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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 Dec 28, 17, 6:19 pm
  #466  
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Originally Posted by drew in the air View Post
Originally Posted by NoDestinations View Post
So just making sure, as I have never done this before. If I have an RPU applied, and it hasn't cleared up to check in, I don't have to do anything special to check in? Do I still receive higher upgrade priority than CPUs?
Right. Higher priority than CPUs
Higher than non-GS CPUs, also lower than 1Ks on Y/B/M fares

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Dec 28, 17 at 6:56 pm Reason: Added M fares
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Old Dec 28, 17, 6:37 pm
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Theoretically... could I apply 1 RPU for the entire Island Hopper and have it potentially clear for all segments? It is one way with less than 4 hour connections.
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Old Dec 28, 17, 6:46 pm
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Originally Posted by pdxflyer12 View Post
My question is it is normal for an award ticket to show up on the update list?
Yes, domestic segments booked in JN class (elite Standard Awards) display as cleared upgrades on flight status. This is a relic of when JN was for Instant Upgrades for Y/B fares.

Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
Higher than non-GS CPUs, also lower than 1Ks on Y/B fares
Also M fares, an important distinction for this 1K

Originally Posted by NoDestinations View Post
Theoretically... could I apply 1 RPU for the entire Island Hopper and have it potentially clear for all segments? It is one way with less than 4 hour connections.
No. MAJ/HNL requires a GPU and W fare minimum (it's treated as TPAC).

You can apply a single RPU to the other five segments, and they are also CPU eligible.
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Old Dec 29, 17, 12:05 am
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
Yes, domestic segments booked in JN class (elite Standard Awards) display as cleared upgrades on flight status. This is a relic of when JN was for Instant Upgrades for Y/B fares.
Appreciate the info!!
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Old Dec 29, 17, 8:17 am
  #470  
 
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Interesting 24-hour upgrade list behavior today:
I'm 1K on W fare with GPU applied. My friend is traveling on same flight, no elite status, V fare, with one of my GPUs applied. The PNRs are separate.

I checked her in just before checking myself in. Both of us are on waitlist now, but she's 1 spot above me! She "comes before" me in all checkin ordering mechanisms except elite status (fare class higher and check in time earlier). But as I understand the list, the first sorting mechanism should be elite status, no?

In the old days (pre '15 or '16), my instrument (a 1K GPU) would have given her 1K status on the upgrade list, in which case her position above me would make sense (same elite status level instrument, then compare fare class with V > W).

Also, one unrelated question:
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)
I hadn't realized that GS waiting for CPU would come above before a 1K on an RPU. Can anyone point to evidence of this? But I guess it also only applies within 5 days of flight time since that's when GS become CPU eligible.
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Old Dec 29, 17, 8:33 am
  #471  
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Originally Posted by bigwings8 View Post
I'm 1K on W fare with GPU applied. My friend is traveling on same flight, no elite status, V fare, with one of my GPUs applied. The PNRs are separate.

I checked her in just before checking myself in. Both of us are on waitlist now, but she's 1 spot above me! She "comes before" me in all checkin ordering mechanisms except elite status (fare class higher and check in time earlier). But as I understand the list, the first sorting mechanism should be elite status, no?
Either that's an error in how one of you is listed, or UA is still carrying over your priority with the instrument. There have been anecdotal reports of the latter.
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Old Dec 29, 17, 12:13 pm
  #472  
 
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Originally Posted by bigwings8 View Post
Interesting 24-hour upgrade list behavior today:
I'm 1K on W fare with GPU applied. My friend is traveling on same flight, no elite status, V fare, with one of my GPUs applied. The PNRs are separate.

I checked her in just before checking myself in. Both of us are on waitlist now, but she's 1 spot above me! She "comes before" me in all checkin ordering mechanisms except elite status (fare class higher and check in time earlier). But as I understand the list, the first sorting mechanism should be elite status, no?

In the old days (pre '15 or '16), my instrument (a 1K GPU) would have given her 1K status on the upgrade list, in which case her position above me would make sense (same elite status level instrument, then compare fare class with V > W).

Also, one unrelated question:



I hadn't realized that GS waiting for CPU would come above before a 1K on an RPU. Can anyone point to evidence of this? But I guess it also only applies within 5 days of flight time since that's when GS become CPU eligible.
GS waiting for CPU clear above any non-GS upgrade within 120hrs of departure. I imagine that is what UA intended, actually.
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Old Dec 29, 17, 12:21 pm
  #473  
 
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Either that's an error in how one of you is listed, or UA is still carrying over your priority with the instrument. There have been anecdotal reports of the latter.
Possibly the bug only applies to the visible list? My experience in gifting RPUs to non-status pax is that they don't clear very fast before the gate (lots of other advance upgrades would clear first - obv could be higher fares and whatnot, so this is just a feeling).

