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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 Jul 22, 18, 4:28 pm
  #751  
Moderator: American AAdvantage, Signatures
 
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I’ve got a tangentially related question and hoping I’m in the right place. Today I am flying AMS-ORD-SEA on a P fare, and had to book a later ORD-SEA flight than I wanted as the next one didn’t have P inventory when I bought it or when I checked in for SDC. My AMS-ORD flight was delayed by an hour or so, and the app allowed me to see alternatives available (despite being at no risk of missing my originally booked connection). One of them was to stand by for the earlier ORD-SEA that I actually wanted while keeping my later confirmed seat—jackpot, I accepted the new “itinerary” and the app then showed me standing by for the flight I wanted.

For whatever reason, I was listed at the top of both the Standby and Upgrade lists, and when I got to the gate I made myself known to one of the GAs. They ended up processing two upgrades, clearing a slew of standbys into coach, and were only prepared to offer me a coach seat. My question relates to the order of processing standbys and upgrades at the gate: should the GAs have cleared a revenue passenger standing by for a premium cabin seat before clearing upgrades? I know that in general it’s better to clear upgrades first to make space for standbys in the back, but in this case that screwed me. I’d be keen to hear what the actual order should have been. Thank you!
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Old Jul 22, 18, 4:44 pm
  #752  
 
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Originally Posted by Microwave View Post
For whatever reason, I was listed at the top of both the Standby and Upgrade lists, and when I got to the gate I made myself known to one of the GAs. They ended up processing two upgrades, clearing a slew of standbys into coach, and were only prepared to offer me a coach seat. My question relates to the order of processing standbys and upgrades at the gate: should the GAs have cleared a revenue passenger standing by for a premium cabin seat before clearing upgrades? I know that in general its better to clear upgrades first to make space for standbys in the back, but in this case that screwed me. Id be keen to hear what the actual order should have been. Thank you!
What you observed is policy. They can't (fully) run the standby list until they close check-in and offload no-shows, but running the upgrade list doesn't block on this (it also CPUs instead of putting standbys in F).

If you explain the situation to the GA, they are capable of running it in the other order. Regardless, I do not recommend standing by for the premium cabin as it's nearly impossible to accomplish.
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Old Jul 22, 18, 5:17 pm
  #753  
 
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Originally Posted by Microwave View Post
For whatever reason, I was listed at the top of both the Standby and Upgrade lists, and when I got to the gate I made myself known to one of the GAs. They ended up processing two upgrades, clearing a slew of standbys into coach, and were only prepared to offer me a coach seat. My question relates to the order of processing standbys and upgrades at the gate: should the GAs have cleared a revenue passenger standing by for a premium cabin seat before clearing upgrades? I know that in general its better to clear upgrades first to make space for standbys in the back, but in this case that screwed me. Id be keen to hear what the actual order should have been. Thank you!
As findark pointed out, the policy was followed. You can't be cleared into first until you are cleared onto the flight. You were still technically #1 on standby when the upgrades were processed. It's frustrating to say the least. You could (should?) have told the GA that you were a misplaced passenger who paid for business. They may have processed you onto the flight before processing upgrades. However, an astute gate agent would have recognized you were confirmed on a later flight and figured out you were trying to standby for the earlier one. Personally I wouldn't have pushed this very hard.

Did you wind up accepting the coach seat on ORD-SEA or did you keep your first class seat on the later flight? I'm curious how this turned out. Even though you were listed standby for the earlier flight your record would still have had the later flight booked in "P" class. That would have only dropped off if you boarded the earlier flight.

-RM
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Old Jul 22, 18, 9:55 pm
  #754  
 
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Seems like this is an unfortunate loophole that indicates UA (or CO) never thought about how to standby for a premium cabin.
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Old Jul 22, 18, 10:15 pm
  #755  
 
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Is it correct that passengers booked in J on standby for an earlier flight are at the top of the upgrade list, above any complimentary or instrument supported upgrades?
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Old Jul 22, 18, 10:20 pm
  #756  
 
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Originally Posted by Resonant Programmer View Post
Is it correct that passengers booked in J on standby for an earlier flight are at the top of the upgrade list, above any complimentary or instrument supported upgrades?
They are supposed to be given PR-1 status, which places them at the top.

