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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 7, 18, 3:18 pm
  #616  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
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Originally Posted by cfischer View Post
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.
Basically this. Before the gate, it could be either but most of the time CPUs will happen first. An IN waitlist should be added to the gate list at a higher priority than CPUs.
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Old Apr 7, 18, 9:06 pm
  #617  
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A GS CPU should have priority over an award waitlist.

Moreover, there is some inconsistency in how waitlisted awards are handled at the gate, so these are generally YMMV situations.
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Old Apr 11, 18, 6:58 pm
  #618  
 
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Companion RPU on ticket that is half-the-same

I have a somewhat obscure question. I am flying from AAA-BBB-CCC. I have a travel companion who will fly from BBB-CCC on the same day and same flight. I am a 1k, my companion has no status. I'd like to use my RPUs to get us both upgraded. As I see it, I have two options:

1. Book a separate ticket from AAA-BBB (just myself), and BBB-CCC (both of us), same confirmation number). If I do this, then at minimum my companion and I can sit together in E+, and they will share my status. The downside of this is that the fare class we would book is S. I will apply two RPUs.

2. Book my own ticket from AAA-BBB-CCC, and book my companion's ticket from BBB-CCC. They will be separate reservations numbers. In this case, my ticket would be a W class, while their ticket will be S class. I will apply two RPUs. If the upgrades do not go through, then technically my companion cannot get E+, though a nice agent may be able to accommodate this.

I should mention there is currently no PN or RN inventory. The cost of these two options are about the same.

My question: is there an advantage to either approach? If we chose option 2, then is the upgrade priority on both tickets based on my W fare, instead of the S fare? If so, that is a (small) advantage. Are there downsides?
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Old Apr 11, 18, 7:04 pm
  #619  
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Originally Posted by manttium View Post
.... If the upgrades do not go through, then technically my companion cannot get E+, though a nice agent may be able to accommodate this. ...
This is standard for separate PNRs but only if you are in the same cabin

Originally Posted by manttium View Post
....If we chose option 2, then is the upgrade priority on both tickets based on my W fare, instead of the S fare? If so, that is a (small) advantage. Are there downsides?
No the companion's fare priority will be based on their fare case when on separate PNRs. More importantly if on separate tickets, their status priority will be based on their status, not yours.

When on a common PNR, the companion will inherit your status.
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Old Apr 11, 18, 7:50 pm
  #620  
 
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So then option 1 is clearly better - we would both clear together, instead of myself as a 1k and my companion as a non-premiere member (both with RPUs).
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Old Apr 11, 18, 8:31 pm
  #621  
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Originally Posted by manttium View Post
So then option 1 is clearly better - we would both clear together, instead of myself as a 1k and my companion as a non-premiere member (both with RPUs).
It's more subtle than that, but if you would rather both fly in the same cabin, then option 1 is preferable. Option 2 would maximize your chance of upgrading, while reducing the odds that your companion clears.

Note that under option 2, you could secure an E+ seat at booking for your companion by calling UA (since you would both be in the same cabin given that there is currently no open R).
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Old Apr 11, 18, 11:33 pm
  #622  
 
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Originally Posted by manttium View Post
So then option 1 is clearly better - we would both clear together, instead of myself as a 1k and my companion as a non-premiere member (both with RPUs).
By purchasing separate tickets for AAA-BBB and BBB-CCC, you are not protected to your final destination if there is a delay on your first flight. While UA will typically try to take care of you if both tickets are on UA, technically they're not required to do so. They can declare your BBB-CCC ticket void if you do not arrive in BBB in a timely fashion.

Furthermore, you will lose the ability to re-route via a different hub. Now, that may not be a huge deal, since you're looking to meet up with a companion anyway, but if AAA-BBB is significantly delayed while BBB-CCC isn't, your companion is likely to make it to CCC before you do no matter what; if you were on a single AAA-CCC ticket, you could re-route via DDD or EEE and reduce the wait to meet up in CCC.

Finally, one minor point -- you mentioned fare classes a couple of times in your original post. While I absolutely do not recommend this, if you feel it's warranted, it is absolutely possible for you to buy a higher fare class than what's being displayed on the website, provided they have a corresponding fare filed. If you would prefer to purchase a W fare for your companion, you can search for it via Advanced Search. The reason that I do not recommend this is that I don't believe it significantly increases your chances of clearing an instrument -- fare class is the second tiebreaker, after status. Especially for a non-status passenger -- unless BBB-CCC is EWR-HNL or something, where people may be tempted into mileage + copay upgrades -- there's a pretty good chance that S and W will have exactly the same chance to clear.
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Old Apr 17, 18, 10:00 pm
  #623  
 
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Does a 1k using a RPU get priority over a GS on CPU. Also, do you think it is best to apply a RPU or wait and see where you are on CPU list first, so not to waste a RPU when you would have cleared a CPU?

for example, my wife and I fly PBI to LIR on 6th May 0700 via houston. Is there a way to figure whether to apply rpu now, wait for cpu or can you apply rpu now, then call t-24 and see where you would be on cpu upgrade, then cancel the rpu if it looks like cpu will clear.
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Old Apr 17, 18, 10:06 pm
  #624  
 
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Originally Posted by simonoaks View Post
Does a 1k using a RPU get priority over a GS on CPU. Also, do you think it is best to apply a RPU or wait and see where you are on CPU list first, so not to waste a RPU when you would have cleared a CPU?

for example, my wife and I fly PBI to LIR on 6th May 0700 via houston. Is there a way to figure whether to apply rpu now, wait for cpu or can you apply rpu now, then call t-24 and see where you would be on cpu upgrade, then cancel the rpu if it looks like cpu will clear.
RPUs can clear before before GS CPUs process, but once in the GS CPU window opens RPUs are lower priority.

