United changes Global Premier Upgrade policy for travel on Lufthansa

One of the nice benefits of United Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) is that they can be redeemed on Lufthansa flights day of on a space available basis. They can be used to upgrade from coach to business if you book a minimum of a “V” fare, or to upgrade from business to first class if you book a “C” or “D” fare. The process for using these upgrades is slightly different than for travel on United, since paper upgrades have to be requested from United, mailed to you, and then presented at check-in. However, you could request these even without a specific flight in mind, and they were also transferable.

Well, starting March 1, 2013, they’ll be changing the process. When I first saw the headline I figured they had a way to make the process easier, like allowing one to request the upgrades online. Unfortunately the reality is quite the opposite. Per UA Insider, here’s the new policy:

Starting March 1, when you request a GPU certificate for use on Lufthansa, we’ll ask you to provide some additional information:

  • First and last name of the traveler who will be presenting the certificate to Lufthansa
  • Departure and arrival city/airport of the flight segment to be upgraded (reminder: GPUs are used on a per-segment basis on LH)
  • Flight number and flight date
  • Confirmation number of itinerary associated with segment to be upgraded (this can be the Lufthansa confirmation number or the confirmation number of another airline/travel agency you used to book your ticket)

This information, with the exception of flight date, will be printed on the certificate before it is mailed to you. After that, the redemption process with Lufthansa remains the same.

Lastly, we understand that travel plans can change, and so long as the name of the traveler and the flight segment remain the same, the certificates will be honored by Lufthansa (on a space-available basis). However, it will be at Lufthansa’s discretion to honor the upgrade should any other flight details change. Since this remains a per-segment upgrade product, we do recommend printing certificates specific to each LH segment you might which to upgrade on your full itinerary.

This change is quite customer unfriendly. I can understand they’d want to print the name of the traveler on the certificate (to avoid bartering or theft), but requesting the confirmation number, flight number, and date? That’s ridiculous. Lots of people only book tickets last minute, and it takes a few days for the upgrades to be mailed.

So if your plans change you can apply the upgrade for the same segment, though if you want to use it for a different segment it’s at Lufthansa’s discretion to honor it. Put another way, say you’re flying roundtrip between New York and Frankfurt and you have one systemwide upgrade left that you want for use on Lufthansa. If the outbound upgrade doesn’t clear it would be entirely at Lufthansa’s discretion to decide whether or not they want to let you apply it on the return.

So while I can see the logic in wanting to have the name of the traveler printed on the certificate, the rest of the changes are mindless and a huge devaluation to these certificates, in my opinion.

Comments

  1. @lantean. United GPU’s can be converted into one of the certs. There is no cost unless you are breaking the T&C of the certs by buying/selling/trading one

  2. Being based in Tokyo this was one of the main reasons I stuck with UA as I have many flights with LH to Europe. This makes it a pain to upgrade and will likely push me to fly ANA or JAL from now on. I also am EXP on AA.

  3. Well sheeit, I certainly agree that this is even more customer UNfriendly. Have enjoyed being able to use these and give them to friends stuck in the back on LH due to company policies 🙁

  4. Lucky, would you mind writing an article about how to use the GPUs and checking the chances of the GPU clearing? I’m so confused and reading through Flyertalk is rather cumbersome. I’d appreciate any assistance!!

  5. On the bright side, they do overnight these certificates so you can get literally get them tomorrow at no charge. However, this is still an extra hassle step.

  6. I’ve expressed my intense displeasure on FT. I think this might be the proverbial straw for our family and UA.

  7. @Oleg even if they overnight these certs you may be at the airport by then. So glad I left for AA.

    @DP81 you basically book a fare that qualifies for the cert which was upped to a minimum of a booking class of “V” from “W”. These only clear at the airport so you don’t know if you are going to get the upgrade or not until the day of the flight. They cleared most of the time but you never know. The best way to use them was to book flights during off peak hours but if you have to travel on a certain date you just have to roll the dice. They used to just mail them to you and once you got them you could keep trying to use them or if they didn’t clear send them back to UA to have them converted back into a SWU or GPU as they are known now.

  8. And what happens if the upgrade doesn’t clear (since these are space available after all)? Do they need to be reissued with the new flight details? Seems rather dumb to me…

  9. @ Chase — So it would seem. It can be mailed back and then redeposited, which takes a while, and then in theory it could be issued again.

  10. They already started collecting the info as of a few weeks ago but not printing as such. Now, if they would flag the reservation so you automatically get added to the grading list, that would be a big help!

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