Per United PR on FlyerTalk:
We want you to be among the first to know that Mileage Plus will be introducing Unlimited Domestic Upgrades in the second quarter of 2010.
All members that have premier and higher status will enjoy unlimited domestic upgrades that will include Hawaii, which most of our competitors don’t do. You will no longer need to request an upgrade; you’ll automatically be on the list, making it much easier for you to enjoy a more comfortable flight.
With our exclusive Economy Plus seating, new unlimited amount of domestic upgrades and systemwide upgrades that typically have the fewest restrictions compared to our U.S. competitors, you now have the industry’s most comfortable seating.
Stay tuned for an e-mail from Mileage Plus tomorrow explaining the program in detail.
VP – Mileage Plus
Well there’s no point in speculating too much since it seems like we’ll know all the details tomorrow, but I do have a few initial thoughts. First of all, unlimited upgrades obviously mean there will be no more 500 mile upgrades. I’m also fairly confident that it means no more confirmed regional upgrades. If that’s the case, there will be no reliable way to upgrade a companion short of burning miles (potentially with a co-pay).
There’s no doubt that United’s upgrade system has long been one of the most complicated ones out there, which is why I’m not totally opposed to this. It’s just too confusing for the average person to understand, and public perception of unlimited “free” upgrades seems to be much better. At the same time, I prefer the current system since it’s easier to take full advantage of if you know what you’re doing. I love the ability to confirm upgrades in advance on difficult routes with confirmed regional upgrades.
Who should really be worried? Premier members. Sorry guys, you can just about say goodbye to upgrades. Think about it, Economy Plus consists almost exclusively of elites. Now imagine if all the Premier Executive and 1K members in coach automatically got upgraded. I just don’t end up seeing this working.
The last thought I have is that this overlaps somewhat nicely with the Continental partnership. If I had to guess, reciprocal upgrades for Continental and United elites will be coming pretty soon.