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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 11, 18, 9:52 pm
  #691  
 
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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.

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?
I think the bigger news here is you cleared immediately on p.s. EWR-SFO. Congrats.

SFO-DEN likely had no one upgraded before the flight so there were plenty of GS ahead of you. Not surprised about DEN-ATL either.

-RM
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Old May 14, 18, 8:52 pm
  #692  
 
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Regional Premier Upgrades

Hi I知 a 1k and never clear on a regional pre
ier upgrade. Does using it on a reservation put me any higher on the upgrade list? Or is it just a waste of energy?
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Old May 14, 18, 8:55 pm
  #693  
 
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Originally Posted by Scott Witoszynski View Post
Hi I’m a 1k and never clear on a regional pre
ier upgrade. Does using it on a reservation put me any higher on the upgrade list? Or is it just a waste of energy?
Welcome to flyertalk!

Yes to the first, and perhaps yes to the second.

Re: your failure to clear, you are in good company.

Here's a compendium of information:
General RPU earning & usage questions [Consolidated 2016 onward]

edit: and here are 124 pages of frustrations:
"Upgrade certificates (GPUs & RPUs) are useless nowadays"
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Old May 14, 18, 8:56 pm
  #694  
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
Re: your failure to clear, you are in good company.

Here's a compendium of information:
General RPU earning & usage questions [Consolidated 2016 onward]
I think you meant this one : "Upgrade certificates (GPUs & RPUs) are useless nowadays"
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Old May 14, 18, 9:01 pm
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Caught it in the edit!
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Old May 23, 18, 12:17 am
  #696  
 
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Same fare, an RPU, 1K vs GM with 1K RPU applied, GM ahead of 1K?

I have a flight scheduled tomorrow for me and the mrs, she痴 a GM and I知 1K. We are both on the same fare (W) and I applied RPUs from my account to both of us. For some reason she is #1 on the list and I知 #4. What is the logic behind it?
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Old May 23, 18, 12:18 am
  #697  
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Originally Posted by justsawaufo View Post
I have a flight scheduled tomorrow for me and the mrs, she痴 a GM and I知 1K. We are both on the same fare (W) and I applied RPUs from my account to both of us. For some reason she is #1 on the list and I知 #4. What is the logic behind it?
Sounds like UA logic to me
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Old May 23, 18, 12:54 am
  #698  
 
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Originally Posted by justsawaufo View Post
I have a flight scheduled tomorrow for me and the mrs, she痴 a GM and I知 1K. We are both on the same fare (W) and I applied RPUs from my account to both of us. For some reason she is #1 on the list and I知 #4. What is the logic behind it?
Same PNR with instrument supported upgrades means same priority (the whole PNR inherits the status). Ordering within the group is honestly inscrutable - I gave up after my companion and I were in different places on two consecutive flights from the same PNR.
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Old May 23, 18, 6:44 am
  #699  
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1k on a V supported with a GPU, B739, on a Wednesday. Never cleared over the past several months and kept falling at check-in.l (finished around #10 ).

I've been in this situation when I was #10 on the list but cleared into one of only two seats left (presume the list isn't respective of the instruments?). Not today, though.

This time, though, a schedule change left my res with some funky waitlisted segments, showing the old times but correct flight # and an F seat. Called UA (maybe not enough times) and was assured the incorrect times were meaningless.
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Old May 23, 18, 2:30 pm
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Sounds like UA logic to me
Originally Posted by findark View Post
Same PNR with instrument supported upgrades means same priority (the whole PNR inherits the status). Ordering within the group is honestly inscrutable - I gave up after my companion and I were in different places on two consecutive flights from the same PNR.
The funny thing is that me and my wife are on two different reservations, both 1-way, same fare.

I called the 1K desk, they are clueless as well and cannot explain what happened there. They also say they have no control on the list at this point...
Anyone of the UA experts here can guess what happened?
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Old May 23, 18, 2:31 pm
  #701  
 
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Originally Posted by justsawaufo View Post
The funny thing is that me and my wife are on two different reservations, both 1-way, both same fare.

I called the 1K desk, they are clueless as well and cannot explain what happened there. They also say they have no control on the list at this point...
Anyone of the UA experts here can guess what happened?
I think Kacee hit the nail on the head already.

It is not what is supposed to happen, which is why the agents couldn't explain it, but they are correct that they cannot control the list to flush this little gremlin out.

If only one of you clears, better to have it be your non-status wife. So consider it a feature, not a bug.
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Old May 23, 18, 2:44 pm
  #702  
 
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Originally Posted by justsawaufo View Post
The funny thing is that me and my wife are on two different reservations, both 1-way, same fare.
Seems like pretty strong evidence that the visible list still uses priority inheritance on instruments, then. I would still think you are all 1Ks on W fares (effectively) with instruments.

Based on my other experiences, I'm pretty sure the invisible list (waitlist clearing) does not inherit.
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Old May 23, 18, 4:26 pm
  #703  
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
Seems like pretty strong evidence that the visible list still uses priority inheritance on instruments, then. I would still think you are all 1Ks on W fares (effectively) with instruments.

Based on my other experiences, I'm pretty sure the invisible list (waitlist clearing) does not inherit.
I'm no IT expert, but my guess is they've messed up the coding so much that it becomes semi-unpredictble what will happen when the gate list populates.
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Old May 23, 18, 4:41 pm
  #704  
 
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
I'm no IT expert, but my guess is they've messed up the coding so much that it becomes semi-unpredictble what will happen when the gate list populates.
The wording of the much-researched GG ONESTANDBY makes me awfully suspicious that there are only four status priorities for SSR-tagged requests, and it may lump all forms of instrument upgrade together, using the status of the instrument holder to determine. Suffice to say, it's a mess.
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Old May 23, 18, 4:51 pm
  #705  
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Originally Posted by justsawaufo View Post
The funny thing is that me and my wife are on two different reservations, both 1-way, same fare. ...
Who was checked in first?

How much time gap between checkins?

Approx when was check-in? Near T-24?
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