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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 May 6, 18, 12:11 pm
  #676  
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
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Originally Posted by adams828 View Post
Just a CPU request, no instrument for myself. Perhaps it is a time booking/CI issue. The other fun one is my earlier flight - there is someone who is ~#1 7 on the Flight Status upgrade list, but #1 on the "other" list!
You're saying 17th on one list and 1st on the other? No clue. Maybe strange coincidence of last three, first one?
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Old May 7, 18, 3:56 pm
  #677  
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
Originally Posted by goalie View Post
I'll try and remember to post a screenshot of the upgrade list once i check goalie-parents (and specifically, goalie-mom) in
I would be very curious to know how she ranks on the visible list compared to other instrument supported upgrades. There's a lot of uncertainty at the moment whether the SSR code can account for the class which was waitlisted for, versus the booked class.
I remembered to screen shot the second leg when I checked goalie-parents in earlier this morning and I just now took a screen shot after the second leg opened for check-in as a stand alone flight and (as of now) she is still #1 so now we wait (and that is goalie-dad in 4E)

edited to add: 4 hours after check-in opened and goalie-mom is still holding at #1 out of 20 and booked 19/20
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Last edited by goalie; May 7, 18 at 7:50 pm
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Old May 8, 18, 9:15 am
  #678  
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Originally Posted by goalie View Post
I remembered to screen shot the second leg when I checked goalie-parents in earlier this morning and I just now took a screen shot after the second leg opened for check-in as a stand alone flight and (as of now) she is still #1 so now we wait (and that is goalie-dad in 4E)

edited to add: 4 hours after check-in opened and goalie-mom is still holding at #1 out of 20 and booked 19/20
Quoting myself rather than edit my above post as it would be easier to follow....

  • Checked UA1176 about 6:30 this morning
  • goalie-mom was still number 1 on the waitlist (which was now 25 pax)
  • I decided to look at UA1176 for a revenue ticket and it showed PN1
  • Called in and the agent forced it thru* and she got the last remaining seat in F (which also happened to be the seat next to goalie-dad)

*Don't know if goalie-mom was "stuck" because she had checked in already, if she would have cleared had she not checked in or if the agent did a one-off but I'm happy with the outcome
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Old May 8, 18, 9:58 am
  #679  
 
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Originally Posted by goalie View Post
Quoting myself rather than edit my above post as it would be easier to follow....
  • Checked UA1176 about 6:30 this morning
  • goalie-mom was still number 1 on the waitlist (which was now 25 pax)
  • I decided to look at UA1176 for a revenue ticket and it showed PN1
  • Called in and the agent forced it thru* and she got the last remaining seat in F (which also happened to be the seat next to goalie-dad)

*Don't know if goalie-mom was "stuck" because she had checked in already, if she would have cleared had she not checked in or if the agent did a one-off but I'm happy with the outcome
Good for the goalies!

Very interesting goalie-mom was still number 1 with 25 on the list just on merit of the GS RPU.
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Old May 8, 18, 11:10 am
  #680  
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
Good for the goalies!

Very interesting goalie-mom was still number 1 with 25 on the list just on merit of the GS RPU.
and yes, very interesting indeed-and hoping others can try and figure it out as I told goalie-mom to OLCI at exactly t-24 due to it being one of the tie-breakers tho where there was PN1 at roughly t-6 hours when I called in, I'm curious if goalie-mom being checked in caused her not to clear
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Old May 8, 18, 11:26 am
  #681  
 
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Originally Posted by goalie View Post
I'm curious if goalie-mom being checked in caused her not to clear
Given the large number of non-GS who have to call to get pushed into open R, I think it's much more likely that sweeps for waitlisted segments and inventory adjustments are not always synchronized.
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Old May 8, 18, 6:58 pm
  #682  
 
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I'm always trying to buy a LAX-EWR ticket and use a RPU for an upgrade. I'm 1K

Seems like class of ticket makes a difference, so i'm wondering, which class I should be buying, I don't want to pay for the Y, B, M

Trying to buy the lowest price ticket that would put me ahead of others. I believe class tickets go from lowest to highest as L, T, S , W, Q, H

I was hoping W was a good class to buy. It makes the ticket go up about $150 each way which would be worth it if I could get a cleared upgrade.

Thoughts? Would S be enough, or is H always required.
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Old May 8, 18, 7:23 pm
  #683  
 
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Buying a higher Economy class to improve upgrade odds is a really bad idea, with the possible exception of V over W on leisure GPU routes when the differential is small.

Find R space, take the TOD offer at booking, or just buy the P fare.
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Old May 8, 18, 7:24 pm
  #684  
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Originally Posted by latony View Post
Seems like class of ticket makes a difference, so i'm wondering, which class I should be buying
P
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Old May 10, 18, 2:58 am
  #685  
 
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
P
Definitely. Trying to game upgrades on premium transcon flights is a fool's errand, except in very rare circumstances (such as some low-load red-eyes).
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Old May 10, 18, 1:41 pm
  #686  
 
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What determines priority on FC upgrade waitlist when (i assume) the PAX have same status. For example,what causes someone to lose priority to another with same status?

Last edited by WineCountryUA; May 10, 18 at 7:03 pm Reason: moved to master thread
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Old May 10, 18, 1:53 pm
  #687  
 
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Originally Posted by manstein58 View Post
What determines priority on FC upgrade waitlist when (i assume) the PAX have same status. For example,what causes someone to lose priority to another with same status?
Status, then fare class, and then time of waitlist addition (for the "invisible" list used for automated upgrades) / time of check-in (for the visible list used by gate agents).
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Old May 11, 18, 9:19 pm
  #688  
 
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I applied an RPU to SFO-DEN-ATL and ended up #6 on the list for SFO-DEN and #4 for DEN-ATL. I was under the impression that waitlisted instruments appear ahead of all CPUs, but it seems like that wasn't the case here -- I find it hard to imagine that that many 1K/GS with higher fares (mine was W) would be applying instruments on these two segments.

On the return I did SDC to ATL-EWR-SFO and applied the RPU over the phone at the time of the change. I cleared immediately EWR-SFO and was #1 on the waitlist ATL-EWR, which is what I would typically expect.

Any idea what happened on the outbound?
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Old May 11, 18, 9:34 pm
  #689  
 
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Originally Posted by dfreeman02 View Post
I applied an RPU to SFO-DEN-ATL and ended up #6 on the list for SFO-DEN and #4 for DEN-ATL. I was under the impression that waitlisted instruments appear ahead of all CPUs, but it seems like that wasn't the case here -- I find it hard to imagine that that many 1K/GS with higher fares (mine was W) would be applying instruments on these two segments.
GS CPUs and GS/1K Y/B/M instant upgrade requests are both ahead of 1K RPUs.
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Old May 11, 18, 9:39 pm
  #690  
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Originally Posted by dfreeman02 View Post
Any idea what happened on the outbound?
Yes. GS, and/or 1K on higher fares.
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