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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 Jun 27, 19, 6:37 am
  #1186  
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: NYC: UA 1K, DL Platinum, AAirpass, Avis PC
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Odd one - fiance and I traveling with an RPU not yet cleared at 24 for a PS flight. Checked in and it split (forgot about this phenomenon). She - non status same fare non Chase United - was #1 on the list, I was #2 . Two others below us.

It all cleared within an hour automatically along with several others who hadn't yet checked in but strange she was higher.
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Old Jun 27, 19, 8:21 am
  #1187  
 
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Originally Posted by cerealmarketer View Post
Odd one - fiance and I traveling with an RPU not yet cleared at 24 for a PS flight. Checked in and it split (forgot about this phenomenon). She - non status same fare non Chase United - was #1 on the list, I was #2 . Two others below us.

It all cleared within an hour automatically along with several others who hadn't yet checked in but strange she was higher.
Can you check who kept the original PNR code?

There are several reports of this happening in
Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Consensus view is that it's not supposed to be that way, but sometimes the 'gremlins' get a hold of things.

I'm not sure if it's more common to have companion/split PNRs sort correctly or incorrectly now.
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Old Jun 27, 19, 10:20 am
  #1188  
 
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Originally Posted by fumje View Post
Can you check who kept the original PNR code?

There are several reports of this happening in
Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Consensus view is that it's not supposed to be that way, but sometimes the 'gremlins' get a hold of things.

I'm not sure if it's more common to have companion/split PNRs sort correctly or incorrectly now.
She kept the original PNR code (her last name is higher in alphabetical order than mine) - ticket number was 053 vs 052 for me, so mine was issued first.
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Old Jun 27, 19, 10:27 am
  #1189  
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
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Originally Posted by cerealmarketer View Post
She kept the original PNR code (her last name is higher in alphabetical order than mine) - ticket number was 053 vs 052 for me, so mine was issued first.
I haven't figured out if there's a scheme for who gets the original PNR. I used to think it was always the companion, but with the same companion I've had it go both ways.

Anyway, I'm wondering if that might have bearing on who gets listed first.
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Old Jul 5, 19, 11:44 pm
  #1190  
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Fairly new to UA. Currently 1K and booked an M fare with two legs. After my TA booked the ticket I went into my PNR via UA app and clicked confirm UG. Only one leg cleared. Second leg only has one F seat for sale and that didn’t clear.

In my PNR the more is no text about “CPU eligible”. I assume I’m ok and don’t need to call in?

Second, I assume applying a RPU would be worthless as an M fare for 1K clears first regardless if pre or post T-24?
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Old Jul 6, 19, 12:01 am
  #1191  
 
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Originally Posted by mnredfox View Post
...Second, I assume applying a RPU would be worthless as an M fare for 1K clears first regardless if pre or post T-24?
Correct. PN upgrade space (for M-up) opens before PZ (upgrade space for GPU/RPU. GS customers will be ahead of you for upgrades, as well as 1Ks on Y or B fares.

Id call to make sure you’re on waitlist for PN on the 2nd segment.
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Old Jul 6, 19, 2:25 pm
  #1192  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post


Correct. PN upgrade space (for M-up) opens before PZ (upgrade space for GPU/RPU. GS customers will be ahead of you for upgrades, as well as 1Ks on Y or B fares.

Id call to make sure you’re on waitlist for PN on the 2nd segment.
Can 1Ks waitlist for PN? I always assumed that they couldn't, so I check expert mode often if I happen to be on a Y/B/M fare that hasn't cleared yet.
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Old Jul 6, 19, 4:35 pm
  #1193  
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Originally Posted by econ View Post
Can 1Ks waitlist for PN? I always assumed that they couldn't, so I check expert mode often if I happen to be on a Y/B/M fare that hasn't cleared yet.
IAH-OIL-TRASH was referring to the "invisible" waitlist which goes live four (really five) days prior to departure for CPU eligible flights.

The following is the order of priority for upgrades, within four days of departure, on flights that are eligible for Complimentary Premier Upgrades:
  • Premier 1K members on eligible Y-, B- and M-class fares: Premier 1K instant upgrades that weren't confirmed in advance are prioritized by fare class
  • All travelers on waitlisted Global Premier Upgrades, Regional Premier Upgrades and MileagePlus Upgrade Awards: Sorted in waitlist priority order
  • All remaining Premier members: Sorted in waitlist priority order
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Old Jul 6, 19, 6:57 pm
  #1194  
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post


Correct. PN upgrade space (for M-up) opens before PZ (upgrade space for GPU/RPU. GS customers will be ahead of you for upgrades, as well as 1Ks on Y or B fares.

Id call to make sure you’re on waitlist for PN on the 2nd segment.
Called and confirmed I am there. Would make me feel better if the PNR showed this.
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Old Jul 6, 19, 7:33 pm
  #1195  
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
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Originally Posted by mnredfox View Post
In my PNR the more is no text about “CPU eligible”. I assume I’m ok and don’t need to call in?

Second, I assume applying a RPU would be worthless as an M fare for 1K clears first regardless if pre or post T-24?
you are not CPU eligible anymore. You have an M fare which qualifies for an upgrade to first before those CPU. As other have pointed out, it clears when PN inventory is > 0, even before the CPU window opens. If you see PN inventory and you have not cleared, call it in.

And, applying an RPU is worse than useless... There have been reports of the RPU getting in the way of the
M-upgrade and ending up with an inferior upgrade wait list position. Adding the RPU is not only unnecessary, it can be harmful.
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Old Jul 9, 19, 7:20 am
  #1196  
 
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I'm still trying to figure out how this can happen. No. 2 on the standby list was No. 1 on the upgrade list. (Probably not an NRSA; they were at the bottom on medium-sized lists)
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Old Jul 9, 19, 7:57 am
  #1197  
 
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Originally Posted by Miles Ahead View Post
I'm still trying to figure out how this can happen. No. 2 on the standby list was No. 1 on the upgrade list. (Probably not an NRSA; they were at the bottom on medium-sized lists)
Revenue F pax standing by for the flight? I think then No. 1 on the standby list could be a higher-status Y pax, but I'm not sure the exact ordering of that list.
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Old Jul 9, 19, 10:59 am
  #1198  
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
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No. 2 was likely a disserviced F passenger. But then who could #1 be? Doesn't an F ticket get you towards the top of the standby list?
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Old Jul 11, 19, 11:21 am
  #1199  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
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I'm pretty sure I understand from reading the thread, but I just wanted to confirm given I rarely fly domestic with CPU eligible tickets. I'm GS and booked on a domestic flight in four days. If my reservation says CPU requested, is there any point in throwing an RPU at the flight to get better chance of an upgrade? or once it hits 72 hours, as long as there are >2 F seats, should I just call and request them to clear my upgrade?
thank you!
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Old Jul 11, 19, 11:31 am
  #1200  
 
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Originally Posted by dag16 View Post
I'm pretty sure I understand from reading the thread, but I just wanted to confirm given I rarely fly domestic with CPU eligible tickets. I'm GS and booked on a domestic flight in four days. If my reservation says CPU requested, is there any point in throwing an RPU at the flight to get better chance of an upgrade? or once it hits 72 hours, as long as there are >2 F seats, should I just call and request them to clear my upgrade?
thank you!
Hypothetically if the flight has PN space, the RPU would make it confirm immediately. I also think the GS desk will only force through an instrument upgrade. Finally, it moves you on the list relative to the other GS that probably aren't also on the flight.
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