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Best strategy to upgrade on a near-empty flight (SFO-PVG)

Best strategy to upgrade on a near-empty flight (SFO-PVG)

Old Nov 18, 18, 12:33 pm
  #1  
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Best strategy to upgrade on a near-empty flight (SFO-PVG)

I recently attained Gold status with UA and have a 13hr SFO-PVG flight in a few days. Judging by the seat map, business and Econ+ seats are almost all empty, while Econ has about 1/3 open.
I have a G fare ticket with a Econ+ seat thanks to the status, but I'm wondering what's the best strategy to upgrade into Business.
1. upfare to W, which doubles the price, and apply GPU?
2. pay miles to upgrade?
3. wait for upgrade offer at check-in?
4. wait for other miracles to happen at gate?
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Old Nov 18, 18, 12:59 pm
  #2  
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Welcome to FT!

Not sure there really is a "best" - depends on how much you want the upgrade.

First question is whether there's PZ space available to confirm.
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Old Nov 18, 18, 1:02 pm
  #3  
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You may decide not to upgrade this flight. I have often, in low season, travelled on near-empty planes. What happens as departure approaches is 1) Silvers check in and E- empties and E+ fills and 2) upgrade instruments clear so C fills and a few (usually better) E+ seats open up. The net of all that is that E+ fills somewhat and E- becomes emptier. After all that, I often end up in a complete bank of seats to myself in E+. This is poor man's Biz class - lie flat but you can't quite stretch out, and the food and wine's worse. However, at a $$$ saving, I'd take it every time.
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Old Nov 18, 18, 1:12 pm
  #4  
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Kacee: yes, there are tons of PZ up for grab. It says PZ9 now.
Ihrsfo: That's what I'm debating as well. I might end up with an empty E+ row, so the incentive to upgrade is not that high. I'm okay with paying a few hundreds extra for a real Biz class but not more. And I don't care about food/wine at all.
By the way, any tip to get empty E+ row? Should I check in early or late or ask for seat change at gate?
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Old Nov 18, 18, 1:25 pm
  #5  
 
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Originally Posted by willsplashing
Kacee: yes, there are tons of PZ up for grab. It says PZ9 now.
Ihrsfo: That's what I'm debating as well. I might end up with an empty E+ row, so the incentive to upgrade is not that high. I'm okay with paying a few hundreds extra for a real Biz class but not more. And I don't care about food/wine at all.
By the way, any tip to get empty E+ row? Should I check in early or late or ask for seat change at gate?
Usually if there are empty E+ rows, they are at the back of the E+ section. The reason for it, if there are standby passengers, UA tends to sit them front to back.

You can check-in whenever you feel like it since you can change seats until time of boarding. You can change seats on the computer, the app as well as by asking at the gate.

When the Business Class is more fully booked and I'm hoping for a TOD, I check-in as soon as I can to make sure that other passengers don't get tempted by it and there's none available for me.

Last edited by StuckinITH; Nov 18, 18 at 1:33 pm Reason: Just added comment
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Old Nov 18, 18, 1:57 pm
  #6  
 
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Originally Posted by StuckinITH
Usually if there are empty E+ rows, they are at the back of the E+ section. The reason for it, if there are standby passengers, UA tends to sit them front to back.

You can check-in whenever you feel like it since you can change seats until time of boarding. You can change seats on the computer, the app as well as by asking at the gate.

When the Business Class is more fully booked and I'm hoping for a TOD, I check-in as soon as I can to make sure that other passengers don't get tempted by it and there's none available for me.
Back of the E+ section, in one of the middle banks of 3. Why? Well, you're most likely to be left with an entire bank by yourself.. in the case that you DON'T get a full bank, the chances are higher that you'll end up with the middle by yourself. Still better than the norm!
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Old Nov 18, 18, 3:25 pm
  #7  
 
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Originally Posted by willsplashing
I recently attained Gold status with UA and have a 13hr SFO-PVG flight in a few days. Judging by the seat map, business and Econ+ seats are almost all empty, while Econ has about 1/3 open.
I have a G fare ticket with a Econ+ seat thanks to the status, but I'm wondering what's the best strategy to upgrade into Business.
1. upfare to W, which doubles the price, and apply GPU?
2. pay miles to upgrade?
3. wait for upgrade offer at check-in?
4. wait for other miracles to happen at gate?
How are you going to apply a GPU when you are only Gold?
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Old Nov 18, 18, 3:27 pm
  #8  
 
