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How to Get Upgraded on United Airlines: A Step-by-Step Guide

You can get an upgrade on United Airlines by using MileagePlus miles, PlusPoints, upgrades certificates and complimentary upgrades.
Author: Lorraine Smithills
Lorraine Smithills

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024
The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.
Author: Lorraine Smithills
Lorraine Smithills

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024

The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.

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Table Of Content

If you enjoy flying United, you can further enhance your flying experience by getting upgraded. Many people assume that seat upgrades are out of their financial reach, but there are actually a number of ways of getting upgraded on United Airlines that won’t break the bank.

So, here we’ll explore the various ways to enjoy an upgrade next time you fly.

United Airlines Upgrades: Who Gets Priority on the Waitlist?

As with most airlines, upgrades are not guaranteed as there is limited availability. Since there may be numerous upgrade requests for the same available seat, United puts those requests on a waitlist. This is essentially a list of upgrade requests, which will then allow United to evaluate and prioritize the requests to determine who will receive the upgrade.

The priority of the requests is determined by a number of factors. These include, in order:

  1. United Global Services: This is an elite, invite only membership tier for the United Airlines loyalty program. Since this is a premium group, these members will have first priority for upgrade requests. They will have their upgrade requests cleared before any others.
  2. Mileage Upgrade and PlusPoints Awards: If you’re redeeming your accumulated miles or PlusPoints for upgrade award tickets, you’ll be the second priority to have your upgrade requests cleared.
  3. Elite Status: The higher your elite status within the United Airlines loyalty program, the greater your chances of getting an upgrade request cleared. This means that a Platinum elite member will have an upgrade request cleared before a Gold member, but a Gold member will have priority over a Silver member. Of course, Premier Elite members have priority over all the other elite status levels.
  4. Fare Class: The more expensive fare classes will clear first.
  5. Holders of Chase United MileagePlus and Presidential Plus Cards: If you hold these high end credit cards, you’ll have priority over people who hold other co-branded credit cards.
  6. United Corporate Preferred Membership: If your company enrolls you in this program, you’ll be given priority for your upgrade requests after the above groups.
  7. United Chase Cardmembers: If you have a United co-branded credit card, it will help your upgrade chances. However, the more you spend annually, the better your chances. So, if there is a tie breaker with two travelers who have the same qualification, it will come down to the annual spending.
  8. The Timing of Your Request: Finally, the earlier that you make your request, the greater the priority.
get upgrades wuth the United infinite card with flight tickets
You can get upgrades with United Infinite card, the most premium card by United and Chase (Photo by Artem Oleshko/Shutterstock)

How to Check for Available Upgrade Space on Your Flight

Before you can get an upgrade, it is a good idea to check if there are designated upgrade seats on your United flight. There are three fare classes that United uses to denote its upgrade inventory.

  • PN: This is the code for upgrades for Global Service members who are using PlusPoints, and instant upgrades for Premier 1K and GD members.
  • PZ: These are upgrades for PlusPoints for domestic first class or Polaris business class, instant upgrades for Premier Gold and lower members and upgrades using miles.
  • RN: This is Premium Plus upgrades for all passengers.

Now you have these codes, you can use the “expert mode” on the United.com website. This is a hidden feature which shows the number of available seats for each fare type when you search for United flights.

Generally, the best opportunity to find upgrade space is well in advance or just before the scheduled departure.

How Do You Get on United’s Upgrade List?

There are a number of ways to get on the United Upgrade List:

You can use your accumulated miles for a seat upgrade on most paid tickets operated by United. You can request an upgrade during booking by selecting “Advanced Search Options” and choosing “MileagePlus Upgrade Awards” once you’ve found the flight of interest to you.

If an upgrade is not available at the time of booking or you want to request one afterwards, you can request the upgrade by logging into your MileagePlus account and checking the option with your existing reservation. You can also call the United customer helpline or if it is within 24 hours of departure, you can request an upgrade at the check in or gate.

PlusPoints are an upgrade benefit for 1K and Platinum elite members. They can be used for an upgrade anywhere that United flies. You can request an upgrade at booking or after ticketing.

The methods of requesting an upgrade are similar to with miles as you can select PlusPoints from the Upgrade Type drop down menu at booking or from an existing reservation. Alternatively, you can call the Premier service line.

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Global Premier Upgrades are one way upgrade certificates that are available as a perk for Premier members. Premier members will receive six certificates when they meet the qualification requirements for Premier 1K status.

There is also an additional one certificate offered for each 30 premier qualifying segments or 25,000 premier qualifying points earned during that same calendar year.

There are a number of ways to get a complimentary upgrade including your elite status or holding a United co-branded credit card. These are available on select United and United Express flights.

If you don’t receive notification of an upgrade at the time of booking, you’ll be informed when the upgrade list clears.

When Does United’s Upgrade List Clear?

If you’re eligible for a complimentary upgrade or you’ve requested an upgrade, you’ll be notified immediately if there is available upgrade inventory. However, if you are added to the upgrade list, it will clear according to your elite status.

  • Premier 1K: You’ll receive notification about whether your upgrade request has been cleared 96 hours before the departure.
  • Premier Platinum: The clearance window for Premier Platinum members is 72 hours before departure.
  • Premier Gold: You should find out up to 48 hours before your scheduled departure time if your upgrade has cleared.
  • Premier Silver: You’ll need to wait until the day of departure for confirmation of your upgrade.
Premium service when upgrading a United flight to business class
United Airlines serves its 'p.s. Premium Service' business class passengers coffee aboard flight UA1469, served by its Boeing 787 Dreamliner(Photo by First Class Photography/Shutterstock)

Upgrade Exclusions

As with most airline programs, there are some exclusions.

