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Questions About Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPU) on UA [Merged]

Old Feb 24, 2015, 2:10 pm
FlyerTalk Forums Expert How-Tos and Guides
Last edit by: WineCountryUA
Previous thread: "Questions About Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPU) on UA" Thread [ARCHIVE]
Guide to CPUs

CPU eligible flights -- to see what is and is not eligible see Upgrade regions

In order for you to receive a CPU, four conditions have to be met at the same moment in time:

(NB: The following does not apply to GS members, whose CPUs process at least somewhat differently, out of the PN bucket.)

1. The flight must be within the relevant CPU window:
  • GS: 120 hours
  • 1K: 96 hours
  • Plat: 72 hours
  • Gold: 48 hours
  • Silver: 24 hours

If the flight is scheduled to depart after midnight central time, all of these windows open 24 hours early, due to a system glitch.

2. There must be CPU availability. CPUs for non-GS members draw from an invisible bucket that is often (but not always) pegged to roughly one or two less than the R PZ bucket. At the gate, all remaining seats are released.

3. You must be high enough on the relevant upgrade list.
There are two separate upgrade lists, used during the two different upgrade processes described in (4) below. Understand how these lists work is one of the things people struggle with the most.

The Pre-Gate List (a/k/a the "sweeps list" or "EUA list")
This list is used in the pre-gate process described in (4) below. Your presence on the list is indicated by the CPU Requested icon/language on your reservation, but you cannot find out what position you are on this list through any public method. The list is sorted in this manner:- Displaced first-class passengers (Bought two-segment F ticket, F wasn't available on this segment at time of purchase)

- GS using any method (note GS clear out of PN)

- Uncleared instant upgrades, sorted by fare class* and status (Only 1K Y/B/M, clears out of PN)

- Waitlisted instrument/mile upgrades, sorted by status of highest elite on the PNR, fare class, and then time of request (e.g.: 1K in N upgrading using miles, Plat in S using RPU applied on Tuesday, Plat in S using RPU applied later on Friday)**, after check-in, time of checking is used vs time of request

- CPUs, sorted by status of highest elite on the PNR, fare class, and time of purchase (e.g.: 1K in E, 1K in N, Plat in E, Plat in X***, Gold in G purchased in November, Gold in G purchased in December), after check-in, time of checking is used vs time of request

*The coach fare classes, in the order that is relevant to this whole discussion, are: O, A, R (for upgrades from United Premium Plus seats to the United Polaris business class cabin) and Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G , YN/HN/XN/X (N is ineligible)

**Note: The upgrades above CPU can clear using R PZ space, CPU appears to be a subset, so R PZ space alone is not sufficient for CPU clearing.

***CPUs are only available for mileage tickets for certain credit card holders. It's a complicated issue that is generally beyond the scope of this thread. There is a separate thread for it.
Note the simple fare class, status and time has been replaced
Effective December 12, 2018, upgrade waitlists are processed in the following priority order:
  1. Premier status of the traveler
  2. Fare class
  3. Chase United MileagePlus Club cardholders and Presidential Plus cardholders
  4. United Corporate Preferred participant
  5. Chase United MileagePlus cardholders with $25,000 annual spendFootnote 2
  6. Time of request

The Gate List (a/k/a the "visible list")

This list controls upgrades at the gate. It is semi-visible to the public on the status page for a flight, but the status page only shows checked in passengers. Even if you appear first on the list, you might actually be fifteenth by the time everyone checks in.

This list is in the same order as the list above, except that the time-related tiebreakers (such as time of purchase) are replaced with the sequence number (which is related to the time of check-in). Additionally, certain non-revs (airline employees and family traveling for free or at low cost) are put on the gate list, at the end.

4. One of the two upgrade processes must run.

The Pre-Gate Process (a/k/a the "sweeps" or "EUA")
This process runs at certain times in the days leading up to the flight. It typically runs at 24-hour intervals leading up to T-24, at which point it begins to run more often. It is unclear exactly how often it runs, or when it stops running. There are reports of upgrades that seem to have been given by the pre-gate system even once boarding has begun.

