Lufthansa “Z” fares can no longer be upgraded with United systemwide upgrades

As a United Premier 1K you receive six systemwide upgrades per year, which can be used to upgrade United flights in select fare classes at the time of booking pending upgrade availability. All you had to do was book a minimum of a “W” fare to upgrade from coach to business class, or a minimum of a “D” fare to upgrade from business to first class.

One of the other cool things about these systemwide upgrades is that they could also be used to upgrade Lufthansa flights on a space available basis on the day of departure. The process was a bit more complicated since you had to call Mileage Plus to request a paper systemwide upgrade which they mailed to you, and then you had to bring it to the airport (as opposed to the process for upgrading a United flight, which was electronic).

Historically they could be used to upgrade Lufthansa coach fares to business class assuming you were booked in the “V” fare bucket or higher, which is just a bit higher than the minimum fare required on United. But the really cool thing was that you could use them to upgrade any revenue business class flight to first class on Lufthansa. So while United only let you upgrade from “C” and “D” fares to business class (more or less full fare), you could use those same certificates to upgrade to first class on Lufthansa on a discounted business class ticket (like “Z”). Naturally this was a really valuable benefit for many, given that it’s not unusual to see $2,000 discounted business class fares between the East Coast and Europe, which could be upgraded to first class through this program.

Well, it appears as if the policy has finally changed. New Lufthansa systemwide upgrade vouchers issued by United specifically exclude “Z” and “P” fares from being upgraded to first class, as you can see here. That being said, if you had a previously issued systemwide upgrade that doesn’t have that exclusion, they should still be usable on Lufthansa on discounted business class tickets through September 1, 2012. I suspect this policy change has more to do with Lufthansa than United, given that they just announced a policy change whereby “Z” and “P” fares are no longer upgradable to first class, even for their own members.


  1. Boo! This is a change I don’t like at all.

    Do you know if one were to call today and get a SWU printed, is this new restriction already in effect? Is there any grace period?

  2. @ Carl — All of the systemwide upgrades being issued as of a few weeks ago have this restriction.

  3. I don’t see the P class excluded, but YMMV trying to upgrade those as it was the case last year with L fare.
    Also, T from economy (between L and S) isn’t on the list either.
    Both aren’t upgradeable as per LH’s M&M rules.

  4. United stopped sending out paper SWUs that were valid on LH Z fares back in the fall, or at least early winter, I believe.

  5. Lucky, AFAIK, the FT thread disclosed that Z fares are no longer eligible to use a United SWU for upgrades on Lufthansa. Here is the post describing the terms and conditions.

    However, I do not see the terms and conditions of the SWUs to exclude P fares at this time(there is an exclusion of IP & AD fares, but I do not know what these are). Perhaps we can take advantage of this potential loophole for some time?

  6. What annoys me about UA SWUs isn’t necessarily that one must buy a W/D fare, it is that it is not a guaranteed upgrade if one has the upgrade instrument.

    So unless there is a confirmed upgrade available at booking, one is paying the higher fare for the chance to upgrade.

  7. @chitownflyer:
    In the post you’ve quoted, after the bold text with the booking classes not eligible for upgades, there is this disclaimer:
    “LH reserves the right to change the eligible fare classes at any time without notice. Contact LH with any questions on eligible fare classes.”
    Seems to me as they have this loophole covered already, no?

  8. As late as early December UA was sending out SWU’s that did not exclude Z fares on LH. As of the middle of December all SWU’s have excluded Z fares on LH.

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