UPDATED (originally posted on Mar 1, 2012)
Upgrading to United First®, United Business®, United BusinessFirst® and United Global FirstSM is easy. This article takes a look at the different types of upgrades you can choose on united.com and how the upgrades process works. At the end of the article, we cover how to sponsor an upgrade.
You can take advantage of a number of upgrade possibilities. Here’s an overview of what we offer:
- MileagePlus Upgrade Awards
- Complimentary Premier Upgrades
- Instant upgrades for Y-, B- or M-class fares (without companion)
- Regional Premier Upgrades and Global Premier Upgrades
- Day of travel upgrades
This chart shows you the upgrade types and where you can request an upgrade on united.com.
MileagePlus Upgrade Awards
Obtaining an upgrade during the booking process
You can search for a flight that has an upgrade available at the time and book it with a confirmed upgrade using MileagePlus Upgrade Awards. The benefit of this approach is that you know you have the upgrade right when you book your trip, so you can avoid the waitlist process.
To begin the upgrade process, sign in to the MileagePlus® account you want to use to redeem a MileagePlus Upgrade Award. You can sign in from the yellow MileagePlus Sign In panel in the upper-right section of the home page or select the Sign In link in the upper-right corner of the home page, to the left of Ask Alex.
While searching for flights, you can specify that you want upgrade availability displayed in the results. Here’s how.
In the trip search box on our home page select the Advanced Search link (at the bottom) and then select Search.
The Advanced Flight Search page opens.
After you enter your flight search criteria, scroll down to the How would you like your flight results displayed? section. Select the MileagePlus Upgrade Award check box and, under the Search By option, select the Price button. Then press the Search button.
The Choose Flights for Upgrades page opens. Select the flight segment that you want to upgrade and then select Continue.
You’ll see a list of flight options indicating whether a MileagePlus Upgrade Award is available on these itineraries. Simply select the option with upgrade availability and continue booking your ticket. During the purchase process, you will be prompted to pay cost of the flight as well as the miles and any necessary copayment for your award. Your upgrade will be confirmed when you complete this process.
If none of the flights on your itinerary have upgrade availability, you can continue to book your trip and later request the upgrade by signing in to your MileagePlus account and accessing the My Account page.
Upgrading an already existing reservation
To see if you can upgrade your flight for a reservations you already have, first sign in to your MileagePlus account. On the My Account page, scroll down to the blue Reservations box, where you’ll see any reservations you’ve made. Select View next to the reservation that you want to upgrade.
Tip: If you’re already signed in, you can select the My Account link next to Sign In.
Note: After signing in, you can also view your reservations right from the home page — in the center panel — or by hovering your mouse over the Reservations tab and selecting Change/View Existing Reservations. If you don’t see all of your reservations listed, you can enter a specific flight confirmation number and your last name in the light-blue center panel of the home page or in the Reservations box on your My Account page.
The View Current Reservation page opens.
At the top of the page, to the right of Reservation Tools, select the Upgrade Reservation link.
Tip: There are two other ways to access the Upgrade Your Flight page: by selecting the Redeem Upgrade button or the marketing tile — both located at the bottom of the View Current Reservation page.
The Upgrade Your Flight page opens.
Note: For the rest of the article, we show an example of upgrading to United First.
On the Upgrade Your Flight page, you can select one of the two tabs:
Tip: More upgrade options may be available when you check in online or at an airport kiosk.
What’s the difference between the two options? View this chart:
Let’s look at the Buy Up to First option.
Note: You're able to upgrade only if your flight has upgrade seat availability.
On this tab, you’ll see each leg of your trip and the associated cost to purchase the upgrade to United First. Choose the flights you wish to upgrade. You can choose to upgrade individual flights or upgrade all eligible flights. After you’ve made your choices, select the Upgrade button.
A page opens showing the seat map for your selected flight or flights.
You can view available United First seats and make your seat selection for one or both legs of your trip. After you select Continue, you’ll have the opportunity to view your flight details and pay for your upgrade.
Now let’s walk through the Redeem Awards to Upgrade option.
