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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

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Old Jan 12, 18, 2:50 pm   -   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).

  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPU) are available for most North American flights, Central America flights, and some select Oceania flights.
    "ex-PS" flights (EWR-SFO/LAX, BOS-SFO and v.v.) and Hawaii-EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN, GUM and v.v. are not CPU eligible. CPUs are available for all paid fares and in some cases on Regional Premier Upgrades (RPU - provided to Plats and above) are usable on all CPU eligible flights and also on the above CPU-ineligible flights. RPUs may be used on all paid fares.
  • Global Premier Upgrades (GPU - provided to 1Ks and above) are usable on all flights with a premium cabin. GPU usage on non-RPU eligible flights require a minimum W fare. GPUs may also be used on LH & NH flights.
  • Mileage Upgrade Awards (MUA) can be requested for all UA flights with a higher cabin on all paid fares. This a varying amount of miles and a $ copay (elites are exempt from the co-pay for CPU eligible flights) -- see UA award chart for details Note the miles and copay are due at time of request and will be returned if unsuccessful.
  • Instant Upgrades are space available for all elites on Y & B fares for CPU-eligible flights at booking. For Plats and below these require RN space. For 1Ks and GS, this can be done on Y, B & M fares and requires PN space. 1K & GS, if not cleared at booking, will be waitlisted.

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.
R/RN class is required for all other upgrades from Economy except CPUs.
ON class is required for all upgrades from Business 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)

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?
Yes, sort of. You should be added to the upgrade list as a displaced passenger. This works only sporadically; it may help to request to be listed with a code like WBI and GG ONESTANDBY lines 32-55. This will prioritize you higher than all upgrades, but behind other displaced passengers with higher fare codes.

Who are these people who are on standby lists for both Business and First?
Non-revenue travelers (UA employees and friends) are eligible for complimentary upgrades to all cabins, including upgrades skipping the intermediate cabin. These upgrades, however, are dead last in priority.
Why would someone be listed on both standby & upgrade list(s)?


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
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Old Jan 23, 13, 7:53 am
  #1
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Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Hi all, I know this has been addressed previously, but I can't find the right thread via searching. I know the upgrade priority for waitlisted GPU's up to T-24. That's on the website. My question is, what is the upgrade priority for waitlisted GPU's once they go to airport control at T-24?

Many thanks for the answer or thread link.
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Old Jan 23, 13, 8:05 am
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From United.com : Priority within 24 hours

"New waitlist requests for MileagePlus Upgrade Awards, Regional Premier Upgrades, and Global Premier Upgrades can be made until 24 hours prior to departure. At 24 hours from departure, waitlists will expire and automatic processing of upgrades, per the priority listed above, will continue. As customers check in, they will be placed on an airport upgrade standby list. This standby list will clear after check-in is closed, and is based on Premier status and fare class."

Here is the link to the page on UA.com : http://www.united.com/web/en-US/cont...e/default.aspx

I hope this will help you. There may already be another thread in this Forum with discussion about this for which someone can post the link.

*Fare class structure in priority order is J, C, D, Z, P (for upgrades from United Business® to United First®, or United BusinessFirst® to United Global First® on three-cabin aircraft) and Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G, N (for upgrades from United Economy® to the next higher class of service on all aircraft).

**On intra-Asia flights between Hong Kong (HKG) and Tokyo (NRT), Singapore (SIN) or Ho Chi Minh City (SGN), and between Tokyo (NRT) and Seoul (ICN) or Taipei (TPE), Complimentary Premier Upgrades, will begin to confirm 24 hours prior to departure.

***Complimentary Premier Upgrades on award tickets will be prioritized after the lowest paid fare class.
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Old Jan 23, 13, 11:43 am
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Thanks for this. If I'm reading it right, the priority order for GPU's is the same pre and post T-24? Status, fare class, time of request?
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Old Jan 23, 13, 12:00 pm
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Originally Posted by alexperi View Post
Thanks for this. If I'm reading it right, the priority order for GPU's is the same pre and post T-24? Status, fare class, time of request?
Just know that cash buy-ups now trump all with UA
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Old Jan 23, 13, 1:01 pm
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After reading the above replies and the pertinent pages on united.com, I still have a question regarding sponsored upgrades. I know that the upgrade waitlist is based on the elite status of the sponsoree. Does this priority extend to the airport waitlist?
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Old Jan 23, 13, 1:02 pm
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Originally Posted by mgmsteven View Post
After reading the above replies and the pertinent pages on united.com, I still have a question regarding sponsored upgrades. I know that the upgrade waitlist is based on the elite status of the sponsoree. Does this priority extend to the airport waitlist?
Yes.
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Old Jan 23, 13, 1:12 pm
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Originally Posted by alexperi View Post
Thanks for this. If I'm reading it right, the priority order for GPU's is the same pre and post T-24? Status, fare class, time of request?
I think, but do not know for certain, that the "fare class" sort is not by strict fare classes, but by more generalized buckets, meaning that a Y or B will trump V or W, but a V may be the same as W.