The Gate Process
This process is manually accomplished by the GA, typically once if there are empty seats after check-in has closed, and again if there are no-shows in F. In the latter case, the GA may come onto the plane to give the new boarding pass to the passenger.

Sometimes the GA might not run the process, which makes them a Very Bad GA. On very rare occasions, they might fiddle with the process to upgrade their friends, which we call "shenanigans." That makes them a Mega Bad And Very In Trouble GA. Both of these situations should be reported in the relevant FT thread and directly to UA.

CPU FAQ

I'm number one on the upgrade list on the flight status page. Does that mean I'm first in line for the upgrade?
No, unless the check-in window has passed and the flight is under gate control.

There are seats available in F, why have I not been upgraded yet?
That's not how it works. See above.

There is R PZ availability, why haven't I been upgraded yet?
That's not how it works. See above.

Will the time that I check in affect my ability to get an upgrade?
Probably not. It is the third tie-breaker on the gate list only. See above.

Do I need to check in to get an upgrade?
No. Except at the gate. But if you're not checked in by that time, you have bigger problems.

Who are all these people on both the standby list and the upgrade list(s)?
Non-revs. See above.

But the website says that the Silver window opens the day of departure, not at T-24!
Ignore that.

But the website says that there is a "transfer" of the lists at T-24!
Ignore that.

But the agent said ____________________________!
Ignore them.

Will CPU for a UA operated flight not on UA ticket stock or listed as a partner codeshare?
Yes, if your MP account is attached

DidItClear
If the DidItClear website is going to be effective, it needs more members and trip upgrade data!

Please visit https://www.diditclear.com/ and include your trip experience with CPU's, RPU's, GPU's and any other means of upgrading available on United.


The better the data, the better the search results and experiential history.

Related threads
Understanding the United Upgrade List Comprehensively

Comprehensive Companion CPU Questions

To split or not to split PNR

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Questions About Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPU) on UA [Merged]

Old Apr 21, 2022, 1:54 pm
  #31  
 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: ORF, RIC
Programs: UA LT 1K, 3 MM; Marriott Titanium; IHG Platinum
Posts: 7,019
Originally Posted by RobOnLI

They have been used interchangeably for years. United is very inconsistent when it comes to this and no one has figured out why.

-RM
UA App may be a little bit more consistent, however, than the website. Within my CPU window (T-96 h), "CPU eligible" will be changed to "CPU requested" on the App.

The website is also consistent in the sense that "CPU requested" appears immediately after one books the flight. It remains there until one gets upgrade or takes the flight.
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Old Aug 17, 2022, 2:13 pm
  #32  
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{F}for AC ticket stock on UA metal I assume CPU's work as normal for UA elites?

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Aug 17, 2022 at 2:17 pm Reason: moved to subject thread
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Old Aug 17, 2022, 2:18 pm
  #33  
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Originally Posted by mnredfox
{F}for AC ticket stock on UA metal I assume CPU's work as normal for UA elites?
Yes
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Old Aug 17, 2022, 2:40 pm
  #34  
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA
Yes
Thank you.
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Old Aug 21, 2022, 4:29 pm
  #35  
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Washington, DC
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Trying to figure out if there’s a bug in the checkin upgrade process. 3 pax PNR. Select on of two as “companion” for my upgrade status as 1K. But the companions both end up in their place on list under their status. Happened a couple weeks ago as well.

