IAH to Sydney - Book with Upgrade?

Old Apr 9, 19, 6:12 pm
  #1  
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IAH to Sydney - Book with Upgrade?

Want to go Houston (IAH) to Sydney, Aus early Feb 2020 in business class for two people. UA has no Business Saver awards available, only full business at 200,000 miles each. An option is to buy in economy and then upgrade for 30,000 miles each plus $500 each. Total cost is $2593 plus 60,000 miles. We do not have any status with MileagPlus except for the credit card. Some questions:
What are the chances of an upgrade coming available, and we getting it?
Is it just as good to book it in economy then try get an upgrade through UA (save the $1000 and the miles for now)?
Would they allow us to go Economy Plus if business does not open up? We do not want to go economy only, would be willing to pay for Economy Plus if business doesn't clear.

Would sure like some opinions here. Thanks in advance.
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Old Apr 9, 19, 6:25 pm
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First, welcome to FlyerTalk. You came to the right place to get an upgrade on such a long flight.

If you are willing to learn how to use "Expert Mode", you can figure out whether you have the chance to upgrade with miles and copay at the time of booking.
I always book flights with upgrade space available at the time of ticketing, because playing upgrade roulette on the waitlist can be very stressful and not always successful.
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Old Apr 9, 19, 7:22 pm
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I don't know how early in February you can travel, but there is PZ=9 (at least 9 spaces available for upgrade) on IAH-SYD on 2/4/20 and 2/11/20, for example (Tuesday seems to be the sweet spot for that). Coming back SYD-IAH, I see PZ>2 on 2/18, but nothing else (I might have missed one). If you can't use those dates, and are flexible with your plans, LAX-MEL and vv often have mid-week PZ space, fyi.
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Old Apr 9, 19, 7:26 pm
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Originally Posted by Oleanmike View Post
Would they allow us to go Economy Plus if business does not open up? We do not want to go economy only, would be willing to pay for Economy Plus if business doesn't clear.
If upgrades are not available at booking, you can purchase an E+ seat, and it will be refunded if your upgrade clears.
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Old Apr 9, 19, 9:17 pm
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Thank you for the great responses. I did initiate "Expert Mode". We are boarding a cruise on Feb 12 so the upgrades for Feb 4th would work. This looks like our best option and I expect to book it soon. Thanks again!
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Old Apr 9, 19, 9:23 pm
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Don't forget that with miles and copay you can upgrade any fare except "Basic Economy" if they even offer that to SYD. You don't have to have a mid-range discount fare like those who use upgrade instruments (GPUs) earned through elite status.
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Old Apr 9, 19, 9:34 pm
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Originally Posted by Oleanmike View Post
Want to go Houston (IAH) to Sydney, Aus early Feb 2020 in business class for two people. UA has no Business Saver awards available, only full business at 200,000 miles each.
You wouldn't see any saver awards on/after November 15, 2019, on any route. It would just be an award redemption.

Changes To UA MileagePlus Coming On NOV 15, 2019 (Dynamic UA Awards - No More Chart)
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Old Apr 10, 19, 12:44 am
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Anyone is permitted to purchase E+ on any flight. If the flights you choose don't have upgrade availability, you can "waitlist" for the upgrade. Pay for both Economy Plus (so you get your desired seat) and pay for the upgrade with miles and money. If you get upgraded, your E+ fee will be refund. If you don't get upgraded, you're miles and upgrade co-pay will be refunded.

Wait list upgrades can clear at any time and it is not uncommon for them to clear on the day of departure or even at the boarding gate.

Another option is to pay for the third E+ seat in the row. While you wouldn't have the lie-flat feature and will be served coach meals and beverages, the extra space between you can be an added benefit in addition to the legroom. If you chose to do this, it is best to call the res-center since there is a specific way it has to be booked. Just know that if you book the third seat and your upgrades do clear, you're probably not going to get a refund for the extra seat.
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Old Apr 10, 19, 11:24 am
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On my IAH-SYD flights in Jan and Sep 2018, there was plenty of space in both Y and J. I ended up flying Y in Jan and got a row of 3 E+ seats to myself. In Sept, I didn't get to book until 2 days before the flight and ended up going J because it was cheaper than the last minute Y ticket (!). If past history is any indicator, you'll probably be in luck.
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Old Apr 10, 19, 4:10 pm
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We did exactly what he proposed. Bought in E and waitlisted for business with miles and money on IAH-SYD. This was two weeks ago. I also got a targeted email for E+ at a discount and bought that. Upgrade did not clear. 1 person on the flight was upgraded. I told my wife chances were slim. So we ended up in E+ which was fine. On return I was able to move us to E+ 24 hours out at no cost(I am silver). On the return no one was upgraded. Since I got silver last year the only upgrade I got was on a regional jet IAH-DSM on Thanksgiving afternoon as I was going to the Iowa/Nebraska game in Iowa City on Black Friday. Also upgraded on return Saturday morning. I was #1 as a silver on both. Not surprising as not too many people traveling on Thanksgiving afternoon especially to DSM.
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Old Apr 10, 19, 5:38 pm
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Originally Posted by Oleanmike View Post
Is it just as good to book it in economy then try get an upgrade through UA (save the $1000 and the miles for now)?
It almost sounds like you're considering buying the ticket from someone other than UA. Generally speaking, there's no benefit in doing so, and you potentially create a lot of problems. Most people would suggest that you buy directly from the airline. Since you're going on a cruise, perhaps you're considering booking air travel through them. If so, you need to make sure that you have an upgradeable fare, as some that are sold that way may not be.

In order to maximize the chances of an upgrade, I'd buy the ticket directly from UA, and then request the upgrade at the same time. You do have to pay the $1000 and miles up front, but they get refunded in the event that the upgrade doesn't clear. The reason this is the way to go is that it puts you on a waitlist for upgrades, and even though you'l be behind anyone with United premier status, you'll at least be guaranteed get the upgrade before they release any for general sale on the website.
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Old Apr 11, 19, 9:29 pm
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No, I didn't consider purchasing from anyone other than UA. In fact, I did purchase the trip on Feb 4 which had upgrade openings and I was confirmed for business class immediately. Feb 4 was a couple days before we wanted to go, but the extra time in Sydney will be fun. Thank you everyone for your advice!
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