Originally Posted by fumje View Post
GS waiting for CPU clear above any non-GS upgrade within 120hrs of departure. I imagine that is what UA intended, actually.
Furthermore, GS can (or just used to be able to?) force a CPU if F3 or greater within T-72.
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Old Dec 29, 17, 2:00 pm
  #474  
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I have RPUs applied to 4 people in one reservation, which I understand is basically a waste of time as it is unlikely that 4 seats of upgrade inventory will open at the same time.

Question: Does it make sense to remove 2 RPUs so that the other 2 have a chance to clear? And then perhaps reapply RPU or rely on CPU to clear myself (1K) and the remaining companion? Or do I split the reservation into half and leave the RPUs on all 4? The latter option is less preferred as there is more potential for screw-ups in the event of irregular ops (though admittedly less risk with a one-way nonstop flight)
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Old Dec 29, 17, 2:10 pm
  #475  
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Originally Posted by Boraxo View Post
... Question: Does it make sense to remove 2 RPUs so that the other 2 have a chance to clear? And then perhaps reapply RPU or rely on CPU to clear myself (1K) and the remaining companion? Or do I split the reservation into half and leave the RPUs on all 4? The latter option is less preferred as there is more potential for screw-ups in the event of irregular ops (though admittedly less risk with a one-way nonstop flight)
You can not have a RPU applied to some of the passenger on a PNR and not others. It is all or none. So you would have to split to do a partial applications, so if only 2 clear is a acceptable option, make two PNRs and all to all. The irrops issue can be handled at time of irrops, the bigger issue is scattered seating if on multiple PNRs

As for CPU, the RPU will be a higher priority over the CPU.
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Old Dec 29, 17, 5:49 pm
  #476  
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Originally Posted by Boraxo View Post
I have RPUs applied to 4 people in one reservation, which I understand is basically a waste of time as it is unlikely that 4 seats of upgrade inventory will open at the same time.
That's not necessarily true. When R opens, it's not uncommon to see R9. Other times they do dribble it out in batches less than four, and in those instances, you would be out of luck.
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Old Dec 30, 17, 6:35 pm
  #477  
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Interesting behavior a few days ago.

Last week (Dec. 23), traveling with my wife and 3 yo daughter on an award ticket from my wife's account. Both wife and I are gold, daughter no status. None of us have cards with an award upgrade benefit - wife is most relevant since the miles were from her account - has a Select, as well as the new TravelBank card.

Checked in online at maybe t-7, and as expected, no option to split, after all, this is an award ticket and no benefits for upgrades. Checked status and no one at all on the list and I know we weren't split at check since the 3 BPs in passbook all had the same PNR still. Checked status again on the shuttle to the airport, and surprised to see when I checked the list that all 3 of us were on the upgrade list (the only ones) with 4 seats remaining (319). Needless to say I was shocked. Even weirder still, daughter (no status) was number 1, with wife 2 and me 3. Eventually, someone else goes on the list, but they go at number 4. At this point, Economy shows as full...I'm certain it wasn't this way before.

Just prior to boarding, someone else takes a seat in F on the map, I'm pretty sure not an upgrader since there are still 4 on the list, and no one additional showed as cleared (though I suppose could have been a buy up). Whatever happened, appears it was a UM, as she was sitting next to wife. So the three of us end up clearing into the 3 remaining seats.

I'm sure I'll never know for sure, but the only thing that makes sense to me, based on what happened, is that Y became full/overbooked, and there were no other elites in Y, except for perhaps the 1 additional on the list. E+, per seat map, only had a handful of seats selected initially (and then showed all selected when I saw economy listed as full - I'm assuming those went mostly to BE fares). So I'm thinking someone - either in IM or at the airport - saw we were the elites left that they could upgrade vs. op-up non-status in the chance it was oversold. In the end, apparently they wouldn't have needed it - as the flight went out with 6 empty seats in economy (E-/E+). But seems strange to me.

