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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

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Old Aug 31, 22, 12:45 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 First, Economy to International Business or Business (ex-p.s. flights) or Economy to Premium Economy ("Premium Plus").

In this regard, seating in Economy Plus is considered Economy.

Not all upgrade methods are available on all flights (see table).
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPU) are available for most North American flights, Central America flights, and some select Oceania flights. "ex-PS" flights (EWR/JFK-SFO/LAX) and Hawaii-EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN, GUM, MAJ and v.v. are not CPU eligible. CPUs are available for all paid fares and in some cases on award tickets with certain credit cards. A CPU is requested automatically for all elites as long as there is a maximum of one non-Premier as only one companion on the same PNR is also eligible for CPU. CPUs cannot be confirmed until inside the particular window:
Global Services: 120 hours
Premier 1K: 96 hours
Premier Platinum: 72 hours
Premier Gold: 48 hours
Premier Silver: 24 hours
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  • Plus Points (provided to Plats and above) are the upgrade currency of United elites. This wiki of this thread has more details about pricing of various Plus Points upgrades.
  • Mileage Upgrade Awards (MUA) can be requested for all UA flights with a higher cabin on all paid fares. This a varying amount of miles and a $ copay (elites are exempt from the co-pay for CPU eligible flights) -- [[url=https://web.archive.org/web/20180328171925/http://mileageplusupdates.com/images/United-Award-Chart.pdf]archive link; prices in chart may be obsolete] Note the miles and copay are due at time of the request and will be returned if unsuccessful.
  • Instant Upgrades are space available for all elites on Y & B fares for CPU-eligible flights at booking or thereafter. For Platinum and below these require PZ space. For 1Ks and GS, this can be done on Y, B & M fares and requires PN space. These Instant Upgrades, if not cleared at booking, cannot be waitlisted and one must keep checking to see if the instant upgrade space opens up. However, CPUs will process, as discussed above.
  • Paid/cash upgrades are a different mechanism and are only available if confirmable -- no waitlisting. Depending on methods, paid upgrades can clear into almost any fare class. If the class would otherwise be used for upgrades, the cash upsell can show up on the cleared upgrade list.
Plus Points 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), Lufthansa (LH), and ANA (NH) 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:

RN class is required for all upgrades to Premium Economy (United Premium Plus)
PN class is required for Instant Upgrades to Business/First from Y, B, and M fares for Premier 1K members, and for all upgrades to Business/First of any type for Global Services members.
PZ class is required for all other upgrades to Business/First except CPUs.

Note: The display of the upgrade lists is rather complicated at the moment. There seems to be more information available than usual, but its accuracy is disputed. The following is how it has historically functioned in terms of public visibility.

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 instrument-supported upgrades: Prioritized by Premier status of the traveler, then fare class and then time of request. There is no priority difference between types of instruments.
  • 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)
  • Fare Class priority is J, C, D, Z, P, O, A, R, Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G, N.

Additional factors in prioritization for some flights
  1. Premier status of the traveler
  2. Fare class
  3. Chase United MileagePlus Club cardholder
  4. United Corporate Preferred participant
  5. Chase MP cardholders who spent $25K using a cobranded card.
  6. 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.)

For flights with Premium Plus, those with paid Premium Plus fares will be prioritized above those with paid economy fares even if status is lower. However, GS with paid economy are higher on the list than non-GS customers with paid Premium Plus fares. Therefore, GS with paid Prem Plus, then GS with paid economy, then other Prem Plus pax (1Ks, then Plat, then Gold, etc), then Economy (1Ks, then Plat, then Gold, etc). Not clear if this applies to GS in economy -- certainly not pre-gate waitlist (as they are waitlisted for PN) but unclear what happens at the gate merged waitlist.
How does PlusPoints/GPU/ Mileage Upgrade waitlist for business work with PremiumPlus?

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 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. Advance-cleared upgrades will not show on the gate list as cleared -- only passengers who clear after they check in will display with a green checkmark. Some paid Premium Plus fares may show as a confirmed upgrade to Premium Plus.

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 in priority order.

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 PlusPoints applied: both are eligible as 1Ks with PlusPoints
1K and three non-status companions, 4x PlusPointsapplied: all four are eligible as 1Ks with PlusPoints

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,PlusPoints 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 a higher status passenger or fare moved to your flight.

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)?
Originally Posted by leftysauce View Post
I want to note the distinction that this only applies to NRPS that book the specific cabin directly (eg. if NRPS are eligible for J, they will clear into J immediately if any J seat is available). Otherwise, if NRPS book a lower cabin, they will be waitlisted after all paid (cash+award) pax but before NRSA for upgrades to higher cabins.
Deadheading Pilots Will Have Upgrade Priority Over Elites
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 Feb 22, 19, 11:21 am
  #61  
 
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post


No, 2-passenger PNR does not (in itself) best a 1-passenger PNR. Is he maybe buying Y or B fares?
Or using RPUs or miles/cash?
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Old Feb 22, 19, 11:22 am
  #62  
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Originally Posted by saaveraward View Post
I want a confirmed international upgrade from economy to business at the time of purchase.
You're not the only one!

As drewguy notes, advance upgrade availability is often difficult to find. It is intensely route and flight specific.
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Old Feb 22, 19, 4:12 pm
  #63  
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Originally Posted by saaveraward View Post
I want a confirmed international upgrade from economy to business at the time of purchase. Is that even possible without status? Is there a specific fare bucket I should be looking for with no status?
Yes, equally possible for any status less than Global Services. The fare class you would be looking for in Expert Mode is PZ (i.e. book any Economy fare class and then do that on a flight which has PZ inventory).

