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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 Dec 4, 18, 1:29 am
  #946  
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: Melbourne MEL Calgary YYC
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Hello Smart Folks

I think I made a mistake and need to know if I can somehow move an upgrade

I am travelling SFO-SYD dec 16 and have booked myself (1K) and 2 sons (no status) in E+ on W tickets , split the PNR for the upgrade , 3 separate GPU applied

I saw an PZ1 for the flight and called in to get the upgrade, I upgraded myself, all good

However after reading the WIKI I should have upgraded one of the boys as I will have a better chance for a sweep then they will with the applied GPU

Is there a way to move my upgrade to one of them and then I go back on the list as a 1K?

Might have been a learning curve today

Thanks

Last edited by Jimmie Jet; Dec 4, 18 at 1:30 am Reason: spelling
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Old Dec 4, 18, 6:49 am
  #947  
 
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How are credit card holde with elite status on award tickets prioritized?

Are they behind ALL revenue passengers, or just revenue passengers within their elite status?
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Old Dec 4, 18, 7:30 am
  #948  
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
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Originally Posted by hokiebuy View Post
How are credit card holde with elite status on award tickets prioritized?

Are they behind ALL revenue passengers, or just revenue passengers within their elite status?
Just within their elite status. A 1K with a qualifying credit card will be behind all 1K passengers on paid tickets but ahead of Platinum passengers.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 8:09 pm
  #949  
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
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First time poster, hopefully this is the right place to ask this question. My wife and I are flying EWR-LAS tomorrow. We have no status on UA but a family member, who is GS, applied RPUs to our reservation weeks ago. I check in right at the 24 hr mark (which, it appears from rereading the wiki, I maybe shouldn't have done? oops, used to flying AA). I check back on the flight status page about an hour later and my upgrade had cleared and hers had not, and our reservations had gotten split. Furthermore, her spot in the visible standby list had dropped to 6.

I was confused by all of this so called United - first the agent tried to tell me my wife didn't get upgraded because she didn't have an RPU applied. When I pointed out that couldn't be true since she was on the upgrade list, she checked again came back and said it was because of lack of availability (4J was available at check-in and it was down to 1J when I checked again - I'm guessing a couple people did a buy up?). I asked her about if she'd upgrade and the agent said shes "next on list to be upgraded" despite it not showing that way on the upgrade standby list.

My questions are:
1. Is my wife actually "next on the list" to be upgraded? I understand that because the GR supported upgrades clear into PN this "should" be first to clear (in advance), but would this still be the case now post check-in or does it actually follow the standby list for her now? If the former, does this change at the gate?
2. If I have messed this up, do I have any recourse to improve my chances for both of us to get upgrades?

Thanks in advance for your help FT!
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Old Dec 6, 18, 9:03 pm
  #950  
 
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Location: Austin, TX
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Originally Posted by aj3713 View Post
First time poster, hopefully this is the right place to ask this question. My wife and I are flying EWR-LAS tomorrow. We have no status on UA but a family member, who is GS, applied RPUs to our reservation weeks ago. I check in right at the 24 hr mark (which, it appears from rereading the wiki, I maybe shouldn't have done? oops, used to flying AA). I check back on the flight status page about an hour later and my upgrade had cleared and hers had not, and our reservations had gotten split. Furthermore, her spot in the visible standby list had dropped to 6.

I was confused by all of this so called United - first the agent tried to tell me my wife didn't get upgraded because she didn't have an RPU applied. When I pointed out that couldn't be true since she was on the upgrade list, she checked again came back and said it was because of lack of availability (4J was available at check-in and it was down to 1J when I checked again - I'm guessing a couple people did a buy up?). I asked her about if she'd upgrade and the agent said shes "next on list to be upgraded" despite it not showing that way on the upgrade standby list.

My questions are:
1. Is my wife actually "next on the list" to be upgraded? I understand that because the GR supported upgrades clear into PN this "should" be first to clear (in advance), but would this still be the case now post check-in or does it actually follow the standby list for her now? If the former, does this change at the gate?
2. If I have messed this up, do I have any recourse to improve my chances for both of us to get upgrades?

Thanks in advance for your help FT!
Welcome to FlyerTalk!

1 - Maybe. There's absolutely no way to be certain, because the list that the upgrade would come from prior to the gate isn't published. You've got it exactly right -- she should be waitlisted for PN whereas any non-GS member on the list should be waitlisted for PZ. It will follow the published list if it gets to the gate (which is likely -- they're extremely unlikely to clear an upgrade into the last available seat until the gate).
2 - At this point, no; what's done is done. You can switch seats with her if you'd like to let her sit up front. . You can check her reservation to see if there's a buy-up that you're comfortable paying, but your chances of having that GPU clear are pretty slim.

I'm not sure that we're 100% certain how the gate list is supposed to look. Instruments are supposed to be ahead of non-GS CPUs, but it's possible that a GS member on a CPU would trump a non-status member on an RPU (even a GS RPU). It's also possible that all instruments are lumped together at the gate, so that a general member on a GS RPU might be behind a platinum member on a non-GS RPU. It's really difficult to get good data, since we're typically extrapolating from a situation with a lot of missing facts.

Hope this helps.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 9:50 pm
  #951  
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
Welcome to FlyerTalk!

