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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

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Old Apr 26, 20, 5:03 pm   -   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-SFO/LAX, BOS-SFO and v.v.) 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
    • 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) -- see UA award chart for details 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. For Plats and below these require PZ space. For 1Ks and GS, this can be done on Y, B & M fares and requires PN space. 1K & GS, if not cleared at booking, will be waitlisted.

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)

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. 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 Economy fares may show as a confirmed upgrade to Premium Economy.

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 16, 20, 12:55 pm
  #556  
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Yeah, I was commenting on gate order - the PN and PZ waitlists are separate entities.
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Old Jan 16, 20, 1:06 pm
  #557  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
I’m 99% certain that the answer is yes prior to the gate — because the GS instrument in Y is still clearing into PN, whereas the 1K instrument in P+ is clearing into PZ.

At the gate, who knows? I suspect GS still have priority, but i agree, we would probably need to see it happen to be sure, especially because the computer isn’t clearing people in the order they’re listed.
This is definitely a big question mark. Because now going back to the gate situation I had a few days back where 4 other people cleared into business in the 10 minutes during boarding's start, while me and my dad sat at #1 and #2 in that whole span, makes me think. Originally I thought 4 people had bought TOD upgrades at the gate during boarding which is why they jumped me and my dad and others in the list, as off as that seemed. But maybe waitlisted O fares cleared before me and my dad who are on A fares? Despite our instruments being PN? As you can see in the second picture, there's only one DES,R remaining because mine actually cleared while I was on board due to a no show, but it only cleared after those 4 people. But especially after my boarding pass said PZ on it, I don't even know anymore.....

Last edited by flyingrohit; Jan 16, 20 at 1:16 pm
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Old Jan 16, 20, 3:47 pm
  #558  
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Originally Posted by flyingrohit View Post
... I don't even know anymore......
I don't think any of us know what the available lists mean anymore -- we are "flying blind", sort of speaking
I don't think it is worth the effort to try at the moment because UA could be doing all sorts of things in the background (if / once they start working on this) and things may change again and again.
Upgrade waitlist / display / clearing issues since PlusPoints changeover
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
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Old Jan 30, 20, 10:23 pm
  #559  
 
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
Without getting two data points and watching one of them clear, we can't know for certain. I think the answer is yes.

yes. The reason behind this as I was explained is because premium plus an economy are the same class of service and a GS even on the G fare would be prioritized above a 1K on a O fare.
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Old Jan 30, 20, 10:26 pm
  #560  
 
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
I don't think any of us know what the available lists mean anymore -- we are "flying blind", sort of speaking
I don't think it is worth the effort to try at the moment because UA could be doing all sorts of things in the background (if / once they start working on this) and things may change again and again.
Upgrade waitlist / display / clearing issues since PlusPoints changeover
so what a supervisor on the GS line read to me today was an email dated dec 30th, which stated that all upgrades will now be with listed as PD1 regardless of status but will be cleared based on status. It was written that Upgrade should not be placed in PA PB or PC waitlists. I hope this is not true and somebody can confirm otherwise.
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Old Jan 30, 20, 10:29 pm
  #561  
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Originally Posted by acesflyerSFO View Post
so what a supervisor on the GS line read to me today was an email dated dec 30th, which stated that all upgrades will now be with listed as PD1 regardless of status but will be cleared based on status. It was written that Upgrade should not be placed in PA PB or PC waitlists. I hope this is not true and somebody can confirm otherwise.
Why would it matter?

PA/PB/PC/PD were an implementation detail that served to make the prioritization work. If they want to stick everybody into PD and then prioritize, it should have the same effect.
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Old Jan 31, 20, 2:36 am
  #562  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
Why would it matter?

