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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 Jan 1, 18, 4:10 am
  #481  
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 42
Thanks jsloan. Tickets aren't booked yet. So I'll first try to figure out another way to score an upgrade award or c award on a different *A routing.
If it doesn't work out, then I'll consider to buy directly business tix.
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Old Jan 1, 18, 8:51 pm
  #482  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
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International Upgrade Priority Order - No status above 1K

Flying RT IAH - LIM in a group of 4 (1k, 1k, gold, no status). Booked on same PNR in U class.

Used 4 GPU for the return. Outbound we split to 3 PNRs due to upgrade waitlist - 1k, 1k, (gold and no status). Did not clear.

I checked in for the LIM - IAH segment in this order: 1k(me), 1k(spouse), then gold / no.

The upgrade waitlist ended up being: No status, gold, 1k spouse, 1k me.

I thought I understood the priority waitlist, but this is backwards.

Am I missing something in this process?
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Old Jan 1, 18, 8:56 pm
  #483  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
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It is some combination of:
- auto-split PNRs inherit some amount of the status from the original PNR. Certainly when auto-split for IAH-LIM, all of you have the priority of 1Ks on U fares with GPU applied
- several recent reports suggest that, on the visible list only, the status of the sponsoring account is retained for supported upgrades

Order within a split-PNR party of equal priority is essentially random; I cannot identify any variable which reliably determines it.
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Old Jan 1, 18, 9:03 pm
  #484  
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Originally Posted by Aggie View Post
Outbound we split to 3 PNRs due to upgrade waitlist - 1k, 1k, (gold and no status). Did not clear.
Actually you would have had to split to 4 PNRs. You can't waitlist a multi-pax PNR on the gate standby list.

Otherwise agree with findark. It's always been a bit murky how exactly things are going to prioritize following an auto-split.
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Old Jan 1, 18, 9:10 pm
  #485  
 
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Actually you would have had to split to 4 PNRs. You can't waitlist a multi-pax PNR on the gate standby list.
I attempted a mileage upgrade outwound for my wife and I, so only 3 PNRs.


Thanks for the insight - I didnít realize how much info the splits retained.



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Old Jan 1, 18, 9:23 pm
  #486  
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Originally Posted by Aggie View Post
I attempted a mileage upgrade outwound for my wife and I, so only 3 PNRs.
No, if you were all on the visible waitlist, it had to be four PNRs. Passengers on a multi-pax PNR will not be placed on that list.
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Old Jan 1, 18, 9:38 pm
  #487  
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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When should I request an upgrade?

I apologize it this has been already asked, but I couldn't find it in a search. My spouse and I are traveling SFO-CDG in April and want to upgrade using miles and copay. There is no availability today. When should I request the upgrade? I want to minimize the time UA has the benefit of the float of my upgrade fees but I don't want to miss out on an early upgrade if inventory opens up. Many thanks for the insight.

Last edited by misterfuss; Jan 1, 18 at 9:42 pm Reason: Add title and request email updates
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Old Jan 1, 18, 9:44 pm
  #488  
 
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When I split my wife always inherits the original PNR and has no status but is always above me on the upgrade list and always upgrades before me
Her name starts with C, mine is W
HIP, C
HIP, W

The only thing I can come up with is alphabetical, but it has been the same story too many times to not be some policy, alphabetical is just ow we term it between ourselves.

One thing is she always gets a lower sequence number than me due to alphabetical probably, so that may be the tiebreak as well
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Old Jan 1, 18, 9:45 pm
  #489  
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Originally Posted by misterfuss View Post
When should I request the upgrade? I want to minimize the time UA has the benefit of the float of my upgrade fees but I don't want to miss out on an early upgrade if inventory opens up.
If the upgrade is more important to you than spiting United, request it as early as possible.
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Old Jan 1, 18, 10:33 pm
  #490  
 
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Originally Posted by Hipplewm View Post
When I split my wife always inherits the original PNR and has no status but is always above me on the upgrade list and always upgrades before me
Her name starts with C, mine is W
HIP, C
HIP, W

The only thing I can come up with is alphabetical, but it has been the same story too many times to not be some policy, alphabetical is just ow we term it between ourselves.