The 'bug' is that if they have not been cleared into an economy seat, the upgrade list will process and fill the front cabin before they are on the flight at all.
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Old Jul 23, 18, 8:41 am
  #757  
 
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Originally Posted by Microwave View Post
For whatever reason, I was listed at the top of both the Standby and Upgrade lists, and when I got to the gate I made myself known to one of the GAs. They ended up processing two upgrades, clearing a slew of standbys into coach, and were only prepared to offer me a coach seat. My question relates to the order of processing standbys and upgrades at the gate: should the GAs have cleared a revenue passenger standing by for a premium cabin seat before clearing upgrades? I know that in general its better to clear upgrades first to make space for standbys in the back, but in this case that screwed me. Id be keen to hear what the actual order should have been. Thank you!
I had nearly the exact situation happen a few years ago on an SFO-LAX flight. I got to SFO earlier then expected and only had carry on, so I went to the GA for an earlier flight. I was in paid F, but don't recall the fare class. GA gave me a BP for a coach seat, and while I was seated on the plane, same GA boarded and gave an upgrade to someone else.
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Old Jul 23, 18, 2:30 pm
  #758  
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Originally Posted by RobOnLI View Post
Did you wind up accepting the coach seat on ORD-SEA or did you keep your first class seat on the later flight? I'm curious how this turned out. Even though you were listed standby for the earlier flight your record would still have had the later flight booked in "P" class. That would have only dropped off if you boarded the earlier flight.
I turned down the coach seat on the earlier flight as I was feeling pretty shabby after my long-haul flight and was keen to grab a shower and some real food at the Polaris Lounge... that and ~3 extra hours in Seattle wouldn't have been worth going from First to Eco-. Unfortunately it didn't quite work as slick as you outline: apparently the GA had removed me from my later flight when she issued the boarding pass for this one (the BP having been issued without first asking me); I'm not sure why she did this before I accepted it. AFAIK she didn't have to offload me after I rejected the eco- seat she offered, so not sure why she had already removed me from the later flight. In any event, she did put me back into P on the later flight, put me back into my original seat, and then re-checked me in, so while nothing was lost in the end it was a bit nerve-racking to have lost my original seat momentarily. All told, I had a comfortable and slightly longer ORD layover, and everything turned out fine.

In the AA world I would have known exactly how to get this done (call the EXP line, get cleared into coach on the earlier flight, then get listed as DSR and get cleared into F at the gate in front of the upgraders), but I've got a fair bit of learning to do about UA, and the expertise and knowledge is very much appreciated. Thank you all!
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Old Jul 23, 18, 2:52 pm
  #759  
 
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Originally Posted by Microwave View Post
In the AA world I would have known exactly how to get this done (call the EXP line, get cleared into coach on the earlier flight, then get listed as DSR and get cleared into F at the gate in front of the upgraders), but I've got a fair bit of learning to do about UA, and the expertise and knowledge is very much appreciated. Thank you all!
You should be able to do this on UA too (although I think the GA is the one who can clear you if it needs to be from STBY), but you are always running the slight risk of TODs/SDCs/etc fouling the upgrade. If intent on doing it, I would chat up the GA about 60 minutes before departure and see if they can help you. Explain you only want to fly if it's in F.
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Old Aug 13, 18, 4:22 pm
  #760  
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Changes to upgrade waitlist priority order

From: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/con...e/default.aspx

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.
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Old Aug 13, 18, 4:27 pm
  #761  
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I'm outraged. This will mean the difference between dying at #12 on the waitlist (old) vs.dying at #16 (new).
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Old Aug 13, 18, 4:31 pm
  #762  
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Originally Posted by PTahCha View Post
From: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/con...e/default.aspx

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.
While announced as part of the UCP, the credit card changes, IMO, are more significant for us on FT especially as they are ahead of the UCP.

Time of request and ?time of check-in? are beginning to become irrelevant
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Old Aug 13, 18, 4:33 pm
  #763  
 
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
I'm outraged. This will mean the difference between dying at #12 on the waitlist (old) vs.dying at #16 (new).
Pretty funny, I have held the Club Card for years and don't intend to dump it just yet but yeah it is sort of what I was thinking.
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Old Aug 13, 18, 4:43 pm
  #764  
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Originally Posted by PTahCha View Post
From: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/con...e/default.aspx

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.
Ha! As a multi-Chase UA credit card holder, I'll bracket the United Corporate Preferred participants (as well as likely be one as well!)!

All hail the upgrade list!

David
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Old Aug 13, 18, 6:09 pm
  #765  
 
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
I'm outraged. This will mean the difference between dying at #12 on the waitlist (old) vs.dying at #16 (new).
I could imagine this possibly mattering if choosing to float a GPU on a W fare, but most of us know the ropes better than leaving it up to that much chance

My actual worry is that if this involves touching the upgrade clearance code, they are definitely going to break something...
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