PA/PB/PC/PD were an implementation detail that served to make the prioritization work. If they want to stick everybody into PD and then prioritize, it should have the same effect.
maybe, unless they use the pa, pb etc for wl with greater pass points...
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Old Jan 31, 20, 7:19 am
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Originally Posted by acesflyerSFO View Post
so what a supervisor on the GS line read to me today was an email dated dec 30th, which stated that all upgrades will now be with listed as PD1 regardless of status but will be cleared based on status. It was written that Upgrade should not be placed in PA PB or PC waitlists. I hope this is not true and somebody can confirm otherwise.
I missed the existence of the PA-D waitlists (although I knew of PA/PB back in the PMUA days).

What were/are these intended for?
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Old Jan 31, 20, 7:48 am
  #564  
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Originally Posted by ryman554 View Post
I missed the existence of the PA-D waitlists (although I knew of PA/PB back in the PMUA days).

What were/are these intended for?
They were loosely intended to sort by status, but also became rather superfluous when the system was able to sort by status within a particular waitlist.

I don't think moving everyone to PD should have a material effect on upgrade clearance, except that if GS instrument upgrades go to PD instead of PA, then I think non-GS on GS instruments will lose their gate priority.
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Old Jan 31, 20, 7:52 am
  #565  
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Isn't the noteworthy part of the email the statement that upgrades won't be cleared in the same order they're listed?

If this is accurate, it's essentially a deliberate removal of upgrade list transparency. What's the point of publishing a list if it doesn't show how the upgrades actually clear?
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Old Jan 31, 20, 8:40 am
  #566  
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Isn't the noteworthy part of the email the statement that upgrades won't be cleared in the same order they're listed?
Not necessarily. If they're actually doing this, it may be part of an attempt to get the visible list into the correct order.

Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
If this is accurate, it's essentially a deliberate removal of upgrade list transparency. What's the point of publishing a list if it doesn't show how the upgrades actually clear?
At this point, I would rather have them hide the list than continue to publish an inaccurate list. Bad data is arguably worse than no data.

Originally Posted by acesflyerSFO View Post
maybe, unless they use the pa, pb etc for wl with greater pass points...
They can't even get the current system to work right. I sincerely doubt that they will try to make it more complicated just yet.
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Old Jan 31, 20, 9:10 am
  #567  
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
Not necessarily. If they're actually doing this, it may be part of an attempt to get the visible list into the correct order.
I'm not sure how we get that from this:
all upgrades will now be with listed as PD1 regardless of status but will be cleared based on status
That's exactly what you say is a bad idea (and I agree), namely publishing a list that's known not to reflect the order of clearing.

Of course, there are also very good reasons to question whether they're consistently clearing upgrades according to any proper priortization. It seems more likely that the code is so messed up that there is no consistent prioritization.
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Old Jan 31, 20, 9:14 am
  #568  
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
I'm not sure how we get that from this:

That's exactly what you say is a bad idea (and I agree), namely publishing a list that's known not to reflect the order of clearing.
I guess I was assuming that, within the PD list, passengers would be sorted by status. That makes PA/PB/PC superfluous. That may, however, be an invalid assumption.
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Old Jan 31, 20, 9:20 am
  #569  
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
I guess I was assuming that, within the PD list, passengers would be sorted by status. That makes PA/PB/PC superfluous. That may, however, be an invalid assumption.
The "regardless of status" part would seem to suggest it is not being sorted by status.

This would be consistent with 1K reports of being in the 30s or 40s with an instrument applied.
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Old Jan 31, 20, 9:43 am
  #570  
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
The "regardless of status" part would seem to suggest it is not being sorted by status.
Not necessarily. "Put everybody in the same waitlist regardless of status" could be followed with "because that one waitlist is already sorted by status."

Assuming this is actually being done, it will be fairly simple to check. Given that upgrade lists are available in advance via a mobile device, check the list, then add an instrument. If you're always being added at the end of the list, then, yes, there's a good chance this makes the already bad problem worse. If you still find yourself being inserted into the middle of the list, then I'd say it's working at least as well as it has been.
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