My first experience with United’s “Unlimited Domestic Upgrades”

I’m sure I’ll have more to post after a few trips, but I figured I’d make a quick preliminary post outlining my experiences with United’s new unlimited domestic upgrade program. I’ll be flying on Friday on a three segment trip involving two B757s and one A320. I’m happy to report that as a 1K on a “Q” fare (you heard me right, I be flyin’ high) all three upgrades cleared. The first flight, out of Tampa, had 2/24 seats assigned before the upgrade window, and 6/24 assigned after the upgrade window, so I think it’s safe to assume there were exactly four 1Ks on this flight. The flight remains “NF9,” so I’m guessing all Premier Executives and probably even all Premiers will clear. This is definitely a flight where unlimited domestic upgrades is in everyone’s best interest, because Tampa is anything but elite heavy.

The next flight had 4/24 seats assigned before the upgrade window, and now has 16/24 assigned. That means there were about 12 1Ks. Hot damn, that’s a lot! Amazingly enough the flight also remains “NF9,” so there are at least nine more confirmable upgrade seats. I’m guessing there are more Premier Executives than that, so most will probably clear. Still, this is a case where most win with the new program.

It gets really interesting with my last flight, on an A320 with 12 first class seats. Before the upgrade window it was booked to 2/12 and was NF7 (meaning there were seven confirmable upgrade seats), and after my upgrade window the flight became NF0, with only three seats remaining in first class. So this is a case where seven 1Ks cleared, with the possibility of more still being in coach. This is one of those flights where unlimited domestic upgrades probably isn’t in the best interest of passengers. Chances are most 1Ks wouldn’t have used 500 milers to upgrade, while they obviously take the free upgrade. I’m betting no Premier Executives or Premiers will clear, despite this having been an easy upgrade in the past.

So there you have it. My return journey looks great as well, and while we’re not inside the upgrade window yet, all three flights have at least nine confirmable upgrade seats. Not sure if it’s just my imagination, but inventory management seems to be getting a bit friendlier lately.

And one other thing I love about unlimited domestic upgrades as a mileage geek — it makes it very easy for us to figure out how many 1Ks are on a given flight. Not useful for anything, per se, but very interesting!

The real interesting test, for me at least, will be several 757 transcons later in the month.

How has everyone else been doing with UDUs so far?

Comments

  1. I’ve got two segs for Thursday, BUF-ORD on a 320, I was the only one in F after the 1k window, its now up to 6/12. the flight is now showing F6 Y0 and not a single person sitting in Y+, maybe its a school trip or something.

    didn’t clear at the window for ORD-SFO on a domestic 777, but sometime between 100 hours and 48 hours, the upgrade was confirmed. what’s wired is seat assignment wasn’t automatically given, the seat map still show about half the F cabin empty, but its only showing F3. So i guess don’t rely too much on seat maps.

  2. My first experience was right after the switch over. My DEN-ORD on a 3 cabin 777 didn’t clear until the gate while boarding was going on, but did get me a double bump to F.

    My ORD-DEN on a 2 cabin 777 didn’t clear until well into boarding zone 3 and of the 35 people on the upgrade list only 3 of us got upgraded. The 1K behind me boarding said he wasn’t all that thrilled with the new system. I had to agree.

  3. My one UDU experience was SFO-ORD where an A319 was swapped with an international 767.
    Every single GS, 1K, Premier Exec and Premier was upgraded. I’m not sure how they selected who got a seat in First versus Business.

  4. > And one other thing I love about unlimited domestic upgrades as
    > a mileage geek — it makes it very easy for us to figure out how
    > many 1Ks are on a given flight. Not useful for anything, per se,
    > but very interesting!

    I am waitlisted for an upgrade on Saturday. I am within the 100 hr window for 1Ks, but haven’t cleared yet (the status has changed from pending to waitlisted). The flight is F9 and NF0 at this time. 10 unassigned F seats. Let’s say I clear at T-72 hrs. How do I know how many 1Ks cleared with me and how many 1Ps?

  5. @ Oliver — You don’t, unfortunately. Can only tell if there’s still confirmable upgrade space after the window.

  6. @Lucky — right. So sometimes you can tell how many cleared. The more interesting question, though, is: why didn’t they clear 1K upgrades at the 100 hrs mark? This is a 757 from DEN into TPA, so I doubt they are going to see 9 or 10 more F tickets getting sold between now and Sunday. Oh the mysteries of UA managing inventory 🙂

  7. I am a 1K and so far I am 0/2 on eligible flights, but both of my flights were on A319s to/from MEX. I’ve got a couple flights on 757s next week so hopefully it starts to work for me then.

  8. @Jordan: Book a dummy award ticket on the same route with united.com set to expert mode in your profile settings. It’ll show you all of the inventory buckets, NF is upgraded first while XF will be saver award first.

  9. Lucky – was your Q fare from redeeming a VDB? I haven’t been able to find a definitive answer as to whether or not booking with a VDB voucher will be eligible for UDU. I have an upcoming trip GSO-ORD-LAS that I booked using a VDB, which is booked into Q and W classes, but I didn’t think bookings on a VDB were upgrade eligible.

  10. @ Tommy — I used a voucher, but not a DBCFREE. Such a voucher (“free” ticket from a bump) will not be eligible for UDU, unfortunately.

  11. Most of my flights have been A fares so UDU hasn’t come into play for me until last Saturday on an Ex-Plus RJ. I was upgraded 3 hours before the flight. There was one empty seat in F when we took off.

  12. I just got back from an IAD-TPA-IAD trip over the past two days, and both of my upgrades cleared at the upgrade window even though I’m only a Premier. I’m sure it helped that it was on the 757.

  13. I think I’m 6 for 8 so far w/1K….but, I agree with Mike; we need to wait and see mid-year once the OnePass folks are added into the queue.

  14. Very interesting. As a CO Plat, I would only get upgraded on UA after all UGS, 1K and Premier Execs are upgraded… seems to me that would be unlikely, except on aircraft with the largest premium cabins.

    David

  15. Seems that less people are paying for seats as all these flights are only booked to 2-4 people, but maybe I’m wrong

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