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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 Nov 28, 18, 5:58 pm
  #931  
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: ATL/Florida/EWR
Programs: United 1K, AA Gold, Marriott Ambassador, Hilton Gold
Posts: 542
Originally Posted by findark View Post
If the app (not website) shows CPU requested, I think your place on the invisible list should be OK.
Thanks! The app does show that. I know the visible list isn't used until the gate so I guess there's time to fix things tomorrow if I don't magically appear on it after the Copa flight.
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Old Nov 29, 18, 7:11 am
  #932  
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: ATL/Florida/EWR
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Posts: 542
Update to the above, I completed my copa flight and called back - still no dice and claiming that even with the credit card you arenít eligible for the airport list, only in advance. Agent at PTY could also not add me to the list and told me to try in EWR.

I recall other people having the same issue in the past. Any suggestions on how to get it resolved so I hopefully donít get screwed out of an upgrade?

None of this makes sense given Iíve gone to the gate list while on an award ticket dozens of times...
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Old Nov 29, 18, 8:30 am
  #933  
ezl
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 9
Ok, I have the following situation which I don't understand based on what I read in this post:
1k friend booked a ticket in October for a flight to Denver tomorrow and returning on Sunday for himself and a Silver companion. L&L fare. $284 a person.
I, also a 1k, decided to join them and booked a ticket 2 weeks ago for the same flights. L&T fares. $277.
He got a notification yesterday night that both him and his companion are upgraded on the flight back (72 hours window). I am not, even though I am in T and they are in L.
This morning he got a a notification that he and the companion are upgraded on the flight tomorrow (24h window). I did not. This one I sort of understand given that we're in the same fare and he booked earlier.

Is this how it's supposed to work?
Thanks!
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Old Nov 29, 18, 8:44 am
  #934  
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Join Date: Apr 2013
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Programs: UA 1K 1MM; AS MVPG; Marriott Plat Premier; Hilton Diamond (Aspire); Hyatt Refugeeist
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Originally Posted by ezl View Post
Is this how it's supposed to work?
A T should clear before an L.

Either there's something wrong with your ticket, the tickets are coding wrong (e.g., your T is coding as an L for upgrade purposes), or the process is just broken.
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Old Nov 29, 18, 9:09 am
  #935  
ezl
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
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That would be my expectation as well. Lady on the 1k desk said that it's because he paid $7 more.....
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Old Nov 29, 18, 12:48 pm
  #936  
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Originally Posted by ezl View Post
That would be my expectation as well. Lady on the 1k desk said that it's because he paid $7 more.....
Yeah they have no idea how the list works. Though apparently we don't either, since it's not processing per the published rules.
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Old Nov 29, 18, 3:31 pm
  #937  
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
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Originally Posted by ezl View Post
That would be my expectation as well. Lady on the 1k desk said that it's because he paid $7 more.....
As Kacee alluded, not true.

The only thing I can imagine is you have an unacknowledged schedule change?? or somehow the ticket needs to be brought into sync. Seems quite unlikely, especially if you've already called.

Do you show on the waitlist for your soonest flight?
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Old Nov 29, 18, 10:11 pm
  #938  
ezl
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 9
Yeah, I figured, but did not have time to argue with her...
I showed as first on the waitlist when I checked in, now 2 people jumped ahead of me. Also available inventory decreased by 3 and it does not look like I'm going to make it.
He did not use any RPUs or CPUs. I don't know if those things play into it, but this year he already re-established the status, but i'm still 2 trips away, yet I have significantly greater $ spend this year.
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Old Nov 30, 18, 9:46 am
  #939  
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
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Originally Posted by ezl View Post
...I don't know if those things play into it, but this year he already re-established the status, but i'm still 2 trips away, yet I have significantly greater $ spend this year.
No. Only current status counts, not progress towards 2019 status (unless that progress results in a higher current status than traveler started with 1Feb2018).
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Old Nov 30, 18, 1:49 pm
  #940  
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
If the app (not website) shows CPU requested, I think your place on the invisible list should be OK.
One final update to my situation for a data point: ended up not working out as planned. The system did upgrade other pax around the 3 hour window (presuming when fare buckets opened), but it was before I was able to get through immigration at EWR and talk to an agent. Spent ~30 minutes in the EWR club while she talked to 2 different support agents and another big boss. As she put it "you really stumped us with this one".

Long story short, they added me to the UG list "out of goodwill and trust" but of course didn't clear, at that point it was J1 and someone bought a TOD from the agent right before boarding, I finished #1 on the list. Plenty of gold and plat in F based on the boarding passes I saw. Agent in the club said her manager was going to send a note to "someone high up" that they need more training on the rules around award ticket upgrades. I also wrote a rather harsh email to 1K desk with all of my screenshots and the clear policy about upgrades on award tickets. Received a nice call and follow up this morning.

All around way too much effort invested on my end, I just hate when the company doesn't educate anyone on policies or benefits. Note to self: if I want the upgrades on mileage tickets, try not to have the first segment on a partner as that clearly messed something up given I've never had trouble when it's only UA segments in the reservation.
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Old Nov 30, 18, 2:02 pm
  #941  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
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Programs: UA 1K, DL, WN, Global Entry; +others wherever miles/points are found
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A disappointing end.. but thanks for the report! Very confusing what could go wrong with the system here...
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Old Dec 3, 18, 8:09 am
  #942  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
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I am UA Platinum, booked tonight in E+ from EZE to IAH. At OLCI, when I click through the buy-up offer to Polaris, I see the standard availability message--in this case, "Currently 8 United Polaris℠ business seats available and 21 customers eligible for an upgrade." Looking at the upgrade list, I see that I am #4 out of the 21. However as a Plat, I am not eligible for a CPU from South America to the US and have no GPUs. So I'm confused what my #4 spot on the list means. I am not being offered a miles+co-pay option, just a buy-up. Can anyone clarify? Thanks!
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Old Dec 3, 18, 8:13 am
  #943  
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Austin, TX
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Originally Posted by mehitabel View Post
I am UA Platinum, booked tonight in E+ from EZE to IAH. At OLCI, when I click through the buy-up offer to Polaris, I see the standard availability message--in this case, "Currently 8 United Polaris℠ business seats available and 21 customers eligible for an upgrade." Looking at the upgrade list, I see that I am #4 out of the 21. However as a Plat, I am not eligible for a CPU from South America to the US and have no GPUs. So I'm confused what my #4 spot on the list means. I am not being offered a miles+co-pay option, just a buy-up. Can anyone clarify? Thanks!
It doesn't mean anything. It's just a marketing message designed to help sell upgrades.
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Old Dec 3, 18, 8:17 am
  #944  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
It doesn't mean anything. It's just a marketing message designed to help sell upgrades.
Rats. And thanks
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Old Dec 3, 18, 11:50 am
  #945  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
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Programs: UA 1K, DL, WN, Global Entry; +others wherever miles/points are found
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Originally Posted by mehitabel View Post
I am UA Platinum, booked tonight in E+ from EZE to IAH. At OLCI, when I click through the buy-up offer to Polaris, I see the standard availability message--in this case, "Currently 8 United Polaris℠ business seats available and 21 customers eligible for an upgrade." Looking at the upgrade list, I see that I am #4 out of the 21. However as a Plat, I am not eligible for a CPU from South America to the US and have no GPUs. So I'm confused what my #4 spot on the list means. I am not being offered a miles+co-pay option, just a buy-up. Can anyone clarify? Thanks!
I believe it shows what the CPU list would be, were the flight CPU eligible.
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