While United has long allowed “unlimited domestic upgrades” to be applied on flights from the mainland to Hawaii, Continental operates internationally configured 767s on their routes between Honolulu and Houston/Newark, which they treat as “BusinessFirst” markets. Therefore unlimited domestic upgrades don’t apply on the routes, and the upgrade costs (including co-pays) are steep.
Well, it appears the “new” United will be going the Continental way on those routes. The “BusinessFirst” flights won’t be eligible for upgrades using confirmed regional upgrades. That’s a bit disappointing, given that Premium Service isn’t “unlimited domestic upgrade” eligible either, but confirmed regional upgrades can be applied on that route.
Systemwide upgrades can be applied on the route, though a minimum of a “W” fare will need to be booked in order to be eligible for an upgrade.
So for all practical purposes, Hawaii “BusinessFirst” routes are like any other international routes.
I suppose nothing is “lost” here given that this is the way it was before as well, though my fear is that the new United will operate more internationally configured planes to Hawaii, meaning fewer opportunities for reasonably priced upgrades.