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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 Mar 25, 18, 10:54 am
  #586  
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Originally Posted by ryman554 View Post
But this isn't a saver award. It's upgrading using miles and money.
Kacee was responding to the (slightly off-topic) tangent.
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Old Mar 25, 18, 11:10 am
  #587  
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Originally Posted by ryman554 View Post
But this isn't a saver award. It's upgrading using miles and money.
You completely missed the point of my comments.

Originally Posted by ryman554 View Post
It used to be the case that a waitlisted I award was ahead of upgrades day of departure, where it clearly is not beforehand. Lookup 'plan B".

A displaced confirmed premium passenger ($$, or I) due to IRROPS should be higher than and UG. A waitlisted I pax is unclear.
I'm well familiar with the issue relative to waitlisted awards, and I don't agree with you. Nor is it relevant to this discussion.
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Old Mar 25, 18, 11:11 am
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
I'm not sure we know how UA codes this.

While you might think award would be lower fare class, for many purposes saver awards code as full fare.
I'd be shocked if it followed anything besides the order published in expert mode. A GS member on an X/XN fare with a GPU applied would almost certainly clear after a GS member on any economy fare with a points + cash or GPU applied.

Now, somebody using an Everyday award plus a GPU might well be near the front of the list, but that's a lot of extra miles just to jump other GS GPUs. And, a GS can convert R space to I for a saver award, so if you were looking to go Everyday + GPU, you'd probably be better off looking for R space and doing the R -> I conversion.
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Old Mar 25, 18, 11:22 am
  #589  
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
I'd be shocked if it followed anything besides the order published in expert mode. A GS member on an X/XN fare with a GPU applied would almost certainly clear after a GS member on any economy fare with a points + cash or GPU applied.
That's just a guess. It may be a good one, but it's a guess.

I know from personal experience getting into the GFL at SFO that UA considers saver awards "full fare" such that an I ticket would get you in where a Z or a P would not. Saver awards also fully changeable without restriction, which is another characteristic of a full fare ticket.
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Old Mar 25, 18, 11:25 am
  #590  
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
you might think award would be lower fare class
One thing we do know is the Chase Visa upgrade benefit states that award tickets are below all non-award fare classes. It seems logical that this would always hold, but logic has never been UA's strong point.

Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Saver awards also fully changeable without restriction
Only for some. Most people have to pay change fees.
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Old Mar 25, 18, 11:30 am
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Originally Posted by mahasamatman View Post
One thing we do know is the Chase Visa upgrade benefit states that award tickets are below all non-award fare classes. It seems logical that this would always hold, but logic has never been UA's strong point.
I don't disagree that X/XN probably come last, but I don't believe anyone here knows that to be the case.

Originally Posted by mahasamatman View Post
Only for some. Most people have to pay change fees.
Yes but that's a separate layer from the fare rules. With discount paid fares, the fees are embedded in the fare.
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Old Mar 25, 18, 2:08 pm
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
That's just a guess. It may be a good one, but it's a guess.

I know from personal experience getting into the GFL at SFO that UA considers saver awards "full fare" such that an I ticket would get you in where a Z or a P would not. Saver awards also fully changeable without restriction, which is another characteristic of a full fare ticket.
I would guess XN is lower than revenue classes, but only because they seem to have correctly implemented XN CPUs.
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Old Apr 3, 18, 7:08 am
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I used the cablepick tool to check loads on a couple domestic flights later this month. Both flights had one or two people upgraded to first already (names with green check mark next to them, along with seat assignment).

The wiki says people with a green checkmark clared into R. However, for these flights, did these people _waitlist_ for an upgrade and then clear into R? Since these flights were weeks out when I checked, it was far too early for CPUs to clear. Also, in the past, I have bought MUA upgrades on INTL flights (that cleared into R at booking as there was inventory), but my name never showed up with a green checkmark next to it on the flight status page. Trying to understand how/why that would happen.
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Old Apr 3, 18, 7:13 am
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Originally Posted by windhund View Post
I used the cablepick tool to check loads on a couple domestic flights later this month. Both flights had one or two people upgraded to first already (names with green check mark next to them, along with seat assignment).

The wiki says people with a green checkmark clared into R. However, for these flights, did these people _waitlist_ for an upgrade and then clear into R? Since these flights were weeks out when I checked, it was far too early for CPUs to clear. Also, in the past, I have bought MUA upgrades on INTL flights (that cleared into R at booking as there was inventory), but my name never showed up with a green checkmark next to it on the flight status page. Trying to understand how/why that would happen.
On CPUable flights, the names you see as cleared prior to GS CPU window either cleared at booking w/ R available or waitlisted and cleared in the interim. On non-CPUable flights, R upgrades don't show typically unless you are upgraded from the airport list. An exception may be the non-CPUable Hawaii long-haul flights - I can't recall if R upgrades appear on those ahead of GS window or not.
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Old Apr 3, 18, 7:57 am
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Thanks, IAH-OIL-TRASH. Now if only UA would fix the website so you can see if there is R availability on the "upgrade your flight" page. It used to tell you if a mileage upgrade was instantly confirmable or not, but lately it's just been saying "Online upgrade not available", so it means you have to search for the flight in expert mode to check for R and call in if you want it.
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Old Apr 3, 18, 8:03 am
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post
An exception may be the non-CPUable Hawaii long-haul flights - I can't recall if R upgrades appear on those ahead of GS window or not.
They do not show.

The other reason names may appear on the "upgraded" list is an "everyday" award redemption, which books into JN. This fools the system into thinking it's an upgrade.
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Old Apr 3, 18, 12:19 pm
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
They do not show.
Are you sure? My OGG-DEN did, and I think I saw an ORD-HNL with check marks 3 days out also.

Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
The other reason names may appear on the "upgraded" list is an "everyday" award redemption, which books into JN. This fools the system into thinking it's an upgrade.
This is going to account for 90% of unexpected check-marks, especially on flights where you wouldn't expect advance R space.
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Old Apr 4, 18, 5:48 pm
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Can you have 1 companion on a different PNR?
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Old Apr 4, 18, 6:58 pm
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Originally Posted by thejaredhuang View Post
Can you have 1 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.
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Old Apr 4, 18, 8:48 pm
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
Are you sure? My OGG-DEN did, and I think I saw an ORD-HNL with check marks 3 days out also.



This is going to account for 90% of unexpected check-marks, especially on flights where you wouldn't expect advance R space.
Not sure I'm reading your post correctly, but if it helps to clarify: I believe the system shows JN as a check mark as soon as booked, does not show pre-check in upgrades on non-CPU routes at all (except for increment of 'Booked' count), and all post-check in upgrades as check marks.
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