One thing is she always gets a lower sequence number than me due to alphabetical probably, so that may be the tiebreak as well
I too have noticed it is done alphabetically. 4/4 times with same passengers got the same order with me being the 1k always behind others without status. This was not for a CPU/GPU but for the IN waitlist.
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Old Jan 1, 18, 10:40 pm
  #491  
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Originally Posted by misterfuss View Post
I apologize it this has been already asked, but I couldn't find it in a search. My spouse and I are traveling SFO-CDG in April and want to upgrade using miles and copay. There is no availability today. When should I request the upgrade? I want to minimize the time UA has the benefit of the float of my upgrade fees but I don't want to miss out on an early upgrade if inventory opens up. Many thanks for the insight.
Two issues with waiting,
1) UA may, at anything, decide to clear the waitlist, if you are not there it will not happen (and you may never see the R space)

2) If others with the same status and fare also request an upgrade, the first to request will have priority

How much do you think the float of the copay is worth?
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Old Jan 1, 18, 11:45 pm
  #492  
 
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Originally Posted by misterfuss View Post
I apologize it this has been already asked, but I couldn't find it in a search. My spouse and I are traveling SFO-CDG in April and want to upgrade using miles and copay. There is no availability today. When should I request the upgrade? I want to minimize the time UA has the benefit of the float of my upgrade fees but I don't want to miss out on an early upgrade if inventory opens up. Many thanks for the insight.
As mentioned, you have a substantial chance of missing out on an upgrade if you do not have a request made. If you are already committed to a specific flight, you should request the upgrade now - the float value of a couple thousand dollars for a few months is very small.

Originally Posted by Hipplewm View Post
When I split my wife always inherits the original PNR and has no status but is always above me on the upgrade list and always upgrades before me
Her name starts with C, mine is W
HIP, C
HIP, W

The only thing I can come up with is alphabetical, but it has been the same story too many times to not be some policy, alphabetical is just ow we term it between ourselves.

One thing is she always gets a lower sequence number than me due to alphabetical probably, so that may be the tiebreak as well
My story for why I've given up trying to understand this... was flying with (no status) GF on an itin whose full unflown PNR was NRT-GUM-TKK-PNI-KSA-KWA-MAJ-HNL-LAX-SFO. GPUs applied for the whole journey, and have cleared on NRT-GUM and some downline segments at this point, but not GUM-TKK-PNI. Check-in for NRT-GUM was done in Tokyo, but I went to the desk at the UC in NRT to get the PNR split so that we could check in for more segments (could not check in online). The agent confirmed that the PNR would split, and checked us in for GUM-TKK and TKK-PNI*. She kept the original PNR and I got the new one, and we showed up on the upgrade lists for the two flights. We were the only two pax on both, but we were in the opposite order (!!). She was before me on the visible list for TKK-PNI, and after for GUM-TKK.

I scrutinized the boarding passes, and all things I could imagine (ticket number, sequence number, names) are identical for the two segments - names are of course the same, the ticket numbers were the same too, and the sequence numbers were n, n+1, n+2, n+3 (forget who was first but it alternated). To add to the irony, I cleared TKK-PNI off the invisible list a few hours later; her TKK-PNI cleared at the gate in TKK.

There were a whole host of weird things about this PNR (it started with GMP-HND on OZ same ticket): it had three tickets for each of us because of the four segments per ticket limitation, and had been hacked together by an agent. But I cannot for the life of me puzzle out how we went on the u/g list in different order.


*This was the end of the first ticket since it had four segments on it: SEL-TYO-GUM-TKK-PNI, and the next segment was not in 24hrs.
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Old Jan 6, 18, 7:52 am
  #493  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
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upgrade confusion

upgrade confusion

I am a 1k and I have used two GPUs on two different PNR (they are linked though) the 2nd pax (coworker Nr, 1.) has no status and is only UA base member, both tickets have the same fare class M (real M)

I used online check in with the 1st segment carrier (OS) for both of us and we did not show up on the upgrade standby list, this happened before and I phoned in and they were able to fix this
I was showing 1st on the list and the other one 2nd.

My other coworker Nr. 2. is also on the same flight but different feeder also only base member and has a Q fare his feeder segment is on LH in Z (was cheaper than Eco)
I have asked a fellow 1k to apply a spare GPU on his reservation

When my coworker (Nr. 2) checked in online trough LH, he immediately got upgraded into Polaris he wrote me and thanked me for the upgrade

I thought nice and checked the flight status on my app - ... number 2 got upgraded and I am still Nr. 1. on the waitlist and my coworker is not shown at all (but i checked his PNR and he has been upgraded)

I am not greedy nor jealous ... my coworker is 6' 8 and the other one is super nice I am pleased for them ...but why does this happen like it happend ?

I have screenshots to proof

PS: fingers crossed my upgrade goes through too

Last edited by iandm; Jan 6, 18 at 2:29 pm
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Old Jan 6, 18, 8:00 am
  #494  
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No explanation. Status is supposed to be the 1st criteria, then fare class. So this is wrong at two levels. Something is wrong with UA's upgrade system. Several reports in the last week or so which also could not be explained.
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Old Jan 6, 18, 10:08 am
  #495  
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Originally Posted by iandm View Post
two different PNR (they are linked though)
No such thing.
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