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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

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Old Feb 5, 19, 8:42 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 Oct 13, 18, 3:35 pm
  #886  
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Originally Posted by DELee View Post
So general members on instruments aren't "upgrade eligible"?
Again, for purposes of marketing upgrades, UA is apparently running a code that simply looks for Premiers, and then using that as the list of "upgrade eligible" pax. That group may not include all pax who are actually eligible for the upgrade.
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Old Oct 14, 18, 1:45 pm
  #887  
 
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Right. Some dev probably decided that the actual upgrade list was too hard to retrieve (since you would either have to do some complicated joins of various waitlists, or only show checked-in pax who have been migrated onto the visible list), so just got a list of Premier pax on the flight instead. "Close enough".
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Old Oct 14, 18, 2:24 pm
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So what exactly would that particular list be used for?
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Old Oct 14, 18, 3:46 pm
  #889  
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post
So what exactly would that particular list be used for?
Scare people into buying upgrades. Nothing to do with upgrade process itself.
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Old Oct 14, 18, 3:46 pm
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post
So what exactly would that particular list be used for?
Maybe to OpUp passengers when they oversell Economy. Happened to me one time last year on ORD-CDG. Then, I was a Platinum and had not waitlisted an instrument to upgrade to Polaris Business. I was already sitting in my Economy + bulkhead seat when they asked me to move to Business and it was a good seat: 6J on the 3-class 772.
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Old Oct 14, 18, 3:57 pm
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Originally Posted by StuckinITH View Post
Maybe to OpUp passengers when they oversell Economy. Happened to me one time last year on ORD-CDG. Then, I was a Platinum and had not waitlisted an instrument to upgrade to Polaris Business. I was already sitting in my Economy + bulkhead seat when they asked me to move to Business and it was a good seat: 6J on the 3-class 772.
They will op-up in the order of the visible list, not the 'government work' hidden list. I agree with Kacee's interpretation, that it's just there to scare people into buying the upgrade.
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Old Oct 14, 18, 4:02 pm
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
They will op-up in the order of the visible list, not the 'government work' hidden list. I agree with Kacee's interpretation, that it's just there to scare people into buying the upgrade.
But how do you get on the visible list on an international long haul without waitlisting an instrument?
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Old Oct 14, 18, 4:06 pm
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Originally Posted by StuckinITH View Post
But how do you get on the visible list on an international long haul without waitlisting an instrument?
You don't. I see your point now, though. However, that hidden list does not apparently put those with waitlisted instruments at the top, so it is not the order in which op-ups will be granted.
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Old Oct 15, 18, 8:42 am
  #894  
 
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835 to PVG from ORD today’s flight (10-15). True Polaris 777 with PE. Snagged a seat in PE due to foreknowledge provided by FT.

Was #1 on UG list with GPU and V fare. Eventually moved to #3. Final list of cleared upgrades showed me #1. I assume it’s due to alphabetical order, since I’m a “B” and others were D AND G.

Question; 50 seats. It states out of 50 seats in C, “46 (+3 blocked)” which I assume means only one seat. Also assume the other three are for crew rest. Anybody know what really happened so that I wound up going from 3rd to clear?
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Old Oct 15, 18, 8:54 am
  #895  
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Originally Posted by tryathlete View Post
50 seats. It states out of 50 seats in C, “46 (+3 blocked)” which I assume means only one seat. Also assume the other three are for crew rest.

At most 1 seat would be blocked for crew rest. The other two would be for oversells.
Originally Posted by tryathlete View Post
Anybody know what really happened so that I wound up going from 3rd to clear?
Not enough information. 46 blocked 3 would mean 3 J seats available, so that's the easiest answer, but there are other possibilities.
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Old Oct 15, 18, 8:55 am
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Originally Posted by tryathlete View Post
835 to PVG from ORD today’s flight (10-15). True Polaris 777 with PE. Snagged a seat in PE due to foreknowledge provided by FT.

Was #1 on UG list with GPU and V fare. Eventually moved to #3 . Final list of cleared upgrades showed me #1 . I assume it’s due to alphabetical order, since I’m a “B” and others were D AND G.

Question; 50 seats. It states out of 50 seats in C, “46 (+3 blocked)” which I assume means only one seat. Also assume the other three are for crew rest. Anybody know what really happened so that I wound up going from 3rd to clear?
Yes, the cleared list is sorted alphabetically, not chronologically or any other scheme.

The +3 blocked is usually indicative of oversale in Y, and if no one had waitlisted for an upgrade they may have given some operational upgrades. When it is '46 (+3 blocked)', they are treating the J cabin as if it were booked to 49.

edit add: My understanding of your post is that 1 and 2 above you on the waitlist also cleared at the same time as you or before. Is that correct?
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Old Oct 15, 18, 9:25 am
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
Yes, the cleared list is sorted alphabetically, not chronologically or any other scheme.

The +3 blocked is usually indicative of oversale in Y, and if no one had waitlisted for an upgrade they may have given some operational upgrades. When it is '46 (+3 blocked)', they are treating the J cabin as if it were booked to 49.

edit add: My understanding of your post is that 1 and 2 above you on the waitlist also cleared at the same time as you or before. Is that correct?
that is 100% correct.
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Old Nov 6, 18, 3:48 pm
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Just reached 1K! How are upgrades determined?

I finally reached 1K through 1/1/19. Can anyone tell me how they determine who in 1K will get upgraded? Is it still by level within 1K, first come first serve?

Thanks!
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Old Nov 6, 18, 3:52 pm
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Within elite level, upgrades are prioritized by fare code. Hence, your chance is higher if you buy a more expensive fare.

Of course 1K is below any Global Services Member, regardless of their fare code.

A tie is determined by time of request, except for some credit card ordering.

But other factors too, per united.com:
Effective August 14, 2018, upgrade waitlists are processed in the following priority order:
  1. Premier status of the traveler
  2. Fare classFootnote 1
  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.
  1. Fare class structure in priority order is Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G (for upgrades from United Economy® to the next higher class of service on all aircraft). Complimentary Premier Upgrades on award tickets will be prioritized after the lowest paid fare class.















Last edited by cova; Nov 6, 18 at 4:09 pm
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Old Nov 6, 18, 3:55 pm
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Originally Posted by cova View Post
Within elite level, upgrades are prioritized by fare code. Hence, your chance is higher if you buy a more expensive fare.

Of course 1K is below any Global Services Member, regardless of their fare code.

A tie is determined by time of ticket purchase.
Does checkin time still figure into it? I vaguely remember that being a tie-breaker.
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