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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 Apr 4, 18, 11:55 pm
  #601  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
does not show pre-check in upgrades on non-CPU routes at all (except for increment of 'Booked' count)
Right - and what I'm saying is that I'm pretty sure that the "new" non-CPU Hawaii routes never changed their showing of advance upgrades as check marks. At least when I flew OGG-DEN last December, there were 8 check marks two weeks in advance.
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Old Apr 5, 18, 6:43 am
  #602  
 
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OK I'm starting to get confused about this CPU and auto-splitting of PNR thing at check-in. My husband and I are flying EWR-SFO-OGG round trip in a month and by that time he will be silver and eligible for CPU on SFO-OGG legs. We are both on the same PNR. So my questions are as follows:

1. So when he checks in and says that he would like to be considered for upgrade that is when our ticket will be split?
2. There is no way to guarantee being upgraded together?
3. Where will I be on the upgrade list relative to him?

Currently at a month out our SFO-OGG flight has 0 booked in first so hopefully our chances our good going there at least (5 booked out of 16 coming back), but I'd love some clarification.
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Old Apr 5, 18, 9:09 am
  #603  
 
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Originally Posted by EAlyse View Post
OK I'm starting to get confused about this CPU and auto-splitting of PNR thing at check-in. My husband and I are flying EWR-SFO-OGG round trip in a month and by that time he will be silver and eligible for CPU on SFO-OGG legs. We are both on the same PNR. So my questions are as follows:

1. So when he checks in and says that he would like to be considered for upgrade that is when our ticket will be split?
2. There is no way to guarantee being upgraded together?
3. Where will I be on the upgrade list relative to him?

Currently at a month out our SFO-OGG flight has 0 booked in first so hopefully our chances our good going there at least (5 booked out of 16 coming back), but I'd love some clarification.
1. Yes, that's correct.
2. No. However, if you feel like risking it, the SFO-OGG upgrade process will continue to run between T-24 and ~T-3. So, the longer you delay checking in, the greater the chance that you might both be upgraded together before check-in, which doesn't require a split. However, you run the risk of losing out on preferable E+ seats, both on SFO-OGG and on EWR-SFO.
3. On the way out, you should be immediately after him. If you elect to split the reservation on the way out, it's my experience that on the way back, you'll be at the bottom of the list for Silver members.

What day of week are you flying? What type of aircraft? In general, the chances of an upgrade as a Silver are never good. California to Hawaii used to be a fairly easy upgrade for a Silver, but that's no longer the case. UA has dramatically reduced prices for the first class cabin, which has resulted in many fewer seats available for upgrade. UA will also sell upgrades to passengers during the check-in process, and many people may be tempted on an overwater flight. If your flight is on a 757-200 (with lie-flat seats), your chance of a free upgrade is virtually nil -- people will book those preferentially. On a 737, your chances are small, but 0/16 is obviously a good sign. Your best chances for an upgrade are midweek.

Good luck!
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Old Apr 5, 18, 9:27 am
  #604  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
1. Yes, that's correct.
2. No. However, if you feel like risking it, the SFO-OGG upgrade process will continue to run between T-24 and ~T-3. So, the longer you delay checking in, the greater the chance that you might both be upgraded together before check-in, which doesn't require a split. However, you run the risk of losing out on preferable E+ seats, both on SFO-OGG and on EWR-SFO.
3. On the way out, you should be immediately after him. If you elect to split the reservation on the way out, it's my experience that on the way back, you'll be at the bottom of the list for Silver members.

What day of week are you flying? What type of aircraft? In general, the chances of an upgrade as a Silver are never good. California to Hawaii used to be a fairly easy upgrade for a Silver, but that's no longer the case. UA has dramatically reduced prices for the first class cabin, which has resulted in many fewer seats available for upgrade. UA will also sell upgrades to passengers during the check-in process, and many people may be tempted on an overwater flight. If your flight is on a 757-200 (with lie-flat seats), your chance of a free upgrade is virtually nil -- people will book those preferentially. On a 737, your chances are small, but 0/16 is obviously a good sign. Your best chances for an upgrade are midweek.

Good luck!
Thanks! Both Flights are on a 737. Flight on the way out is Monday afternoon (2:40pm) and F and E+ are both wide open so hoping not too much changes. On the way back it's a Sunday redeye so I'm thinking there will be many more people looking to upgrade on that flight, but with no lie-flats it may not be a huge priority. E+ is getting pretty full on the way back, but unclear if those are elites, subscriptions or buy-ups. Right now we are already in E+ since my husband has a subscription as we didn't know if he would make Silver before the trip, but having it for the EWR-SFO legs is a big . So despite being unsure of the upgrade we'll at least have a bit more legroom.
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Old Apr 5, 18, 10:53 am
  #605  
 
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Originally Posted by EAlyse View Post
Thanks! Both Flights are on a 737. Flight on the way out is Monday afternoon (2:40pm) and F and E+ are both wide open so hoping not too much changes. On the way back it's a Sunday redeye so I'm thinking there will be many more people looking to upgrade on that flight, but with no lie-flats it may not be a huge priority. E+ is getting pretty full on the way back, but unclear if those are elites, subscriptions or buy-ups. Right now we are already in E+ since my husband has a subscription as we didn't know if he would make Silver before the trip, but having it for the EWR-SFO legs is a big . So despite being unsure of the upgrade we'll at least have a bit more legroom.
Yeah, I'd rate your chances as much better on the way out than on the way back. Most passengers with advance E+ seat assignments are probably gold or above, but obviously there are exceptions. Still -- wide open E+ is a good omen. For a lot of routes, 4 weeks is too early to expect the seat map to mean much, but I think most people plan Hawaiian trips a little further in advance.

