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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 Aug 23, 18, 1:25 pm
  #781  
 
Join Date: Jan 2016
Programs: UA 1K; *G, AA Plat
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Originally Posted by thewildestbuffalo View Post
"Apply" the cash + miles upgrade immediately, potentially forgoing my chance to select E+ at check-in? (Is there any benefit to applying for upgrade sooner than later if I'm only a Silver? Are you allowed to select an E+ seat after you've applied for an upgrade?)
Why would applying for an upgrade forgo your chance to select an E+ at check-in? As far as I know, they're not mutually exclusive events. I would apply the upgrade sooner than later and select an E+ seat at T-24.
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Old Aug 23, 18, 1:26 pm
  #782  
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
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Originally Posted by thewildestbuffalo View Post
I'm Silver, and hoping to use a miles+cash upgrade on an international flight in 2 weeks. I'd like to be able to have an E+ seat at the minimum, so I'm trying to figure out the best way to do this. Should I:
  • "Apply" the cash + miles upgrade immediately, potentially forgoing my chance to select E+ at check-in? (Is there any benefit to applying for upgrade sooner than later if I'm only a Silver? Are you allowed to select an E+ seat after you've applied for an upgrade?)
  • Wait to apply the upgrade until after I select an E+ seat? (Is it possible to change seats without checking in at T-24?)
I'll be traveling SFO -> FRA, Sunday flight, if it matters. Thanks in advance!
You can't waitlist for a miles + cash upgrade after check-in. You will not lose the ability to select an E+ seat due to a pending upgrade request. You want the first option.
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Old Aug 23, 18, 1:27 pm
  #783  
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
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Originally Posted by thewildestbuffalo View Post
I'm Silver, and hoping to use a miles+cash upgrade on an international flight in 2 weeks. I'd like to be able to have an E+ seat at the minimum, so I'm trying to figure out the best way to do this. Should I:
  • "Apply" the cash + miles upgrade immediately, potentially forgoing my chance to select E+ at check-in? (Is there any benefit to applying for upgrade sooner than later if I'm only a Silver? Are you allowed to select an E+ seat after you've applied for an upgrade?)
  • Wait to apply the upgrade until after I select an E+ seat? (Is it possible to change seats without checking in at T-24?)
I'll be traveling SFO -> FRA, Sunday flight, if it matters. Thanks in advance!
Requesting the upgrade doesn't affect your E+ seat selction at check-in (unless you actually get the upgrade in the interim, naturally). Apply for the upgrade ASAP.
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Old Aug 23, 18, 1:29 pm
  #784  
 
Join Date: May 2017
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Got it. Thank you all! Just wanted to make sure that I wouldn't lose the ability for E+ if denied for upgrade.
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Old Aug 26, 18, 5:16 pm
  #785  
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 35
GPU upgrade and award bucket availability question

Hi all,
I apologize in advance if this has been addressed in previous post - I haven't found an answer elsewhere. I just booked a flight from SFO-TLV with a GPU applied. However, I was put on a waitlist (R class currently showing: R0). This is my first time using expert mode; my question is: does this mean there will be no award-upgrade eligible flights or does it simply mean the award bucket hasn't been opened for the flight just yet (since this flight is booked a month in advance)? Also, the GPU is coming from my partner who is a premier 1k and our economy fare is M - and we are booked under the same itinerary. Not sure if award upgrade/bucket in this case will be coming from R or PN - can someone please confirm? Regardless I'm showing R0 and PN0 in my flight search.

PS: I've already searched the trip as one-way but still getting the same inventory results for R and PN.
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Old Aug 26, 18, 5:18 pm
  #786  
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It means there's no upgrade available currently.

R is for most customers upgrades, PN is for GS, regardless of how the upgrade is sponsored.
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Old Aug 26, 18, 5:19 pm
  #787  
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Austin, TX
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Originally Posted by jjay View Post
does this mean there will be no award-upgrade eligible flights on this leg or does it simply mean the award bucket hasn't been opened for the flight just yet
Neither. It just means that there aren’t currently any upgrade seats available. They may open; they may not.