Upgrades not clearing anyway but would like this to be right.
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Old Sep 5, 2022, 10:34 am
  #36  
 
Join Date: Oct 2019
Posts: 9
Hi, we are new to Premier status with UA and have a few questions re: how to manage a booking we have on Oct 30 from IAD to MCO; 6 total on the reservation, including me and my husband. I am Silver and by the time we fly, my husband will be Gold; the other 4 do not have status. First class is wide open on the fight. Do we need to actively split the reservation ahead of time to even be eligible or will UA's system automatically split as needed? And, if we split, I think it has to be 3 reservations as follows: me plus a non-Premier; husband plus a non-Premier; and non-Premier plus non-Premier -- is that right? Thanks!
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Old Sep 5, 2022, 10:37 am
  #37  
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Originally Posted by Eroq20
Hi, we are new to Premier status with UA and have a few questions re: how to manage a booking we have on Oct 30 from IAD to MCO; 6 total on the reservation, including me and my husband. I am Silver and by the time we fly, my husband will be Gold; the other 4 do not have status. First class is wide open on the fight. Do we need to actively split the reservation ahead of time to even be eligible or will UA's system automatically split as needed? And, if we split, I think it has to be 3 reservations as follows: me plus a non-Premier; husband plus a non-Premier; and non-Premier plus non-Premier -- is that right? Thanks!
You'll have to proactively split the reservation in advance. The current 6 pax PNR is ineligible for upgrades.

Note that "wide open" F cabin right now means nothing for a flight eight weeks out.
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Old Sep 5, 2022, 10:40 am
  #38  
 
Join Date: Oct 2019
Posts: 9
Got it, I will call UA to split. I had just called them and they said, don't worry, the system will automatically split it for you, but based on what I was seeing online, I didn't think that was the case, so thought I'd confirm here. Thank you!
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Old Sep 5, 2022, 11:18 am
  #39  
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Originally Posted by Eroq20
Hi, we are new to Premier status with UA and have a few questions re: how to manage a booking we have on Oct 30 from IAD to MCO; 6 total on the reservation, including me and my husband. I am Silver and by the time we fly, my husband will be Gold; the other 4 do not have status. First class is wide open on the fight. Do we need to actively split the reservation ahead of time to even be eligible or will UA's system automatically split as needed? And, if we split, I think it has to be 3 reservations as follows: me plus a non-Premier; husband plus a non-Premier; and non-Premier plus non-Premier -- is that right? Thanks!
To have hope of CPU, best to use this 2 person to PNR approach, however with two months till a weekend travel to MCO, expect the cabin to mostly be filled with paid flyers. Late bookers trend to be more willing to pay for first.
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Old Dec 18, 2022, 12:42 pm
  #40  
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: New York, NY
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On Delta, your companion needs to be a SkyMiles member (meaning they can't credit to a potentially more valuable program). I just want to confirm that on United the Mileage Plus membership/lack thereof of the companion is irrelevant?
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Old Dec 27, 2022, 3:52 pm
  #41  
 
Join Date: Dec 2022
Programs: UA Gold, Bonvoy Platinum
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Relatively new to United's CPU program and trying to wrap my head around something.

I have a flight 36 hours from now that has a first class cabin of capacity 16. 11 seats have been booked and I am 5th on the waitlist as a UA gold member. Given that it is now T-48 hrs till the flight, I would have expected my upgrade to clear. Any idea what's going on here?

For extra context, here's the first class fare availability for my flight: J4 JN4 C4 D3 Z3 ZN3 P3 PN0 PZ0 IN0 I0. I see that PN has zero spots -- is this why the upgrade hasn't cleared?
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Old Dec 27, 2022, 3:58 pm
  #42  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
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Originally Posted by earthyguppy
Relatively new to United's CPU program and trying to wrap my head around something.

I have a flight 36 hours from now that has a first class cabin of capacity 16. 11 seats have been booked and I am 5th on the waitlist as a UA gold member. Given that it is now T-48 hrs till the flight, I would have expected my upgrade to clear. Any idea what's going on here?

For extra context, here's the first class fare availability for my flight: J4 JN4 C4 D3 Z3 ZN3 P3 PN0 PZ0 IN0 I0. I see that PN has zero spots -- is this why the upgrade hasn't cleared?
As Gold, you are eligible for a CPU as early as T-48 hours before the flight. United will likely process all but 2 upgrades, perhaps at the T-24 mark, and then will hold out for a bit longer (probably until boarding, etc) before any CPUs get processed, in hopes that they can still sell a seat rather than upgrading someone for free.

