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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 27, 18, 1:26 pm
  #721  
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: ES, SG, US
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Posts: 1,539
Upgrade Happened Out of Order. No Explanation Given.

Used miles for a ticket between US and Europe. Ticket issued 30 days ago. Booked XN and waitlisted for PN using a GPU. Waitlisted passenger was a GS.

About a month after the first ticket was issued, booked a second ticket for the exact same flight. Booked XN and waitlisted for PN using GPU. 36 hours later that ticket was upgraded while the first ticket was still waitlisted. Passenger has no status.

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Old May 28, 18, 9:22 am
  #722  
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Chicago
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Posts: 675
OK. Can anyone figure this one out...?
I, a GS (though not really relevant here except for access to GS phone line to try to sort this out), sponsored two GPU upgrades for two family members on TPE-SFO-AUS.
Both travelers are non-status and were on paid economy tickets under the same reservation in the same fare class, thus should have been on equal footing for the upgrade waitlist.
TPE-SFO upgrades had cleared right away but they had been waitlisted on SFO-AUS for several weeks.
I personally checked them in together on the same reservation about T-20 hours for the TPE departure, and they were immediately placed as #1 /#2 on the upgrade standby waitlist for SFO-AUS (with about 8 seats remaining IIRC--though not particularly relevant)
Prior to boarding TPE-SFO, I noticed they moved to #1 and #4 on the list, with two passengers sliding between them. How is this possible? Again, they each have no status, were traveling on the same paid fare, using the same GPUs and checked in together. I totally understand passengers with status jumping the queue, but only above both of them...not in between them.

I called GS to try to sort this out, and even the supervisors were equally confounded and supposedly powerless. They deferred me to checking with the airport upon arrival into SFO.

By the time we landed in SFO, one of passengers was upgraded and the other was #2 on the waitlist with one spot remaining.

SFO Polaris lounge agents deferred me to the gate. And of course by the time the gate opens, upgrades were mostly processed and there was no way in hell an agent was going to try to adjust the priority at that point (nor could, I believe). I don't blame the gate agent at all for holding that stance.

Clearly the issue happened somewhere in the computer system or behind the scenes by other agents. What happened here? And why couldn't GS agents see the history of all this to sort through it?
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Old Jun 1, 18, 1:20 pm
  #723  
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: West Palm Beach, FL
Programs: UA 1k, Hilton Diamond, Marriott Gold
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
For CPU, as an elite you can only include one companion. And No, there is no way to get it extended to a second companion.
Could you help translate this for me in terms of whether it is best to have/ not have my wife and 6 year old as a member. Is it saying that if I sign them both up and they are lowest status, then CPU will then clear based on their lowest?

Does it mean it is better for me to keep them both as non members, lose some of the miles they can accumulate , so that we have best chance of upgrade? Obviously if I and 6 yo clear when app splits reservation at check in, then I will just let wife have my seat!

Does it mean the system only recognizes CPU at check in, if so, how do you ensure me plus 1 PAX is on the 96 hr list ?
thx
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Old Jun 1, 18, 1:28 pm
  #724  
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Originally Posted by simonoaks View Post
Could you help translate this for me in terms of whether it is best to have/ not have my wife and 6 year old as a member. Is it saying that if I sign them both up and they are lowest status, then CPU will then clear based on their lowest? ///
As the only elite, you will not be able to include both as your CPU companion. You will have to look for other methods to get one of them up front and that will lead the possibility of them being separated from you.

Originally Posted by simonoaks View Post
Does it mean the system only recognizes CPU at check in, if so, how do you ensure me plus 1 PAX is on the 96 hr list ?
thx
CPU only starts at your elite window (t-96 hours for 1K) but realistically it is later and may be at the gate or not at all.
But a 3-passenger PNR with only 1 elite is ineligible for CPU. You need to split or call to designate your selected companion.

These threads and their wikis may help provide more color:
Questions About Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPU) on UA [Merged]

Comprehensive Companion CPU Questions
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Old Jun 4, 18, 4:05 pm
  #725  
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: West Palm Beach, FL
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
As the only elite, you will not be able to include both as your CPU companion. You will have to look for other methods to get one of them up front and that will lead the possibility of them being separated from you.

CPU only starts at your elite window (t-96 hours for 1K) but realistically it is later and may be at the gate or not at all.
But a 3-passenger PNR with only 1 elite is ineligible for CPU. You need to split or call to designate your selected companion.

These threads and their wikis may help provide more color:
Questions About Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPU) on UA [Merged]

Comprehensive Companion CPU Questions
I understand. So it is better to call and get it split t-96 , than wait until the app splits it at check in? Just in case the upgrades for two can clear pre checkin.
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Old Jun 5, 18, 7:08 pm
  #726  
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
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Here's a question: is there an upgrade priority for tickets using a GPU over a similar ticket upgraded using miles?

Here's the background: I'm looking to take the family from San Francisco to London this summer (see my earlier question above) and I'd like to upgrade if possible. United offers two possiblities, both with waitlists:

An economy fare (around $1,000) that you'd upgrade using miles PLUS a co-pay of around $500; or

A more expensive economy face (around $1,400) that you can upgrade using a GPU with no co-pay.

The difference is that with the miles upgrade you only pay the co-pay if you're upgraded, whereas with the GPU-eligible ticket you pay the extra fare even if you don't get upgraded.

Common sense tells me the more expensive ticket gets priority, but obviously common sense doesn't always win out. Does anyone know how this works?

Thanks!
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Old Jun 5, 18, 7:15 pm
  #727  
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Originally Posted by Andrew Biggs View Post
Common sense tells me the more expensive ticket gets priority, but obviously common sense doesn't always win out. Does anyone know how this works?
Upgrade priority is (1) Premier status, (2) fare class, (3) time of requesting upgrade.