On this tab, you’ll see your flight segments and the number of miles required to qualify for the upgrade.
Note: If you see a message indicating that you don’t have sufficient MileagePlus miles for an upgrade, then you have options for acquiring the additional miles to redeem upgrades:
- Buy miles – up to 25% of the total award may be purchased.
- Transfer miles from another MileagePlus account.
Note: If you don’t have enough miles for the upgrade and want to transfer miles, you must do so first, before you can proceed with the upgrade. After you’ve completed the transfer, you can restart the upgrade process.
- Use another MileagePlus account.
You can choose to use miles for one of the flights or to upgrade all eligible flights and then select Upgrade. Note that even if an upgrade is not available at the time you are making the request, you can still get on the waiting list for an upgrade. Customers waitlisted for an upgrade are cleared as and when upgrade space becomes available.
The Payment Information page opens.
At the bottom of the page, you can review the purchase details in the Flight Upgrade Price Summary, and then select to purchase.
Complimentary Premier Upgrades
Complimentary Premier Upgrades are space-available, complimentary upgrades on select United- and Copa-operated flights. They are available to all Premier® members, including Regional and Global, as well as to a companion traveling on the same reservation as the Premier member.
Important notice: For United customers who are eligible for Complimentary Premier Upgrades, prior to March 3 you would see your Upgrade Standby List status for each flight segment clearly indicated online. On the integrated united.com, we don't show you this messaging.
If you are eligible for this type of upgrade, you are placed on the upgrade list automatically but you do not see an indication of your upgrade standby status and you aren't notified of this status. However, if you check in for your flight on our website, you will receive a message that you are on the upgrade standby list.
If you’re a Premier member and are traveling on full-fare economy Y- and B-class fares, you may be eligible for instant upgrades as early as the time you book your ticket, if seats are available. Premier 1K® members are also eligible for instant upgrades when purchasing M-class fares. Instant upgrades are confirmable at the time you book your ticket, if upgrade space is available.
To confirm your instant upgrade, on the View Current Reservation page select the Instant Premier link located below the Change Flight, View/Change Seats and Redeem Awards buttons at the bottom of the page (below the details of your flight).
The MileagePlus Premier Upgrade page opens.
Note: The Instant Premier link will be present only if you meet one of the following criteria:
At least one flight segment must be a Y or B fare (or M fare if you’re a 1K Premier member).
At least one flight segment must have availability in the upper cabin to be confirmed. (On united.com, you can’t be waitlisted for instant upgrades.)
If any one of these criteria aren’t met, then the Instant Premier link will not be present.
If a seat is not available at time of ticketing, these upgrades will be processed automatically starting five days prior to travel.
If you’ve met the criteria and checked the box on the Upgrades prompt screen, you’ll be able to choose your seat upgrade when booking your travel. If you don’t meet the criteria, this upgrades page won’t appear at all.
You’ll see an indicator that shows the eligibility of a particular flight and fare combinations for instant upgrades.
Regional Premier Upgrades and Global Premier Upgrades
Book these upgrades using the same process we described earlier, for MileagePlus Upgrade Awards.
Day of travel upgrades
Now you can upgrade to United First on the day you are traveling, if seats are available. Purchase upgrades when you check in online or from an airport kiosk.
Note: These upgrades are subject to availability, and prices vary depending on the flight segment for which the upgrade is being selected.
Sponsoring an upgrade
Do you want to upgrade a flight for someone other than yourself? The process is very similar to the one we discussed above.
- Access the reservation that you want to upgrade using the confirmation number of the flight and the person's last name. The View Reservation by Confirmation Number page opens.
- At the top of the page, to the right of Reservation Tools, select the Upgrade Reservation link. The Upgrade Your Flight page opens.
- Select the Redeem Awards to Upgrade tab, as demonstrated earlier in this article.
- Select the MileagePlus Account link and, in the box that appears, sign in to your account. This is where the miles or fees will be drawn from for the upgrade purchase. The tab refreshes with a display of your miles balance.
- On the Upgrade Your Flight page, select the flight or flights that you’re interested in upgrading.
Proceed with your purchase.