Also, the 'J4' fare availbility to me indicates that there are really only 4 first class seats available, but maybe I'm wrong, and someone can correct me on that.
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Old Dec 27, 2022, 3:58 pm
  #43  
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Originally Posted by earthyguppy
Relatively new to United's CPU program and trying to wrap my head around something.

I have a flight 36 hours from now that has a first class cabin of capacity 16. 11 seats have been booked and I am 5th on the waitlist as a UA gold member. Given that it is now T-48 hrs till the flight, I would have expected my upgrade to clear. Any idea what's going on here?
Welcome to FlyerTalk!

Your chances of a CPU are 50/50 at best, and probably more like 20/80. CPUs are not guaranteed, and UA frequently holds back inventory. UA will never clear the last seat for a CPU until the gate. It's common for them not to run the list at all until T-24 or later.

Originally Posted by earthyguppy
For extra context, here's the first class fare availability for my flight: J4 JN4 C4 D3 Z3 ZN3 P3 PN0 PZ0 IN0 I0. I see that PN has zero spots -- is this why the upgrade hasn't cleared?
CPUs clear into PZ, not PN -- but it's believed to be a subset of PZ inventory, and even if PZ were wide open, your upgrade wouldn't necessarily clear.

(BTW, when you say 11 seats are booked, are you using the count on the flight status page or counting empty seats on the seat map?)
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Old Dec 27, 2022, 4:05 pm
  #44  
 
Join Date: Dec 2022
Programs: UA Gold, Bonvoy Platinum
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Thanks jsloan and mpiotrow! That makes sense that UA would make full use of the ambiguity of "as early as." I just called a United Premier rep and they said there's a 1K at the top who used pluspoints and even they haven't cleared; presumably United is trying to sell more cash fare upgrades before clearing the list, like y'all said.

Makes sense that my chances are fairly slim; basically no one would have to upgrade themselves w/ cash or points for my upgrade to clear I figure. Either way, this is the first time I've been in striking distance of a CPU -- fingers crossed haha

Originally Posted by jsloan
(BTW, when you say 11 seats are booked, are you using the count on the flight status page or counting empty seats on the seat map?)
Both! The upgrade list on the flight status page shows 16 capacity, 11 booked. And then the seat map also shows 5 available seats. It is peculiar that there's only 4 J class fares left though...

Last edited by earthyguppy; Dec 27, 2022 at 4:12 pm
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Old Dec 27, 2022, 4:13 pm
  #45  
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Originally Posted by earthyguppy
Thanks jsloan and mpiotrow! That makes sense -- I guess the program terms say CPUs clear "as early as" 48 hrs for gold members, and they likely make full use of the ambiguity of those terms. I just called a United Premier rep and they said there's a 1K at the top who used pluspoints and even they haven't cleared; presumably United is trying to sell more cash fare upgrades before clearing the list.
Yep, unfortunately that's pretty standard. And, yes, that's exactly what they're hoping.

Originally Posted by earthyguppy
Makes sense that my chances are fairly slim; basically no one would have to upgrade themselves w/ cash or points for my upgrade to clear I figure.
Right... or buy a last-minute ticket, or change onto your flight.

Originally Posted by earthyguppy
Both! The upgrade list on the flight status page shows 16 capacity, 11 booked. And then the seat map also shows 5 available seats. It is peculiar that there's only 4 J class fares left though...
Yes, that's a bit odd, and it's why I asked. I remember another poster pointing out the same thing recently, that UA was intentionally holding one J seat back for some reason. Given that you're currently fifth on the list, the difference between 4 and 5 seats may be pretty important. 😄 If the flight status page says 11/16, I'd trust that and assume that they're being cautious, perhaps to preserve a seat for a displaced passenger if the weather stays bad.
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