This is from personal experience, where I traveled with a friend, said friend purchased the ticket some 7 weeks before travel, and I purchased my ticket 5 weeks before travel. Her fare class was W, my fare class was V. Both GPU's were applied immediately after ticket purchase in both cases, and both GPU's came out of my account. According to a strict interpretation of the United rule, my upgrade should have cleared first, since I had V fare, but in reality, my friend's upgrade cleared at T-3 days, and I ended up #6 on the list and never cleared.

OTOH, I've had a B fare clear at T-1 day when there were only 2 seats open in business class, on a 1K-heavy route, so there must've been a ton of pending upgrades ahead of mine in terms of time of request. So I don't have much doubt that a B fare would trump V or W, but from my one data point, V didn't trump W.
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Old Jan 23, 13, 2:46 pm
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Originally Posted by davewang202 View Post
, but from my one data point, V didn't trump W.
I'm holding a V fare ticket on an intl flight today. When I purchased it, both W and V were available, with V about $150 more than the W. The nice lady at the 1K desk suggested that paying the difference would be well worth it from a GPU upgrade standpoint.

It's now T-8 and I find myself #3 on the upgrade standby list (21 pax total on list). With 47 booked out of a capacity of 50, so hope springs eternal. Of course, I do not know if I would still be at #3 with a W class purchase, but I doubt it as it was a late purchase.

I do know, from my own experience last week, that buy-ups to ZN class will trump any and all on the standby list - so it clearly depends on how many are willing to take up the offer made to them when they check in, regardless of where on the standby list they are.
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Old Jan 23, 13, 2:57 pm
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Originally Posted by UA-NYC View Post
Just know that cash buy-ups now trump all with UA
That is absolutely nothing new. Cash buy-ups trump upgrades on all airlines that offer them, all the time. Just like they have on UA for years.

I'm not sure if you had another motive for stating the obvious but that's really what it is.
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Old Jan 23, 13, 3:06 pm
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Originally Posted by mkr View Post
From United.com : Priority within 24 hours

"New waitlist requests for MileagePlus Upgrade Awards, Regional Premier Upgrades, and Global Premier Upgrades can be made until 24 hours prior to departure. At 24 hours from departure, waitlists will expire and automatic processing of upgrades, per the priority listed above, will continue. As customers check in, they will be placed on an airport upgrade standby list. This standby list will clear after check-in is closed, and is based on Premier status and fare class."
That may be what they say, but unfortunately it doesn't work like that.

In my experience, GPUs that don't clear automatically become CPUs at T-24, and the annotation on your itinerary changes from "upgrade waitlisted" to "upgrade requested". It's in the lap of the gods whether you then clear or not (I never have in that situation, even as a 1K MM, which is why I never book domestic flights now unless there is upgrade inventory available or it's a plane with no F seating so it doesn't matter anyway).
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Old Jan 23, 13, 3:19 pm
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Originally Posted by mkr View Post
From United.com : Priority within 24 hours



**On intra-Asia flights between Hong Kong (HKG) and Tokyo (NRT), Singapore (SIN) or Ho Chi Minh City (SGN), and between Tokyo (NRT) and Seoul (ICN) or Taipei (TPE), Complimentary Premier Upgrades, will begin to confirm 24 hours prior to departure.

***Complimentary Premier Upgrades on award tickets will be prioritized after the lowest paid fare class.
There is no more CPU to TPE.
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Old Mar 7, 13, 3:50 pm
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Folks, I am still trying to get clarity on this and would really appreciate some help.

If my waitlisted GPU doesn't clear by T-24, and goes to airport control, does it make a difference what time I check in? I understand that the priority is still premier level, fare class, but if premier level and fare class are the same, does time of original upgrade request trump check in time, or the other way round?

Thanks if you can help me with this!
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Old Mar 7, 13, 4:00 pm
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Originally Posted by 1P View Post
In my experience, GPUs that don't clear automatically become CPUs at T-24, and the annotation on your itinerary changes from "upgrade waitlisted" to "upgrade requested".
So, in your experience, did you get your GPU instrument back? I just had a trip this week that did not clear in advance, but only cleared at airport due to no show. Can I get my instrument back?
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Old Mar 7, 13, 4:06 pm
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Originally Posted by kit125 View Post
So, in your experience, did you get your GPU instrument back? I just had a trip this week that did not clear in advance, but only cleared at airport due to no show. Can I get my instrument back?
No, definitely not. You were prioritized higher than CPUs due to using a GPU. The hypothesis in the post you quoted is 100% false - they don't "become" CPUs.
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Old Mar 7, 13, 4:12 pm
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Originally Posted by alexperi View Post
Folks, I am still trying to get clarity on this and would really appreciate some help.

If my waitlisted GPU doesn't clear by T-24, and goes to airport control, does it make a difference what time I check in? I understand that the priority is still premier level, fare class, but if premier level and fare class are the same, does time of original upgrade request trump check in time, or the other way round?

Thanks if you can help me with this!
3rd tiebreaker is check-in time...always check in at T-24 if you can!

Time of original request was a long-ago PMUA thing, and what AA currently does

Originally Posted by kit125 View Post
So, in your experience, did you get your GPU instrument back? I just had a trip this week that did not clear in advance, but only cleared at airport due to no show. Can I get my instrument back?
Your status (or status of account it came from) likely gave you priority, so technically you shouldn't get it back
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