So all else being equal, the GPU-able fare (W or higher) will be prioritized over a lower fare. But a higher Premier status pax will have priority over lower status, even on a cheaper fare.
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Old Jun 13, 18, 7:30 am
  #728  
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
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What is the priority for a CPU for a 1K member. Before the RPU for a Platinum member or after MUAs for all members? TIA.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Jun 13, 18 at 11:19 am Reason: merged into master thread
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Old Jun 13, 18, 7:34 am
  #729  
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Originally Posted by Aussienarelle View Post
What is the priority for a CPU for a 1K member. Before the RPU for a Platinum member or after MUAs for all members? TIA.
CPUs are behind instruments (unless you're GS). Upgrades.
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Old Jun 15, 18, 4:16 pm
  #730  
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
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I'm looking for some guidance on where I'll fall in the upgrade priority list. I have a flight in XN space from the US to Europe coming up in a few weeks. I booked the flight when I was a GS in saver Y and applied a GPU. The flight was PN0 so I was waitlisted. Fast forward to today, I've dropped to 1K and still have not cleared.
J is very full so I expect any clearing would not be done until the gate. Based on what I've read in here, I'm likely still towards the top of the upgrade waitlist. When the gate upgrade standby list is generated, would I be re-prioritized as a 1K on X class, or based on my old status at the time of the original waitlist request months ago?
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Old Jun 15, 18, 4:51 pm
  #731  
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
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Originally Posted by AUSNYCflyer View Post
I'm looking for some guidance on where I'll fall in the upgrade priority list. I have a flight in XN space from the US to Europe coming up in a few weeks. I booked the flight when I was a GS in saver Y and applied a GPU. The flight was PN0 so I was waitlisted. Fast forward to today, I've dropped to 1K and still have not cleared.
J is very full so I expect any clearing would not be done until the gate. Based on what I've read in here, I'm likely still towards the top of the upgrade waitlist. When the gate upgrade standby list is generated, would I be re-prioritized as a 1K on X class, or based on my old status at the time of the original waitlist request months ago?
Reports suggest the GPU retains its GS priority even if you do not.
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Old Jun 15, 18, 4:52 pm
  #732  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
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Originally Posted by AUSNYCflyer View Post
J is very full so I expect any clearing would not be done until the gate. Based on what I've read in here, I'm likely still towards the top of the upgrade waitlist. When the gate upgrade standby list is generated, would I be re-prioritized as a 1K on X class, or based on my old status at the time of the original waitlist request months ago?
Prior to the gate agent manually running the upgrade list, you have a segment waitlisted for PN class, which will clear into PN space if and when it opens. You are ranked on this list according to your current status and fare class, so for practical purposes almost certainly last of all pax waitlisted for PN on your flight.

For the visible list, unfortunately we don't know a whole lot about the little mechanisms. My educated guess, based on a number of inferences, is that you would have the priority of a GS on an X fare, and come before any 1Ks with instruments applied [i.e. the SSR code WAX]. This would be on the basis of it being a GS instrument supporting the waitlist request.
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Old Jun 15, 18, 5:00 pm
  #733  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
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Originally Posted by AUSNYCflyer View Post
I'm looking for some guidance on where I'll fall in the upgrade priority list. I have a flight in XN space from the US to Europe coming up in a few weeks. I booked the flight when I was a GS in saver Y and applied a GPU. The flight was PN0 so I was waitlisted. Fast forward to today, I've dropped to 1K and still have not cleared.
J is very full so I expect any clearing would not be done until the gate. Based on what I've read in here, I'm likely still towards the top of the upgrade waitlist. When the gate upgrade standby list is generated, would I be re-prioritized as a 1K on X class, or based on my old status at the time of the original waitlist request months ago?
My best guess (and it's only that) is that if a J space (i.e. PN) were to open up before the standby list is generated, your status at the time of booking would count (you applied a "GS GPU" to the record, so close to top of the list). However, if it comes down to the standby list, your current status will be the relevant factor. I base this on my application of GPUs to family members, which work exactly like that. They start towards the top in case a bookable seat opens up, but as soon as the standby list is generated, they drop to their individual status (well down the list).

Last edited by AlreadyThere; Jun 15, 18 at 5:38 pm
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Old Jun 15, 18, 6:11 pm
  #734  
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Originally Posted by AlreadyThere View Post
I base this on my application of GPUs to family members, which work exactly like that. They start towards the top in case a bookable seat opens up, but as soon as the standby list is generated, they drop to their individual status (well down the list).
I don't understand this comment at all. The standby list is "generated" when pax start checking in (which can be prior to T-24 for connecting pax), but it is not used to process upgrades until the flight goes to the gate, which is typically inside of T-1. Prior to the flight going to the gate, upgrades are processed pursuant to the "invisible" list which, by definition, is one that we can't see (though there have been very recent reports this list, or some variant, is displayed when UA tries to induce pax to buy an upgrade at check-in).
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Old Jun 15, 18, 8:45 pm
  #735  
 
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
I don't understand this comment at all. The standby list is "generated" when pax start checking in (which can be prior to T-24 for connecting pax), but it is not used to process upgrades until the flight goes to the gate, which is typically inside of T-1. Prior to the flight going to the gate, upgrades are processed pursuant to the "invisible" list which, by definition, is one that we can't see (though there have been very recent reports this list, or some variant, is displayed when UA tries to induce pax to buy an upgrade at check-in).
At the time the list becomes visible, the sequence is based on the flyer's status, and the fact that the GPU behind the standby upgrade was issued from a GS account is no longer relevant. I don't know about the "invisible list" stage, but I can see that once the list is visible, I can observe where my potential family "upgradees" stand on the list, and it's well below any possible GSs.
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