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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 9, 18, 7:29 am
  #961  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
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Just want to make sure I'm not missing something here. I had sponsored an upgrade on a domestic flight with an RPU for a non-status flyer, who was #1 on the upgrade list for the flight below since check-in opened.

How did #7 jump the list and snag an upgrade after check-in has closed? I understand there's variability before it goes to the gate, but I thought by this point (i.e. check-in closed, less than 30 minutes to flight time) the list was the list. Thanks.

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Old Dec 9, 18, 8:50 am
  #962  
 
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I'd send it in to 1K Voice for an explanation. Looks like it could be shenanigans. Once on list at #7 , I don't see how they can jump everyone unless they convinced GA that an instrument/mileage upgrade was requested and not reflected in their position on list. That's only reason I can think of.

Last edited by IAH-OIL-TRASH; Dec 9, 18 at 8:55 am
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Old Dec 9, 18, 10:51 am
  #963  
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Could have purchased a buy-up which booked into PN or PZ.
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Old Dec 9, 18, 10:55 am
  #964  
 
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Does 1. Erk, J have status?
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Old Dec 9, 18, 11:13 am
  #965  
 
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Was is the computer or the GA who ran the upgrade?
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Old Dec 9, 18, 11:37 am
  #966  
 
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Could have purchased a buy-up which booked into PN or PZ.
OK - don't have much experience w/ buy-ups. The one time I did on day of flight, I didn't show on list. Wasn't an up-fare, either.
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Old Dec 9, 18, 11:40 am
  #967  
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post
OK - don't have much experience w/ buy-ups. The one time I did on day of flight, I didn't show on list. Wasn't an up-fare, either.
Depends on what it books into, which is pretty random from the passenger perspective.

There's been a lot of weirdness reported lately with the upgrade process. So I'm not discounting the possibility there was an error (or a Shena) here.
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Old Dec 9, 18, 1:02 pm
  #968  
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
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RPU expiration

hi all

I have a question about when RPUs expire. I read all the details in the thread about the ‘invisible’ list and the gate standby list.

My partner is 1K and applied RPUs around 3 weeks ago for IAH-PVR and we were waitlisted. Now we are checked in at T-24 and upgrades still didn’t clear. We are #3/4 on gate standby list with two spaces left in First.

As we are now at T-24 does that mean the RPUs no longer count on any upgrade list? Or do the RPUs still count on the ‘invisible list’?

In other words, assuming no changes to availability in First (2 seats remaining), have our chances of getting upgraded gone based on gate standby list order, or could our RPUs still bump us above #1/2 on the gate list if they have not used any instruments and the upgrades clear before it goes to gate. P=1 on the flight so assuming these two above us are not GS otherwise they would have cleared already?

Thanks all!
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Old Dec 9, 18, 1:05 pm
  #969  
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
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Originally Posted by mattg85 View Post
As we are now at T-24 does that mean the RPUs no longer count on any upgrade list? Or do the RPUs still count on the ‘invisible list’?

In other words, assuming no changes to availability in First (2 seats remaining), have our chances of getting upgraded gone based on gate standby list order, or could our RPUs still bump us above #1/2 on the gate list if they have not used any instruments and the upgrades clear before it goes to gate. P=1 on the flight so assuming these two above us are not GS otherwise they would have cleared already?

Thanks all!
You could still process from the invisible list. That said, it's entirely possible that the two people on the list ahead of you are also on instruments.

P wouldn't have any effect on the passengers ahead of you -- it's for paid tickets, not upgrades. PN would, though -- but even then, sometimes an upgrade bucket can open but the system will fail to clear anyone.
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Old Dec 9, 18, 1:09 pm
  #970  
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
You could still process from the invisible list. That said, it's entirely possible that the two people on the list ahead of you are also on instruments.
The only scenario where OP and companion clear is if #1 and 2 are 1Ks on the same fare as OP who applied their instruments later, but win the gate tie-breaker based on time of check-in, and UA clears the upgrades before the flight goes to the gate. Very unlikely.

Or if there are misconnects/cancels opening up additional seats.
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Old Dec 9, 18, 1:20 pm
  #971  
 
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
The only scenario where OP and companion clear is if #1 and 2 are 1Ks on the same fare as OP who applied their instruments later, but win the gate tie-breaker based on time of check-in, and UA clears the upgrades before the flight goes to the gate. Very unlikely.
I agree that it's unlikely, but the upgrade list has been so wonky recently that I don't really trust it. For example, are we really sure that instruments are being recognized properly?
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Old Dec 9, 18, 1:22 pm
  #972  
 
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
Does 1. Erk, J have status?
No. General member, upgrade request supported by my RPU.

Originally Posted by findark View Post
Was is the computer or the GA who ran the upgrade?
No idea. I would have inquired with the GA had I been there.

Appreciate all the ideas. Naturally I think shenanigans when that kind of thing happens, especially so close to departure...
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Old Dec 9, 18, 1:53 pm
  #973  
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
I agree that it's unlikely, but the upgrade list has been so wonky recently that I don't really trust it. For example, are we really sure that instruments are being recognized properly?
I cannot argue with that
Originally Posted by blort View Post
Naturally I think shenanigans when that kind of thing happens, especially so close to departure...
I hear ya, but these are extremely rare with UA these days.
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Old Dec 9, 18, 2:04 pm
  #974  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
You could still process from the invisible list. That said, it's entirely possible that the two people on the list ahead of you are also on instruments.

P wouldn't have any effect on the passengers ahead of you -- it's for paid tickets, not upgrades. PN would, though -- but even then, sometimes an upgrade bucket can open but the system will fail to clear anyone.
PN is also 1

So the instruments carry through right to the gate? The gate standby priority published doesn’t seem to mention RPUs so wasn’t sure if they retained validity right through to the end.

I thought maybe that they were higher than us due to fare class for the gate standby list rather than use of instruments but guess that’s not the case.
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Old Dec 9, 18, 7:42 pm
  #975  
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Heres a new one for me.

UA 6061 tomorrow. Showing J8, PZ4 since yesterday. No ones been upgraded as of now, and we’re basically at T-23. I’m on a 3 pax PNR, with 2 silvers, so I presume soemone should have been upgraded now, if not the 3 of us.

I know the system sometimes delays sweeps by a few minutes, say 5-15. But never seen it not run this long with open space. Any idea why this might happen?
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