Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Upgrades to premium cabins have become "a pie in the Sky"

I got 2 Regional Premier free Upgrades. It is one of the United benefits that you get 2 per year if you are Premier Platinum Elite, but it is not easy to use the upgrades.
These one-way, one-cabin upgrades are confirmable as early as time of ticketing, so they say …. They are valid on select United- and Copa-operated flights within certain regions, but I bought a ticket 2 months ago and am still waiting to use the upgrade I requested at the time of purchase, and might I say that I chose that particular flight because it had almost all the first class seats empty.


So it looks like I have very little chance of using the upgrades. The Upgrade Standby list is something that I have stopped holding my breath for.

I do appreciate that United sent me an email to explain the situation the day before my flight:

We are not yet able to confirm your request for an upgrade on your flight to New York, NY, US (LGA - LaGuardia). While your upgrade request will no longer appear in your reservation, you will automatically be added to the upgrade standby list after you complete check-in and receive your boarding pass for this flight.”

Now I have to wait till after the outbound flight and hope they re-deposit the upgrades so I can try again on the return flight. If upgrade space is not available when requesting a MileagePlus Upgrade Award, Regional Premier Upgrade or Global Premier Upgrade, travelers may be placed on a waitlist. Travelers placed on a waitlist are prioritized according to the Premier status of the traveler. So if you only have Silver Elite status, you have zero chance. If the request includes multiple travelers, then priority is based on the highest Premier status on the reservation. Waitlists are processed based on Premier status of the traveler, then fare class, then time of request.1 New waitlist requests for MileagePlus Upgrade Awards, Regional Premier Upgrades, and Global Premier Upgrades can be made until 24 hours prior to departure.

Priority within five days on flights eligible for Complimentary Premier Upgrades
On certain flights, automatic processing of upgrades, including Complimentary Premier Upgrades, may begin as early as 120 hours (five days) in advance. The confirmation windows for Complimentary Premier Upgrades, by Premier status, are:

  • United Global Serv. get it 120 hours / 5 days prior to flight.
  • Premier 1k status-Confirmation (as early as) 96 hrs/ 4 days
  • Premier Platinum gets upgrades 72 hrs /3 days before flight
  • Premier Gold Elite - 48 hours / 2 days
  • Premier Silver only on the Day of departureseat upgrades seem unlikely

It gets more complicated than that, they also prioritize by fare now. Free Premier Upgrades on award tickets are prioritized after the lowest paid fare class.

The order of priority for upgrades, on flights that are eligible for Complimentary Premier Upgrades are more transparent, but the more one looks into it the more reason passengers have to just fly the airline they choose for that particular flight and pay up for the cabin you want. Loyalty is not the result.

Premier Elite status seldom delivers any free upgrades. It is not worth taking the risk to just hope for and upgrade. Have you noticed that the seats are closer together and the padding on airline seats is getting thinner and thinner?     Even though I am a Premier Platinum member, I’ve had several middle seats in economy.

I do miss the ‘good old days’, of abundant upgrades for Top frequent fliers. There is no fun anymore when you gamble that you will get it. Let’s face it, the only time you have fun in Vegas is when you win or when you don’t gamble. Just saying …

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