Also not the only time this year I've been upgraded on an award. In Jan, I was on a very short haul, also on a 319, that was practically empty, so that time wasn't a 'its full' situation. But it was on an award, I think F was also completely empty or was only 1/8. Surprised to get a CPU...I think 24 hours or so in advance.
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Old Dec 31, 17, 12:44 am
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Chances of upgrading with M&M miles on UA

Hi there
I was inquiring at the M&M hotline for an upgrade to C with M&M miles. The agent told me
a) that UA doesn't offer a waitlist, and
b) that to her view, there is almost no chance of upgrading as the award booking classes are zeroed/not (yet) available.

The flights I was asking for aree in may (unfortunately each on a sat), route: ZRH IAD ZRH.

May someone with more UA experience clarify whether the chances for an upgrade are actually slim to none or if frequent calls might do the trick?
No status available (UA nor M&M)...

Thx!
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Old Dec 31, 17, 1:31 am
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Originally Posted by Boraxo View Post
I have RPUs applied to 4 people in one reservation, which I understand is basically a waste of time as it is unlikely that 4 seats of upgrade inventory will open at the same time.

Question: Does it make sense to remove 2 RPUs so that the other 2 have a chance to clear? And then perhaps reapply RPU or rely on CPU to clear myself (1K) and the remaining companion? Or do I split the reservation into half and leave the RPUs on all 4? The latter option is less preferred as there is more potential for screw-ups in the event of irregular ops (though admittedly less risk with a one-way nonstop flight)
Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
That's not necessarily true. When R opens, it's not uncommon to see R9. Other times they do dribble it out in batches less than four, and in those instances, you would be out of luck.
​Just cleared a waitlist LAX-EWR. When I looked at the inventory after clearing it was R5, but the 'booked' count for Business went up by four, so I think it went R9 initially. Another flight on the schedule was still R9. Then the next day it all went R0.

Originally Posted by TrickMcDave View Post
Hi there
I was inquiring at the M&M hotline for an upgrade to C with M&M miles. The agent told me
a) that UA doesn't offer a waitlist, and
b) that to her view, there is almost no chance of upgrading as the award booking classes are zeroed/not (yet) available.

The flights I was asking for aree in may (unfortunately each on a sat), route: ZRH IAD ZRH.

May someone with more UA experience clarify whether the chances for an upgrade are actually slim to none or if frequent calls might do the trick?
No status available (UA nor M&M)...

Thx!
This sounds like a question for LH? Your ticket is booked with M&M miles? Perhaps someone here knows more, though.

Last edited by fumje; Dec 31, 17 at 1:36 am Reason: typo
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Old Dec 31, 17, 5:06 am
  #480  
 
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Originally Posted by TrickMcDave View Post
Hi there
I was inquiring at the M&M hotline for an upgrade to C with M&M miles. The agent told me
a) that UA doesn't offer a waitlist, and
b) that to her view, there is almost no chance of upgrading as the award booking classes are zeroed/not (yet) available.

The flights I was asking for aree in may (unfortunately each on a sat), route: ZRH IAD ZRH.

May someone with more UA experience clarify whether the chances for an upgrade are actually slim to none or if frequent calls might do the trick?
No status available (UA nor M&M)...

Thx!
The answer may depend upon the type of upgrade you’re trying to do. With no status, I assume you’re trying a Star Alliance Upgrade Award? As far as I know, those cannot be waitlisted, and you would need Saver Business award availability (I class) on the segments in question. It is rare for UA to release seats in advance in Saver Business. It is possible that some might open closer to the date of travel, although Saturday travel is going to be difficult.

Business saver awards won’t open until all* pending MileagePlus-sponsored upgrade requests have been granted. (In other words, there is a waitlist, but you can’t get onto with with a Star Alliance Upgrade award. This is common across the entire alliance).

You could use a paid service like ExpertFlyer to watch for award space, or you could just check repeatedly yourself.

Having said that, I should point out that Star Alliance Upgrade Awards require a B or a Y fare, which tend to be extremely expensive on UA and are sometimes more expensive than paid business class tickets. It may be easier just to purchase business class in advance.

Finally, if all else fails, UA will offer to allow you to purchase an upgrade at check-in if there are any unsold seats.

Hope this helps.

* UA won’t upgrade part of a party. So, it’s technically possible that they could open a small amount of saver space — e.g., one single seat — while leaving a request for a larger number of seats on the waitlist. However, that’s a rare enough scenario that I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Last edited by jsloan; Jan 1, 18 at 7:40 pm Reason: Corrected “cheaper” to “more expensive” although I think it was obviously a mistake from context. :)
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