  • Basic Economy tickets cannot be upgraded.
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades will be automatically requested for you on eligible flights. This includes flights in Continental U.S, Hawaii, Canada, Alaska, Mexico, Central America, Oceania (except Tahiti), and The Caribbean.
  • You cannot use MileagePlus Upgrade awards when flying on an award ticket or a deeply discounted promotional ticket. Additionally, Money+ Miles tickets cannot be upgraded with Miles.
  • There is a co-pay on MileagePlus upgrades. The miles and co-pay cost is calculated according to the travel region, fare class, seat type requested and your Premier status.

Can I Upgrade on United Partner Airlines?

Yes, it may be possible to enjoy an upgrade on United partner airlines. You can redeem your MileagePlus miles to request a one cabin upgrade, according to availability on select Star Alliance carriers. These are valid for one nonstop flight with a redemption rate calculated by your origin and destination regions.

However, not all the airlines participate in this upgrade program. You will need to not only check the airline, but also the fare class of the ticket you want to upgrade. Generally speaking, the full fare Y or B economy tickets are eligible for upgrade awards.

You can make a request after purchasing your ticket, but the upgrade request must be made at least 24 hours before the scheduled departure. You can also use your miles to provide an upgrade for up to four passengers on the same itinerary. You don’t need to be traveling with the group and they don’t need to share your last name.

How to Request an Upgrade on the United App/Website

Although you can request an upgrade by calling the United helpline, the easiest way is to make your request via the United app or website.

On the United App, you will need to find your reservation under the “Manage Reservation” tab. Once you find the appropriate reservation, you can then select “Upgrade” on the drop down bar.

The process is similar on the United website. You’ll need to login with your MileagePlus account credentials. From your dashboard, you can navigate to the reservations page and then click on the drop down bar next to the appropriate reservation.

business class cabin United Airline
Business class cabin United Airline Dreamliner (Photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock)

How to Use United Upgrade Certificates?

You can redeem your United upgrade certificate online by viewing your reservation on united.com or by calling the customer contact center.

You can also use your certificate to request an upgrade for another traveler even if they are not on the same reservation. This is called sponsorship and in order to use the certificate, the sponsoring member needs to sign into united.com with their own account and then search for the reservation using their friend or family member’s name and confirmation number. Then they simply need to select the “Upgrade Reservation” from the drop down bar at the side of the appropriate reservation.

As with other types of upgrade, using an upgrade certificate may mean that your upgrade is confirmed at the time of the request or at the time of ticketing. However, if there is no available space at that time, you’ll be placed on the upgrade waitlist.

Since these certificates are available for higher tier elite status members, upgrade requests are cleared as one of the top priorities. You can make an upgrade request up to 24 hours before departure. If your upgrade is not confirmed at check in, you will need to wait to see if you are upgraded at the gate.

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The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.
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Rewards Plan:
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95,000 points 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership

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60,000 miles 60,000 bonus miles + 500 Premier qualifying points (PQP) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
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The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.
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Welcome Bonus:
80,000 points 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership

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Rewards Plan:
2X – 6X 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 3 points at Worldwide restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2 points on all other eligible purchases
Welcome Bonus:
95,000 points 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership

Amex Delta SkyMiles Platinum card

Rewards Plan:
1X – 3X 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets and 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases
Welcome Bonus:
50,000 miles 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in your first six months
Advertiser Disclosure
The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.

FAQs

Yes, it is possible to upgrade an existing reservation. You’ll need to log into your account and then find your reservation. You should then see a drop down bar offering the option to request an upgrade.

Unfortunately, basic economy flights are not eligible for upgrades regardless of your elite status level. So, if you are interested in exploring the potential for upgrading your seat on your next United flight, be sure to purchase a ticket in the main cabin.

Picture of Lorraine Smithills

Lorraine Smithills

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
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Rewards Plan:
1X – 5X 5X points on up to $500,000 spent on directly-booked airfare and flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel (per calendar year), 2X points on prepaid car rentals through American Express Travel and 1X points on all other purchases
Welcome Bonus:
80,000 points 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership

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Rewards Plan:
2X – 6X 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 3 points at Worldwide restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2 points on all other eligible purchases
Welcome Bonus:
95,000 points 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership

Amex Delta SkyMiles Platinum card

Rewards Plan:
1X – 3X 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets and 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases
Welcome Bonus:
50,000 miles 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in your first six months
Advertiser Disclosure
The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.
Top Offers From Our Partners

amex platinum

Rewards Plan:
1X – 5X 5X points on up to $500,000 spent on directly-booked airfare and flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel (per calendar year), 2X points on prepaid car rentals through American Express Travel and 1X points on all other purchases
Welcome Bonus:
80,000 points 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership

amex brilliant

Rewards Plan:
2X – 6X 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 3 points at Worldwide restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2 points on all other eligible purchases
Welcome Bonus:
95,000 points 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership

Amex Delta SkyMiles Platinum card

Rewards Plan:
Up to 3x miles 3 miles per $1 spent on United purchases immediately after earning your $125 annual United purchase credit, 2 miles on all other travel and select streaming services, 1 mile on all other purchases
Welcome Bonus:
60,000 miles 60,000 bonus miles + 500 Premier qualifying points (PQP) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
Advertiser Disclosure
The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.

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