Since you already have E+ seats by virtue of the subscription, personally I would delay check-in until I arrived at the airport in EWR. Then -- assuming you haven't already cleared -- check the upgrade standby list for SFO-OGG. Compare the number of empty seats in F to the number of passengers on the upgrade list, after subtracting any who appear on both the upgrade and standby lists. If there are still a few seats left over after you do that, you might consider splitting and hoping for the upgrade. If not, you can decline the upgrade during the check-in process and avoid having the record split.

I should point out that time of check-in is a tiebreaker on the visible upgrade list -- it's the last tiebreaker, after status and fare class. So, this strategy trades a slight decrease in the possibility of clearing the upgrade for a better insight into whether or not splitting is worthwhile.
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Old Apr 5, 18, 11:00 am
  #606  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
Yeah, I'd rate your chances as much better on the way out than on the way back. Most passengers with advance E+ seat assignments are probably gold or above, but obviously there are exceptions. Still -- wide open E+ is a good omen. For a lot of routes, 4 weeks is too early to expect the seat map to mean much, but I think most people plan Hawaiian trips a little further in advance.

Since you already have E+ seats by virtue of the subscription, personally I would delay check-in until I arrived at the airport in EWR. Then -- assuming you haven't already cleared -- check the upgrade standby list for SFO-OGG. Compare the number of empty seats in F to the number of passengers on the upgrade list, after subtracting any who appear on both the upgrade and standby lists. If there are still a few seats left over after you do that, you might consider splitting and hoping for the upgrade. If not, you can decline the upgrade during the check-in process and avoid having the record split.

I should point out that time of check-in is a tiebreaker on the visible upgrade list -- it's the last tiebreaker, after status and fare class. So, this strategy trades a slight decrease in the possibility of clearing the upgrade for a better insight into whether or not splitting is worthwhile.
Your advice makes sense. Although at 28 and 29 weeks preggo my husband may let me take the upgraded seat instead and I can avoid having him leaning on me when he falls asleep the whole flight. In that case might be worth checking in at T-24
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Old Apr 5, 18, 12:51 pm
  #607  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
Yeah, I'd rate your chances as much better on the way out than on the way back. Most passengers with advance E+ seat assignments are probably gold or above, but obviously there are exceptions. Still -- wide open E+ is a good omen. For a lot of routes, 4 weeks is too early to expect the seat map to mean much, but I think most people plan Hawaiian trips a little further in advance.
A good heuristic is that a Gold on a G fare will clear after every occupied E+ seat prior to T-24 clears. No, not everyone in E+ is Gold or higher and CPU eligible, but I find that, on average, the TODs and last minute shuffling balances it out.
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Old Apr 5, 18, 1:05 pm
  #608  
 
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
A good heuristic is that a Gold on a G fare will clear after every occupied E+ seat prior to T-24 clears. No, not everyone in E+ is Gold or higher and CPU eligible, but I find that, on average, the TODs and last minute shuffling balances it out.
Good thing there are only 4 other occupied E+ seats so far. Still a lot of time for things to change, but the fingers are crossed.
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Old Apr 5, 18, 4:31 pm
  #609  
 
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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.
Standard Domestic First awards appear on the upgrade list with a green checkmark as soon as they are booked.
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Old Apr 5, 18, 6:35 pm
  #610  
 
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Originally Posted by EAlyse View Post
Your advice makes sense. Although at 28 and 29 weeks preggo my husband may let me take the upgraded seat instead and I can avoid having him leaning on me when he falls asleep the whole flight. In that case might be worth checking in at T-24
Your husband is pregnant??

Good luck on the upgrades! You'll get a bit of advantage, albeit a marginal one, connecting from EWR, as you can check in ~7hrs earlier than someone originating in SFO. Worst case, you'll sit in economy for several hours and wind up in Maui.
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Old Apr 6, 18, 6:45 am
  #611  
 
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
Your husband is pregnant??

Good luck on the upgrades! You'll get a bit of advantage, albeit a marginal one, connecting from EWR, as you can check in ~7hrs earlier than someone originating in SFO. Worst case, you'll sit in economy for several hours and wind up in Maui.
HAHA! Junior is real! I thought the sentence was clear in who is pregnant, but I can see how it could be confusing. As long as I end up in Maui I'll be happy. The rest is just bonus
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Old Apr 7, 18, 1:36 pm
  #612  
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
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Waitlist upgrade

Does anyone know if the CPU clears before the waitlist for saver first using miles or vice versa on domestic flights?
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Old Apr 7, 18, 1:42 pm
  #613  
 
Join Date: Jan 2016
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Originally Posted by LAX UA View Post
Does anyone know if the CPU clears before the waitlist for saver first using miles or vice versa on domestic flights?
No. CPU clears after (unless you're GS). Waitlist for miles using saver first, i assume means you have "I class requested"?

This thread is pretty help, especially the wiki: Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively
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Old Apr 7, 18, 1:52 pm
  #614  
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There's no simple answer to this question and it depends on variables, particularly timing and status.
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Old Apr 7, 18, 2:04 pm
  #615  
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well, before the gate you would need IN to clear and an upgrade needs R to clear and R > IN. So until the gate pretty much a CPU will clear before IN. At the gate IN request should clear before R ... but I have seen plenty of issues w/ this in the past several years.
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