As noted, it can be difficult to find flights with confirmable upgrades, but lack of status is not a huge barrier.
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Old Feb 22, 19, 4:28 pm
  #64  
 
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
Yes, equally possible for any status less than Global Services. The fare class you would be looking for in Expert Mode is PZ (i.e. book any Economy fare class and then do that on a flight which has PZ inventory).

As noted, it can be difficult to find flights with confirmable upgrades, but lack of status is not a huge barrier.
thanks. Looking at akl-sfo which I'm sure is nearly impossible
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Old Feb 22, 19, 4:48 pm
  #65  
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Originally Posted by saaveraward View Post
thanks. Looking at akl-sfo which I'm sure is nearly impossible
Actually, I've found it to be relatively amenable to having PZ space, especially in the March/October shoulder seasons when there is a daily 77W and less demand. Check out likely Tuesdays and also consider routing SFO/LAX-SYD/MEL.
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Old Feb 22, 19, 6:12 pm
  #66  
 
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post


No, 2-passenger PNR does not (in itself) best a 1-passenger PNR. Is he maybe buying Y or B fares?
I thought only 1K could waitlist for YBM instant upgrades. A plat on a Y fare would be behind a 1K on a G fare for regular CPU, no?
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Old Feb 22, 19, 6:33 pm
  #67  
 
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
You're not the only one!

As drewguy notes, advance upgrade availability is often difficult to find. It is intensely route and flight specific.
+ 2 , also wondering the same on Hong Kong from anywhere in the US
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Old Feb 22, 19, 10:25 pm
  #68  
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Originally Posted by prometa View Post
I thought only 1K could waitlist for YBM instant upgrades. A plat on a Y fare would be behind a 1K on a G fare for regular CPU, no?
No one can waitlist for a Y/B/M instant upgrade.

Originally Posted by Jiatong View Post
+ 2 , also wondering the same on Hong Kong from anywhere in the US
Yes, HKG is eminently upgradeable from EWR, ORD, or SFO. Very much depends on specific flight. Best window for PZ is around six weeks out, though could open any time.
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Old Feb 22, 19, 10:34 pm
  #69  
 
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
Yes, equally possible for any status less than Global Services. The fare class you would be looking for in Expert Mode is PZ (i.e. book any Economy fare class and then do that on a flight which has PZ inventory).

As noted, it can be difficult to find flights with confirmable upgrades, but lack of status is not a huge barrier.
Does PZ translate to anything in EF so I can set alerts?

I see PZ on united.com but no way to set alerts in EF.
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Old Feb 22, 19, 10:58 pm
  #70  
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Originally Posted by saaveraward View Post
Does PZ translate to anything in EF so I can set alerts?
No. The only way to find PZ is to enable expert mode in your united profile and search united.com or the app.
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Old Feb 23, 19, 10:55 am
  #71  
 
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In terms of GPU upgrade priority to Polaris, do I understand correctly that even a low-cost premium economy fare has higher priority than any regular economy fare? I am looking at booking flights to Europe in R (lowest PE fare bucket) and applying (waitlisted) GPUs to try to get Polaris. The R fare costs about the same as a W fare--and, if I'm understanding correctly, has higher priority for the upgrade while also insuring against the downside risk of remaining stuck in E.

(Maybe this has already been addressed/confirmed above but my attempt to search didn't find it.)
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Old Feb 23, 19, 11:33 am
  #72  
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Originally Posted by lancelot21 View Post
In terms of GPU upgrade priority to Polaris, do I understand correctly that even a low-cost premium economy fare has higher priority than any regular economy fare? I am looking at booking flights to Europe in R (lowest PE fare bucket) and applying (waitlisted) GPUs to try to get Polaris. The R fare costs about the same as a W fare--and, if I'm understanding correctly, has higher priority for the upgrade while also insuring against the downside risk of remaining stuck in E.

(Maybe this has already been addressed/confirmed above but my attempt to search didn't find it.)
Yes, that's correct.
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Old Feb 23, 19, 11:51 am
  #73  
 
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Thanks for the confirmation. Given current pricing, it's a no-brainer to book R if it's available, rather than any regular economy fare.

The odd thing on .bomb is that if I just do a search for the flights I want, it gives me a choice only of O ($3300 round trip) If I say that I want to upgrade with a GPU, it then gives me a choice of R ($1600 round trip)! (I recognize the website has many longstanding challenges...)
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Old Feb 23, 19, 3:19 pm
  #74  
 
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
No one can waitlist for a Y/B/M instant upgrade.

Yes, HKG is eminently upgradeable from EWR, ORD, or SFO. Very much depends on specific flight. Best window for PZ is around six weeks out, though could open any time.
At least for midweek flights. Fri/Sat/Sun tend to be pretty hard because there's a lot of paid business traffic those days looking for a full week in HK (or returning to HK).
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Old Feb 23, 19, 7:38 pm
  #75  
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Originally Posted by drewguy View Post
At least for midweek flights. Fri/Sat/Sun tend to be pretty hard because there's a lot of paid business traffic those days looking for a full week in HK (or returning to HK).
Agree Saturday Sunday are difficult for all TPAC, and definitely not recommended to waitlist. I've had good luck westbound on Fridays.
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