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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

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Old Jun 3, 19, 7:05 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 Apr 3, 19, 1:28 pm
  #1111  
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Great White North
Programs: UA:1K AC: 50K HH:Diamond IHG:Plat Marriott:Gold
Posts: 591
Skipping line

I was wondering how it is possible for someone to skip the line on the upgrade list. I just saw #4 on the upgrade list on my flight getting upgraded ahead of 3 others at T-6 hrs.
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Old Apr 3, 19, 2:06 pm
  #1112  
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Originally Posted by expressboy View Post
I was wondering how it is possible for someone to skip the line on the upgrade list. I just saw #4 on the upgrade list on my flight getting upgraded ahead of 3 others at T-6 hrs.
potentially a TOD.
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Old Apr 3, 19, 2:18 pm
  #1113  
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Austin, TX
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Originally Posted by expressboy View Post
I was wondering how it is possible for someone to skip the line on the upgrade list. I just saw #4 on the upgrade list on my flight getting upgraded ahead of 3 others at T-6 hrs.
The invisible list has different tiebreakers than the visible list. The visible list is only used at the gate; at T-6, the invisible list governs.
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Old Apr 3, 19, 2:21 pm
  #1114  
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Originally Posted by expressboy View Post
I was wondering how it is possible for someone to skip the line on the upgrade list. I just saw #4 on the upgrade list on my flight getting upgraded ahead of 3 others at T-6 hrs.
At T-6, they did not clear off the list you are looking at. They may have been #1 on the invisible list (priority is sorted differently and there are other lists that are merged for the gate). They may have been a waitlisted award (I opened up). Some other options on CPU eligible flights. .... So there are multiple reasons this can legitimately happen.
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Old Apr 4, 19, 4:34 pm
  #1115  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
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I think I've seen this addressed before, but I can't find the specific advice. If waiting for a MUA (LAX-LHR on Saturday), and it hasn't cleared at check in time, should one check in when check in opens? Better chance of an upgrade (even if it seems unlikely at this point)?
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Old Apr 4, 19, 7:31 pm
  #1116  
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Originally Posted by mmthomps View Post
I think I've seen this addressed before, but I can't find the specific advice. If waiting for a MUA (LAX-LHR on Saturday), and it hasn't cleared at check in time, should one check in when check in opens? Better chance of an upgrade (even if it seems unlikely at this point)?
Single passenger -- Checking in earlier helps your gate list priority and does not change your chances from the pre-gate list. If multi-passenger PNR, if you want to avoid splitting your PNR and split upgrade chance, then you might want to wait (and at the gate, you can tell the GA, all or none).
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Old Apr 4, 19, 8:54 pm
  #1117  
 
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Ah, yes -- now I remember; I'm flying alone. Thanks.
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Old Apr 19, 19, 6:37 am
  #1118  
 
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Great comments on this forum for a lowly UA silver (from Marriott) , but also see the UA point deval coming this fall. So used the info & did get a mid December business upgrade from ORD to PEK (peak Xmas travel period). Economy ticket + $450 & 30000 miles. It worked & was confirmed !. Yes
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Last edited by Jiatong; Apr 19, 19 at 6:42 am Reason: splng
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Old Apr 22, 19, 11:27 am
  #1119  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
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Have a question...

Does a authorize user of the "United Club card" compete head to head on a tie-breaker for upgrade list?

i.e.

Same status (GS)
Same fare class..
GPU/RPU used...
Club card vs authorized club card...
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Old Apr 22, 19, 12:09 pm
  #1120  
 
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So I was buying LAX-EZE-LAX and wanted to pay to waitlist for EZE-LAX (PZ0). But the system wouldn't let me use my TCV, so I purchased just the econ fare and am planning to call in.
Now EZE-IAH-LAX is PZ0 but EZE-IAH is PZ9. So if I call in and pay $500/25k would I get a confirmed upgrade for EZE-IAH?
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Old Apr 22, 19, 12:26 pm
  #1121  
 
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Originally Posted by HkCaGu View Post
So I was buying LAX-EZE-LAX and wanted to pay to waitlist for EZE-LAX (PZ0). But the system wouldn't let me use my TCV, so I purchased just the econ fare and am planning to call in.
Now EZE-IAH-LAX is PZ0 but EZE-IAH is PZ9. So if I call in and pay $500/25k would I get a confirmed upgrade for EZE-IAH?
Yes!!!! It's showing PZ0 for EZE-IAH-LAX because IAH-LAX is PZ0, even though EZE-IAH is >0 - sort of a lowest-common denominator type thing.
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Old Apr 22, 19, 1:25 pm
  #1122  
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Originally Posted by twkidM3 View Post
....
Does a authorize user of the "United Club card" compete head to head on a tie-breaker for upgrade list?....
Based on every other case where a credit card is involved for UA, I would say no.
Doubt UA even knows who the authorized users are. UA is going by the MP account number linked to credit card -- the primary cardholder.
Authorized users don't get any UA benefits.
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Old Apr 24, 19, 12:44 pm
  #1123  
 