You can remove the RPU to bank on CPU if your original fare class is still open, but reading the odds is sometimes difficult.
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Old Apr 18, 18, 7:16 pm
  #625  
 
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
RPUs can clear before before GS CPUs process, but once in the GS CPU window opens RPUs are lower priority.

You can remove the RPU to bank on CPU if your original fare class is still open, but reading the odds is sometimes difficult.
So is it best practice to request the RPUs early on, then track. Then at t-24, call 1k desk and see where you are un CPU list, and cancel RPU if it looks likely CPU will clear?

Or do not add the RPU, do checkin and see where you are on list and then apply RPU if you need to bump up above other 1Ks?

As this is a holiday route, I presume there are not many business flyers , so I guess the likelihood of multiple GS is slim, right ?
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Old Apr 18, 18, 7:41 pm
  #626  
 
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Originally Posted by simonoaks View Post
...Then at t-24, call 1k desk and see where you are un CPU list, and cancel RPU if it looks likely CPU will clear?

Or do not add the RPU, do checkin and see where you are on list and then apply RPU if you need to bump up above other 1Ks?

As this is a holiday route, I presume there are not many business flyers , so I guess the likelihood of multiple GS is slim, right ?
Upgrades are fairly easy to LIR. I admit ignorance as to Premier crowd PBI-IAH.

At T-24, you can check in and see the airport waitlist, but that only shows names of those already upgraded or those who have checked in and are on the airport waitlist. Agents are not supposed to provide info on the "hidden" waitlist, from which upgrades are issued until the airport takes over.

I always apply an instrument and then watch cabin fill before deciding to leave it in place or withdrawing. If PN>0 exists within 6 days of flights, you can jump to the conclusion there are no GS customers waiting.
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Old Apr 18, 18, 7:57 pm
  #627  
 
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Originally Posted by simonoaks View Post
So is it best practice to request the RPUs early on, then track. Then at t-24, call 1k desk and see where you are un CPU list, and cancel RPU if it looks likely CPU will clear?

Or do not add the RPU, do checkin and see where you are on list and then apply RPU if you need to bump up above other 1Ks?
It really depends. With a bit of experience, you can learn what is an easy CPU and what isn't. It also depends a lot on what you are trying to get out of your RPUs and how much you can bear sitting in Y. For me, I CPU the routes I know I'm going to and RPU into open R when available on higher value routes (p.s. and HNL, mainly). The rest of my RPUs go to friends and family, and the rest of my flying is in paid F.

I would say the majority of routes by ASMs in the CPU-eligible network are going to be tough for even an RPU and you probably want to bias toward just trying it if you think it's worthwhile. If the flight is like R7 I3 within the 1K CPU window, you can call to get it pulled back. With time you'll learn the balance, but with the limited timespan of an RPU, a bird in hand...

Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post
Upgrades are fairly easy to LIR. I admit ignorance as to Premier crowd PBI-IAH.
Although the particular flight mentioned by OP is J6 more than a week out, so hard to say.
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Old Apr 19, 18, 8:26 am
  #628  
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post
Upgrades are fairly easy to LIR. I admit ignorance as to Premier crowd PBI-IAH.

At T-24, you can check in and see the airport waitlist, but that only shows names of those already upgraded or those who have checked in and are on the airport waitlist. Agents are not supposed to provide info on the "hidden" waitlist, from which upgrades are issued until the airport takes over.

I always apply an instrument and then watch cabin fill before deciding to leave it in place or withdrawing. If PN>0 exists within 6 days of flights, you can jump to the conclusion there are no GS customers waiting.
PBI-IAH is hard to get CPU usually either a lot of GS or lots of rich people buying F straight off. Although I might be ok 7am on a Sunday morning.

Good tip on the PN thing, I did not know about that . So if the PN has a number it means there is GS waiting with a RPU?

The hardest thing with all this upgrade stuff is finding flights that will clear.
It would be good if United put in a search function that included 'R Class" as a field, so you could search a flight from XXX-YYY , W class , R Space open - any date
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Old Apr 19, 18, 8:37 am
  #629  
 
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Originally Posted by simonoaks View Post
PBI-IAH is hard to get CPU usually either a lot of GS or lots of rich people buying F straight off. Although I might be ok 7am on a Sunday morning.

Good tip on the PN thing, I did not know about that . So if the PN has a number it means there is GS waiting with a RPU?

The hardest thing with all this upgrade stuff is finding flights that will clear.
It would be good if United put in a search function that included 'R Class" as a field, so you could search a flight from XXX-YYY , W class , R Space open - any date
GS upgrades (C/R/GPU) clear into PN, so if PN>0 that usually means no GS are waitlisted for an upgrade, and you'll be near the top.

Would love for an R-available search option, but somehow this has never been a priority for UA. There is a browser extension created by sbm12 that will highlight the upgrade and saver award inventories in your searches, which helps a bit, but you still have to go day by day.
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Old Apr 19, 18, 9:12 am
  #630  
 
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Must be the best perk of GS - every flight I look at , anywhere nearly always has P space available but no R space.

Why would UA want to make it easy for us to use free stuff ? lol
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