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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 Feb 5, 19, 6:22 pm
  #1051  
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Originally Posted by nomad420 View Post
I have mixed instruments (i.e. RPU with a GPU) but had to call to do it. They pushed it through fwiw. ....
That was very non-standard and surprized you were able to make it happen. Although a GPU on an RPU route is no different from an RPU. I think you got a nice customer service gesture (if done without splitting the PNR). Folks have tried GPU and miles and that was a no go.
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Old Feb 6, 19, 9:01 am
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
That was very non-standard and surprized you were able to make it happen. Although a GPU on an RPU route is no different from an RPU. I think you got a nice customer service gesture (if done without splitting the PNR). Folks have tried GPU and miles and that was a no go.
Interesting to hear, my next flight with Mrs. Nomad to EWR (Yes an "RPU route") I am using RPUs and she is using GPUs or vice versa on the same PNR for sure. Now I would say I pushed it a bit stating that I wanted to burn up the 2 GPUs that we extended from 2018. I was never told I couldn't be done but they said they had to manually push it through. I have not tried a miles mix but was looking into doing that later on another planned TCON. If I have to split the PNR on that one it wouldn't be a big deal but I'll let you know how it goes.

FWIW, this seems pretty short sited that UA won't let you mix instruments. You would think an "instrument is an instrument" and also if someone want to use a GPU on a RPU route (I do it all the time) why not let them. Maybe someone can enlighten me on UA's thinking on this....

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Feb 6, 19 at 9:51 am Reason: merging consecutive posts by same member
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Old Feb 6, 19, 9:18 am
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Originally Posted by nomad420 View Post
FWIW, this seems pretty short sited that UA won't let you mix instruments. You would think an "instrument is an instrument" and also if someone want to use a GPU on a RPU route (I do it all the time) why not let them. Maybe someone can enlighten me on UA's thinking on this....
I don't know the answer, but I'm taking a wild stab in the dark: Their thinking is that they don't want to invest in the IT technology to provide this customer-friendly service.
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Old Feb 6, 19, 9:24 am
  #1054  
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Originally Posted by nomad420 View Post
FWIW, this seems pretty short sited that UA won't let you mix instruments. You would think an "instrument is an instrument" and also if someone want to use a GPU on a RPU route (I do it all the time) why not let them. Maybe someone can enlighten me on UA's thinking on this....
I'm pretty sure it's not a "rule" per se, but rather a systems limitation attributable to the different coding of the different types of instruments. Tickets on the same PNR must be identical, and the coding of a GPU is different from the coding of an RPU.

Frankly I've never seen this issue raised before and suspect it impacts very few people.
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Old Feb 6, 19, 9:57 am
  #1055  
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
I'm pretty sure it's not a "rule" per se, but rather a systems limitation attributable to the different coding of the different types of instruments. Tickets on the same PNR must be identical, and the coding of a GPU is different from the coding of an RPU. ...
I suspect also it is a "system" limitation as it appears it can be manually done but many of the aspects of "all conditions of multiple tickets on a PNR must be identical" are due to system limitations (UA and industry tools like GDS) and most cannot be manually overridden.
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Old Feb 6, 19, 10:41 am
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
I'm pretty sure it's not a "rule" per se, but rather a systems limitation attributable to the different coding of the different types of instruments. Tickets on the same PNR must be identical, and the coding of a GPU is different from the coding of an RPU.

Frankly I've never seen this issue raised before and suspect it impacts very few people.
On family reservations it sure would be nice to be able to mix instruments, especially after you've used a few (which, of course, is no longer an issue because they're useless . . .)
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Old Feb 6, 19, 1:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
I'm pretty sure it's not a "rule" per se, but rather a systems limitation attributable to the different coding of the different types of instruments. Tickets on the same PNR must be identical, and the coding of a GPU is different from the coding of an RPU.

Frankly I've never seen this issue raised before and suspect it impacts very few people.
Given that the manual instrument application process is two completely separate steps (add waitlist, debit instrument) it seems like this should be possible for an agent to do, but given the complexity and the fact that nothing really tracks where your instrument go in the manual case, I can see why UA doesn't want to bother.
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Old Feb 15, 19, 7:12 am
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I have a flight in the morning tomorrow 2/16, but my CPU hasn't gone through yet as of this morning. Maybe you guys could help clear the confusion as to why?

IAH-MEX on a 737-700 with 12 FC seats available....5 seats have been available since 2/13 up until this morning, and now there are 4...

Standby list says 12 Business, 8 Booked, 0 Checked-in

Are certain routes adjusted to be less CPU-friendly?

Last edited by MrGood; Feb 15, 19 at 7:19 am
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Old Feb 15, 19, 7:21 am
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Originally Posted by MrGood View Post
I have a flight in the morning tomorrow 2/16, but my CPU hasn't gone through yet as of this morning. Maybe you guys could help clear the confusion as to why?...
For Plats, United says it will give out CPUs AS EARLY as 72 hours out. Doesn't mean they will. They run CPU sweeps when they want to. The reduction from 5 to 4 might mean a GS, 1K, or another Plat (on higher fare basis, or same fare w/ earlier purchase) has been upgraded. Or the seat was sold. UA has often been delaying CPUs to make seats available for buy-ups.
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Old Feb 15, 19, 7:40 am
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Originally Posted by MrGood View Post
I have a flight in the morning tomorrow 2/16, but my CPU hasn't gone through yet as of this morning. Maybe you guys could help clear the confusion as to why?
Because UA has not released them for CPUs (and would prefer to sell them at check-in).
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Old Feb 15, 19, 7:55 am
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Alright, thanks @Kacee & @IAH-OIL-TRASH , I figured as much but just wanted to make sure. Many routes I've flown have gotten upgraded almost instantaneously while many others are up-in-the-air until check-in at the airport!
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Old Feb 15, 19, 9:03 am
  #1062  
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Originally Posted by MrGood View Post
Many routes I've flown have gotten upgraded almost instantaneously while many others are up-in-the-air until check-in at the airport!
As a Platinum? Many of us find CPUs extremely difficult as a 1K.
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Old Feb 15, 19, 9:40 am
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
As a Platinum? Many of us find CPUs extremely difficult as a 1K.
I have yet to experience the hopeful waitlist for premium, RPU/GPU and/or hub-to-hub routes. I fly to other regions which mostly allows me to not be hopeful for upgrades on those routes (yet)
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Old Feb 15, 19, 10:03 pm
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What sucks is if your GS and using a voucher on a PS intl flight, you can't visit the Polaris lounge unless ur cleared before check-in.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 8:05 pm
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Had multiple instances where a Platinum colleague of mine has been upgraded ahead of me (1K) on the CPU list (pre 24 hrs). Anyone know why this might keep happening? My understanding was that CPUs were prioritized by status and then fare class. My one thought was that hes a cellist and always buys a seat for his cello so maybe if PZ=2, and hes the highest status flyer with two travellers on his itinerary, he is automatically upgraded ahead of people on a single ticket itinerary somehow? Im at a bit of a loss here.

Thanks for any tips!
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