gray area. There are some reports that the PNR will retain the priority it had when it was first created; there are others that make it seem that it isn't the case. I don't see a downside to waiting until after the outbound is flown to touch the return, unless you needed the other instrument in the meantime.
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Old Feb 5, 19, 4:41 pm
  #39  
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Originally Posted by pon18n View Post
I'm trying to book 2 flights for me and my wife. My wife is relocating so her ticket was going to be a one-way ticket, while I'm flying round trip.

While trying to upgrade both tickets using GPU, 1k help desk told me that the tickets would be on a separate reservation and thus would not have the same priority (my wife is not a 1k). The desk said that the upgrade priority goes with the mileageplus status of the highest member in the group.

However, upon calling again just now, the agent on 1k help desk said something completely different. She said that it wouldn't matter if the reservation are different because the upgrade priority would depend on the account the GPU was used from.

So I'd like a clarification here: Which agent is correct?
Just to confuse things more
-- for certs from a 1K (or lower) account, the separate PNR the passenger will be prioritized on their personal status. However, on a joint PNR, all will be prioritized based on the highest elite.
-- For certs from a GS account, the passenger will be prioritized the same as above BUT for the PN inventory which is effectively a higher priority then non-GS. So in effect, where the cert comes from does matter.

Given the complexity of the system (plus certain portions are not fully publically documented), it is not surprising most passengers are confused and also most agents are also confused / untrained.

Originally Posted by pon18n View Post
....For some reason, the united website would not allow me to apply GPU on the returning flight (anybody know why that might be?).

I called in the desk to apply upgrade telling them I only want to upgrade one. The agent told me the only way that's possible is splitting the ticket. I told her that splitting the ticket would bump my wife's priority down and she argued with me that that wasn't the case. ...
There are reports both ways on this and recently it seems to keep the status more than not but it could be other actions disrupt this -- irropr, schedule change???

Originally Posted by pon18n View Post
...In the end I ended up getting waitlist on both return flights. I guess I'll just have to cancel one later.
On a single PNR, it is all or none -- cannot apply a GPU to one only -- everything on a single PNR (except passenger information) has to be identical.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Feb 5, 19 at 6:19 pm
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Old Feb 5, 19, 4:47 pm
  #40  
 
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Originally Posted by pon18n View Post
For some reason, the united website would not allow me to apply GPU on the returning flight (anybody know why that might be?).
You're going to have to either apply a GPU to both return fligths, then get it back when you cancel your wife's return, or wait until you cancel her return then apply the GPU to your return.
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Old Feb 5, 19, 6:15 pm
  #41  
 
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
On a single PNR, it is all or none -- cannot apply a GOU to one only -- everything on a single PNT (except passenger information) has to be identical.
I have mixed instruments (i.e. RPU with a GPU) but had to call to do it. They pushed it through fwiw. Perhaps you just meant all have to have instruments or no instruments.
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Old Feb 5, 19, 6:22 pm
  #42  
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Originally Posted by nomad420 View Post
I have mixed instruments (i.e. RPU with a GPU) but had to call to do it. They pushed it through fwiw. ....
That was very non-standard and surprized you were able to make it happen. Although a GPU on an RPU route is no different from an RPU. I think you got a nice customer service gesture (if done without splitting the PNR). Folks have tried GPU and miles and that was a no go.
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Old Feb 6, 19, 9:01 am
  #43  
 
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
That was very non-standard and surprized you were able to make it happen. Although a GPU on an RPU route is no different from an RPU. I think you got a nice customer service gesture (if done without splitting the PNR). Folks have tried GPU and miles and that was a no go.
Interesting to hear, my next flight with Mrs. Nomad to EWR (Yes an "RPU route") I am using RPUs and she is using GPUs or vice versa on the same PNR for sure. Now I would say I pushed it a bit stating that I wanted to burn up the 2 GPUs that we extended from 2018. I was never told I couldn't be done but they said they had to manually push it through. I have not tried a miles mix but was looking into doing that later on another planned TCON. If I have to split the PNR on that one it wouldn't be a big deal but I'll let you know how it goes.

FWIW, this seems pretty short sited that UA won't let you mix instruments. You would think an "instrument is an instrument" and also if someone want to use a GPU on a RPU route (I do it all the time) why not let them. Maybe someone can enlighten me on UA's thinking on this....

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Feb 6, 19 at 9:51 am Reason: merging consecutive posts by same member
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Old Feb 6, 19, 9:18 am
  #44  
 
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Originally Posted by nomad420 View Post
FWIW, this seems pretty short sited that UA won't let you mix instruments. You would think an "instrument is an instrument" and also if someone want to use a GPU on a RPU route (I do it all the time) why not let them. Maybe someone can enlighten me on UA's thinking on this....
I don't know the answer, but I'm taking a wild stab in the dark: Their thinking is that they don't want to invest in the IT technology to provide this customer-friendly service.
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Old Feb 6, 19, 9:24 am
  #45  
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Originally Posted by nomad420 View Post
FWIW, this seems pretty short sited that UA won't let you mix instruments. You would think an "instrument is an instrument" and also if someone want to use a GPU on a RPU route (I do it all the time) why not let them. Maybe someone can enlighten me on UA's thinking on this....
I'm pretty sure it's not a "rule" per se, but rather a systems limitation attributable to the different coding of the different types of instruments. Tickets on the same PNR must be identical, and the coding of a GPU is different from the coding of an RPU.

Frankly I've never seen this issue raised before and suspect it impacts very few people.
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