Originally Posted by jjay View Post
Also, the GPU is coming from my partner who is a premier 1k and our economy fare is M class under the same itinerary. Not sure if award upgrade/bucket falls under R or PN.
1K GPUs clear into R, regardless of the underlying fare class. If you’re booked on the same reservation, you’ll need R2 before you’ll be able to clear. An M fare is a high fare class, so you should be near the top of the waiting list among people using 1K instruments. However, you’d still be behind anyone using instruments from a Global Services member.

Good luck.
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Old Aug 26, 18, 5:28 pm
  #788  
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
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Thanks for the quick response @mduell and @jsloan
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Old Aug 26, 18, 7:12 pm
  #789  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post

Neither. It just means that there aren’t currently any upgrade seats available. They may open; they may not.


1K GPUs clear into R, regardless of the underlying fare class. If you’re booked on the same reservation, you’ll need R2 before you’ll be able to clear. An M fare is a high fare class, so you should be near the top of the waiting list among people using 1K instruments. However, you’d still be behind anyone using instruments from a Global Services member.

Good luck.
However, if I understood the things correctly, if they open R1, UA will bypass a reservation that needs R2 and upgrade the next waitlisted passenger that is alone.
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Old Aug 26, 18, 8:13 pm
  #790  
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
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Originally Posted by StuckinITH View Post
However, if I understood the things correctly, if they open R1, UA will bypass a reservation that needs R2 and upgrade the next waitlisted passenger that is alone.
I’m not 100% sure if they do that or not, but in practice it doesn’t matter, because anybody can snipe an upgrade when it shows R1, whether they’re already on the waitlist or not.

So, yes, for the best chance of clearing at least one upgrade, split the reservation and watch for R to show up, because they don’t always clear the upgrade list promptly anyway.
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Old Aug 26, 18, 9:22 pm
  #791  
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
in practice it doesn’t matter, because anybody can snipe an upgrade when it shows R1, whether they’re already on the waitlist or not.
Yes, although if you're already waitlisted it can be a real hassle, since most agents will now refuse to clear it, requiring that you pull the instrument and apply it yourself.
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Old Aug 30, 18, 2:52 pm
  #792  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Nashville, TN
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Can't figure this out. On the buy-up CPU list, I am #1 , but on the gate upgrade list, I am #2 and #1 on that list is #5 on the buy-up CPU list. What could be the reason for this? And would this mean that if the pre-gate CPU sweep happens, I would get a seat if available, but at the gate, I would lose out to #5 on the buy-up CPU list?
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Old Aug 30, 18, 2:56 pm
  #793  
 
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Originally Posted by vanderbilt View Post
Can't figure this out. On the buy-up CPU list, I am #1 , but on the gate upgrade list, I am #2 and #1 on that list is #5 on the buy-up CPU list. What could be the reason for this? And would this mean that if the pre-gate CPU sweep happens, I would get a seat if available, but at the gate, I would lose out to #5 on the buy-up CPU list?
Third tiebreaker is different -- time of purchase on the hidden list, and time of check-in on the visible list.
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Old Aug 30, 18, 3:07 pm
  #794  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
Third tiebreaker is different -- time of purchase on the hidden list, and time of check-in on the visible list.
Right. But I had checked in before the other person, since s/he appeared only after I was on the visible list.
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Old Aug 30, 18, 3:23 pm
  #795  
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Originally Posted by vanderbilt View Post
Right. But I had checked in before the other person, since s/he appeared only after I was on the visible list.
The gate list also includes other cases -- such as a waitlisted award or a disservice premium cabin passenger or .... it is not just an "upgrader list" All the various "waitlists" are merged at the gate.

The whole waitlist process has been facets, that's why this thread's wiki is 2,000 words!
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