1 - Maybe. There's absolutely no way to be certain, because the list that the upgrade would come from prior to the gate isn't published. You've got it exactly right -- she should be waitlisted for PN whereas any non-GS member on the list should be waitlisted for PZ. It will follow the published list if it gets to the gate (which is likely -- they're extremely unlikely to clear an upgrade into the last available seat until the gate).
2 - At this point, no; what's done is done. You can switch seats with her if you'd like to let her sit up front. . You can check her reservation to see if there's a buy-up that you're comfortable paying, but your chances of having that GPU clear are pretty slim.

I'm not sure that we're 100% certain how the gate list is supposed to look. Instruments are supposed to be ahead of non-GS CPUs, but it's possible that a GS member on a CPU would trump a non-status member on an RPU (even a GS RPU). It's also possible that all instruments are lumped together at the gate, so that a general member on a GS RPU might be behind a platinum member on a non-GS RPU. It's really difficult to get good data, since we're typically extrapolating from a situation with a lot of missing facts.

Hope this helps.
Yes this is very helpful, thank you... hopefully we get lucky and something opens up! My wife is now 7 on the gate list - with us being at (presumably based on the criteria in the wiki) the very very bottom at the GS RPU list this means for the gate list it either works the first way you explained and there's a whole bunch of GS members on the flight with CPUs, or it works the second way and there's 6 other people ahead of her with better status using any type of instrument.

One more question then - if I had not checked in early, what would have happened? I know its speculating but is it a decent guess that neither of us would have upgraded and either the flight would be J2 PN1 or the upgrade I got would have gone to the first person on the PZ list? Thanks again!
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Old Dec 6, 18, 10:00 pm
  #952  
 
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Originally Posted by aj3713 View Post
One more question then - if I had not checked in early, what would have happened? I know its speculating but is it a decent guess that neither of us would have upgraded and either the flight would be J2 PN1 or the upgrade I got would have gone to the first person on the PZ list? Thanks again!
I'd say that's a decent guess, yes. If the flight was PZ > 0, the first person on the PZ list would likely have been upgraded; if not, it likely would have gone to the gate at J2 PN1.

There are few absolutes in UA's systems , but it's rare for them to upgrade beyond J2 prior to the gate, as they're confident that they can sell the last two seats, either to walk-up purchases or offers during check-in.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 10:00 pm
  #953  
 
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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How many total on the upgrade list?
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Old Dec 6, 18, 10:16 pm
  #954  
 
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Thanks again jsloan!

Originally Posted by findark View Post
How many total on the upgrade list?
Right now she's 7 of 17 on the gate list - flight isn't until tomorrow evening though some presumably there's more people to check in? (J is showing 10/19 checked in)
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Old Dec 6, 18, 11:45 pm
  #955  
 
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Interesting. That just feels like a nonsensical position for a GS-listed instrument, but it has to be at least some semblance of the right priority because otherwise she wouldn't be on the list at all. Maybe there's a family of GS or something.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 11:49 pm
  #956  
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Originally Posted by aj3713 View Post
One more question then - if I had not checked in early, what would have happened?!
Given that they upgraded either three or four pax (including you) at T-24, there's a good chance you both would have cleared.
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Old Dec 7, 18, 6:56 am
  #957  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
I'd say that's a decent guess, yes. If the flight was PZ > 0, the first person on the PZ list would likely have been upgraded; if not, it likely would have gone to the gate at J2 PN1.

There are few absolutes in UA's systems , but it's rare for them to upgrade beyond J2 prior to the gate, as they're confident that they can sell the last two seats, either to walk-up purchases or offers during check-in.
Just noticed something else interesting that I figured I'd ask about - it appears from the United site that my upgrade cleared into PZ. I would have figured it would have cleared into PN - is this just a feature of how United processes upgrades, or did my checking in pre-upgrade actually downgrade the bucket we were eligible for from PN to PZ?
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Old Dec 7, 18, 9:04 am
  #958  
 
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Originally Posted by aj3713 View Post
Just noticed something else interesting that I figured I'd ask about - it appears from the United site that my upgrade cleared into PZ. I would have figured it would have cleared into PN - is this just a feature of how United processes upgrades, or did my checking in pre-upgrade actually downgrade the bucket we were eligible for from PN to PZ?
Checking in early shouldn't have changed anything about your upgrade, since it was processed prior to the gate, but UA has been having a number of glitches since they introduced the PZ bucket about a month ago; this may be another one. (I've seen non-GS members clear into PN when they shouldn't have; this is the first I've seen of a GS instrument clearing somebody into PZ though).
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Old Dec 7, 18, 4:40 pm
  #959  
 
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Hello! A companion and I will be traveling internationally. I am 1K and booking a Q fare class ticket and applying a GPU in hopes of an upgrade to business. If my companion books a W fare class ticket but applies a GPU from me, will he have the same priority as me in terms of fare class?

Many thanks in advance for the insight!
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Old Dec 7, 18, 4:44 pm
  #960  
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Originally Posted by Lesun View Post
Hello! A companion and I will be traveling internationally. I am 1K and booking a Q fare class ticket and applying a GPU in hopes of an upgrade to business. If my companion books a W fare class ticket but applies a GPU from me, will he have the same priority as me in terms of fare class?
Your colleague will have no priority at all. In order for your 1K status to apply to his ticket, you would have to book both tickets on the same itinerary. Which you cannot do with different fare classes.
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