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Originally Posted by willsplashing
I recently attained Gold status with UA and have a 13hr SFO-PVG flight in a few days. Judging by the seat map, business and Econ+ seats are almost all empty, while Econ has about 1/3 open.
I have a G fare ticket with a Econ+ seat thanks to the status, but I'm wondering what's the best strategy to upgrade into Business.
1. upfare to W, which doubles the price, and apply GPU?
2. pay miles to upgrade?
3. wait for upgrade offer at check-in?
4. wait for other miracles to happen at gate?
Personally, since you said PZ is available, I'd upfair to W and apply the GPU immediately. You'll have Polaris lounge access and quite frankly, in my opinion - any lie-flat biz supersedes a empty row of economy, if you even got it.
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Old Nov 18, 18, 3:47 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by willsplashing
Judging by the seat map, business and Econ+ seats are almost all empty, while Econ has about 1/3 open.
That means nothing. A surprisingy number of passengers don't select seats in advance -- particularly, for some reason, on routes to/from China. And that's not even counting the possibility of IRROPS -- one cancelled flight can fill several others.

Originally Posted by willsplashing
1. upfare to W, which doubles the price, and apply GPU?
If you can get the change fee waived, this is a good approach, assuming you're lucky enough to have a GPU sponsor available. (Gentle reminder: buying or selling GPUs is a good way to get your MileagePlus account closed).

Originally Posted by willsplashing
2. pay miles to upgrade?
This has the advantage of being a guaranteed upgrade, but $600 copay + 30K miles is a steep price.

Originally Posted by willsplashing
3. wait for upgrade offer at check-in?
Assuming the loads stay where they are, you can expect this to be around $1000.

Originally Posted by willsplashing
4. wait for other miracles to happen at gate?
UA won't upgrade people for free unless they're oversold in Y. That actually does happen sometimes on the China routes too, but it's seasonal. My understanding is that it revolves around (Chinese) holidays and school breaks. If you see something on the business class standby list like "10 (+25 blocked)," you might have a chance at an op-up. They're pretty rare though, and you'd be behind any Global Services, 1K, or Platinum member, along with any Gold members with a ticket class higher than K -- so, basically, I wouldn't expect anything.
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Old Nov 18, 18, 6:39 pm
  #10  
 
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Flying DEN-LAX-PVG RT, in early December, I went ahead and splurged for mile and copay $600+30K miles. That's a bit steep since the plane is empty, but since the RT fare was $554 for a G fare, it seemed overall a decent value. I figured if I used a GPU on a W fare, I'd be frustrated if it didn't clear. Interesting because I'm flying with a friend, and I booked him a 70K business saver each way. My DEN-LAX leg cleared as did the return PVG-LAX. His DEN-LAX is still waitlisted. I'm surprised because they're still selling business savers on the LAX-PVG, but I'm still waitlisted. I would have thought if they're selling business savers, they'd go ahead and process a miles and copay...
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Old Nov 18, 18, 7:40 pm
  #11  
 
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Back in the days before I got GPUs, I often used Miles + copay to upgrade. Was well worth it for the trips to asia.
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Old Nov 18, 18, 7:53 pm
  #12  
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Originally Posted by 1cericks
I would have thought if they're selling business savers, they'd go ahead and process a miles and copay...
They almost always will. Check Expert Mode, just for LAX-PVG, on your flight date. If you see PZ > 0, call in and ask to have your upgrade cleared. Sometimes requests seem to get stuck for no apparent reason.
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Old Nov 18, 18, 8:08 pm
  #13  
 
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Originally Posted by jsloan
They almost always will. Check Expert Mode, just for LAX-PVG, on your flight date. If you see PZ > 0, call in and ask to have your upgrade cleared. Sometimes requests seem to get stuck for no apparent reason.
Appreciate the advice. It showed PZ=2. My buddy was waitlisted on the DEN-LAX but it said I=1. I called and she cleared them both. She said "oh, you're so smart." :-( Annoying that stuff doesn't work better without having to call.
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Old Nov 18, 18, 9:21 pm
  #14  
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Originally Posted by 1cericks
It showed PZ=2. My buddy was waitlisted on the DEN-LAX but it said I=1. I called and she cleared them both. She said "oh, you're so smart." :-( Annoying that stuff doesn't work better without having to call.
It would be much more annoying if it didn't clear at all.
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Old Nov 18, 18, 9:38 pm
  #15  
 
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If its really empty Id rather save the cash and miles and just take a row of 3 to myself in the back. Get on last and stake your claim!
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