United Will Freeze Confirmed Upgrades Tuesday Night in Preparation for Launch of New PlusPoints

United’s new PointsPlus upgrade program – which replaces regional and global confirmed upgrade certificates – is scheduled to launch on Wednesday.

Overnight on Tuesday nights the ability to confirm upgrades with existing regional and global certificates will be frozen in preparation for this launch. Then upgrades should re-open on Wednesday with a bank of points replacing existing upgrade certificates, and the ability to use those points in a more granular manner.

United shares these details,

Earlier this fall we announced PlusPoints, a brand new way to manage upgrade benefits for our Premier members giving them more flexibility and more options to use upgrade benefits. Overnight on December 3 we will be converting Regional Premier Upgrades and Global Premier Upgrades to PlusPoints, during which time there will be a brief hold on requesting upgrades or making changes to reservations that are being converted. We are reaching out to our customers to let them know ahead of time so they can make any travel changes, and our team is working to ensure the conversions go as smoothly as possible.

On December 4, customers will have a bank of PlusPoints in their accounts that they can use to request upgrades across United’s network. As a reminder, a few of the exciting updates customers will have once PlusPoints are live include:
• Members will be able to upgrade from Economy to Premium Plus and from Premium Plus to Polaris for the value of less than 1 Global Premier Upgrade
• Platinum members will be able to upgrade from Economy to Polaris in any region
• 1K members will be able to upgrade from discounted Economy to Polaris business class
We look forward to introducing PlusPoints and giving our customers more ways and more chances to use their upgrades.

The positive here is both greater flexibility – someone who only had regional upgrades can combine those for an international long haul upgrade – as well as that United will continue to allow upgrades from coach to business class (skipping premium economy). United will even allow members to spend more points to be able to upgrade internationally from any fare (something American and Delta already permit, without spending ‘extra). Currently members often buy a lottery ticket, a more expensive fare than they’d have to buy in order to have the chance of an upgrade. That’ll no longer be required, but at a cost greater than one current Global Premier Upgrade.

The downside is that this new granularity of pricing for upgrades will make it easier to modestly devalue the upgrade program, awarding fewer upgrades, increasing the requirements to earn upgrades, or increasing the number of PlusPoints required for a given upgrade.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — Mark my word, this means a massive, sudden increase in the price of upgrades. I am betting that the skip the line price is the only thing available in advance and that it is double the old price.

  2. @Gene – since you can now just request an upgrade for every flight and not lose points until it clears, I imagine every flight will obviously be a huge waitlist.

    But from what I hear (2020 will be my first year as a 1K) people can’t use their GPUs anyways…so why not actually have 3 clear instead of losing 6?

  3. United will have bigger problems than ‘granularity’ to address when they do finally realize that they have unnecessarily slaughtered their “cash cow” based on some nebulous but quite likely wrong premise about ‘rewarding their “best” customers’…

  4. @ Steve — I was a 1K for 8 years 2009-2016, and I never wasted a single RPU or GPU. Doubling the price is NOT a good thing, no matter how you slice it. I expect be 1K again from Sept 2020 through Jan 2022. It will be interesting to see how that goes, but I expect to be disappointed.

  5. Aside from one flight waitlisted for 12/20 I’ve used up all my GPUs this year (ten of them). Eight of those will have been P+ to J upgrades which will be only 30 PPs instead of one GPU (40). Indeed I’ll get a refund of 10 points should my final upgrade clear. Right now the clear sweet spot is book P+ and upgrade from there; and if the upgrade doesn’t clear you still have a very decent seat.

    “…. since you can now just request an upgrade for every flight and not lose points until it clears, I imagine every flight will obviously be a huge waitlist.”

    That’s a good point. It’s going to be almost as bad as CPU upgrades on domestics. At least for next year until United’s (yet another attempt at) culling the 1Ks works (or doesn’t).

  6. As many were complaining about how ‘useless’ GPUs and RPUs had become, I personally had not noticed much of a decline in my clearance rate of either upgrade instrument, but especially of GPUs since I travel mainly internationally.

    For domestic travel I usually took my chance with CPUs and did well (likely because I flew out of LGA, which might not be a departure airport preferred “savvy” UA top elite travelers). However, for the just concluded Thanksgiving holiday, I’d booked RT economy tickets for 3 relatives and myself to fly to ORD, which I then tried to upgrade with RPUs. The result was fabulous:
    — Two relatives on the same PNR were upgraded to First on their way back from ORD to ERW.
    — One relative was upgraded to First on her way back to PHX (her ticket to ORD was outright in First)
    — My LGA to ORD RPU cleared, and I am still waitlisted for my return flight on Thursday.

    In sum, I’d request 7 RPUs, trying to clear my inventory before they expired, and 4 of 7 have cleared, with one still waitlisted. Not too shabby.

  7. Within a year, will be 50 points to upgrade Y to J…mark my words.

    UA isn’t doing all this to benefit the consumer…

  8. Can’t wait to hear about the “Skip the Waitlist” feature. From the waffly language in the press release I’m expecting maybe one seat EWR-DUB to possibly open up as flight time approaches.

    “From time to time, United may also allow 1K members the opportunity to use additional PlusPoints to skip the waitlist and receive a confirmed upgrade at booking when traveling on select international long-haul flights”


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