Join Date: May 2006
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I realize that my question may have been asked and answered before, but I'm not sure that I'll be able to find it easily in a 1100+-post thread. So my apologies go out to anyone offended at my possibly repeating a question. I see helpful information in the Wiki about what happens when general members travel with an elite, but there's not much about multiple elites traveling with multiple general pax.

I am trying to understand how I should strategize things from an upgrade standpoint when mrs. iapetus attains 1K status (she's about 9,000 of my BIS miles from that ) and we travel with our two children. We'll typically be trying to maximize possibilities via CPU. But I understand that differences will occur when we attempt to use instruments. Our priority would typically be for all four of us to get upgraded and then for two of the four to get upgraded. If three of us make it somehow, I will sit in E+.

If we all start out on the same PNR, will the system automatically assign one each of the iapetus jrs. to be our CPU companion? Does it also automatically split the PNR, or will I have to call UA to request that? Given our prioritization, I am guessing that splitting PNRs increases our chances of at least two of us getting upgraded, yes? What other strategies should I have in mind when flying as a family, other than the typical ones that apply to anyone trying to maximize their upgrade potential? I've always been the only one to have status, and I'm looking forward to the possibility to extending those benefits further (even if the four-person CPU is few and far (maybe never?) between).

Ah, and what are the implications for our upgrade possibilities if the iapetus jrs. are flying on award tickets on in BE while mrs. iapetus and I travel on a regular Economy ticket? Can I assume that only mrs. iapetus and I would be upgrade-eligible in such a scenario?

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Apr 24, 19 at 6:17 pm Reason: merging consecutive posts by same member
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Old Apr 24, 19, 1:48 pm
  #1124  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
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Originally Posted by iapetus View Post
If we all start out on the same PNR, will the system automatically assign one each of the iapetus jrs. to be our CPU companion? Does it also automatically split the PNR, or will I have to call UA to request that?
The computer will not perform any optimizations for you, since it does not know what you would want. The default is all-or-none clearance; if you want something else (like pairs or individual) you will have to split the PNR yourself (by calling).

The PNR will automatically split at check-in to the individual level (opt-out possible if CPU, not possible if an instrument waitlist is present - you would have to remove the waitlist before T-25h to departure).

Originally Posted by iapetus View Post
Given our prioritization, I am guessing that splitting PNRs increases our chances of at least two of us getting upgraded, yes? What other strategies should I have in mind when flying as a family, other than the typical ones that apply to anyone trying to maximize their upgrade potential? I've always been the only one to have status, and I'm looking forward to the possibility to extending those benefits further (even if the four-person CPU is few and far (maybe never?) between).
Splitting to pairs significantly improves your chances, yes. I would probably do the two-pair strategy, although if flying with instruments and okay with any 3/1 split then you could do individual PNRs. That gets to be a hassle for reservation management though.

Originally Posted by iapetus View Post
Ah, and what are the implications for our upgrade possibilities if the iapetus jrs. are flying on award tickets on in BE while mrs. iapetus and I travel on a regular Economy ticket? Can I assume that only mrs. iapetus and I would be upgrade-eligible in such a scenario?
Award tickets will be on a separate PNR from your paid ticket and will not be upgrade-eligible (unless both miles and instrument or pax are GS).
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Old Apr 24, 19, 2:38 pm
  #1125  
 
Join Date: May 2006
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
The PNR will automatically split at check-in to the individual level ...
See, I think that this is the part, as well as its ramifications, that I don't get for some reason. So, if we didn't clear ahead of time, would we find ourselves in a situation where each one of us would be upgraded individually? It sounds as though I'd have to call to have this automatic split at T-24h reversed each time if we wanted to clear in pairs at that point. And the iapetus jrs., as general members, would clear last if their upgrade wasn't tied to my wife or me?

Originally Posted by findark View Post
Award tickets will be on a separate PNR from your paid ticket and will not be upgrade-eligible (unless both miles and instrument or pax are GS).
Yeah, that's kinda what I thought. Just thinking through the implications of flying with my wife and I paid and the kids on award ...


Thanks for the response!
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