Skip the waitlist: My last-minute tip for firstclass upgrades as a United Premier 1K elite

With infinitely lengthy improve waitlists and fewer upgrades clearing, United elites are spending extra time in financial system class, particularly on hub-to-hub routes.

As a Premier 1K member, simply 10% of my eligible flights this yr have acquired Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPUs) to firstclass. I’ve lengthy thought CPUs had been one of the best advantage of Premier 1K standing, however with complimentary upgrades being few and much between, I’ve thought-about revisiting my elite standing technique.

Nonetheless, hope is just not misplaced. Right this moment, I will present you a day-of-departure improve tip that you should utilize to snag one of many final first-class seats on the aircraft — even when you’re midway down the improve checklist.

What occurs to upgrades when departure time approaches


One fast disclaimer — I am sharing this tip merely from my very own experiences and observations, having traveled with United. There is not any assure that this can give you the results you want, and we’ve not examined this tip throughout MileagePlus accounts. Bear in mind this tip the following time it seems such as you will not be getting a complimentary improve on the day of your flight, however do not financial institution on it all the time panning out.

Now, with that out of the best way, let’s dive in.

On the most rudimentary degree, there are two variables at hand because the departure time in your flight approaches: First, the variety of empty seats in firstclass; and second, waitlisted passengers for firstclass.

Because the departure time approaches, United tends to open decrease first-class fare courses, together with the “PZ” fare, which implies that an improve to firstclass is confirmable utilizing PlusPoints or miles.

For instance, let us take a look at a flight from Los Angeles Worldwide Airport (LAX) to Kahului Airport (OGG) in United’s Skilled Mode. Skilled Mode reveals the fare courses out there on a given flight.

Three days in the past, there have been six seats out there in firstclass (indicated by “J6”). Nonetheless, upgrades to firstclass had been unconfirmable (indicated by “PZ0”).

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This screenshot was taken three days in the past. UNITED APP

Now, let us take a look at the identical flight two hours from departure.


Despite the fact that there are simply two seats now in firstclass (indicated by “J2”), there’s now one seat out there to substantiate an improve to (indicated by “PZ1”).

By checking on the day of departure and making use of both PlusPoints or miles, an improve might be cleared — probably leapfrogging a prolonged improve waitlist.

In my expertise, there should be not less than two empty first-class seats for this tip to work. Once more, that is indicated by the “J2” marker in United’s Skilled Search mode.

Associated: Why Premium Plus and better fare courses are the key to United upgrades

Utilizing this tip on award tickets

By touring in firstclass, you’ll doubtless have an extra baggage allowance. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

This tip may also be used on award tickets if seats are launched.

Earlier this month, I traveled from Baltimore/Washington Worldwide Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) to San Francisco Worldwide Airport (SFO) utilizing miles. On the morning of departure, I noticed that United had launched a seat to the “I” fare class (enterprise saver). For simply 12,500 further miles, I upgraded my economy-saver ticket to a business-saver fare.

If the I-fare class turns into out there in your flight — as within the instance flight beneath — you would possibly have the ability to snag a seat on a Star Alliance factors foreign money for a lower cost.


Turkish Airways Miles & Smiles fees simply 12,500 miles for United’s first-class home tickets. And sure, that fare is out there on Hawaii flights.

By the way, the above flight to Southwest Florida Worldwide Airport (RSW) has 32 passengers on the improve waitlist. By reserving the “I” fare or confirming an improve utilizing the “PZ” fare, you may leap the waitlist and make sure a first-class seat proper now.

Associated: The final word information to getting upgraded on United Airways

Backside line

Because the departure time of my flight approaches, I repeatedly refresh the out there fare courses and the improve waitlist to see if I can snag a first-class seat utilizing my PlusPoints. If you do not have PlusPoints, you should utilize miles to substantiate an improve when the “PZ” fare is out there on a paid ticket.

I take advantage of this technique when my place on the improve waitlist clearly reveals that I will not be getting upgraded.

This yr alone, by utilizing this tip, I have been capable of lock in upgrades on the next flights:

  • San Francisco Worldwide Airport (SFO) to Ellison Onizuka Kona Worldwide Airport at Keahole (KOA).
  • Newark Liberty Worldwide Airport (EWR) to San Francisco Worldwide Airport (SFO).
  • San Francisco Worldwide Airport (SFO) to Kahului Airport (OGG).
  • Charlotte Douglas Worldwide Airport (CLT) to Denver Worldwide Airport (DEN).
  • Seattle-Tacoma Worldwide Airport (SEA) to Chicago’s O’Hare Worldwide Airport (ORD).
  • Los Angeles Worldwide Airport (LAX) to Honolulu’s Daniel Okay. Inouye Worldwide Airport (HNL).
  • Honolulu’s Daniel Okay. Inouye Worldwide Airport (HNL) to San Francisco Worldwide Airport (SFO).
  • Baltimore/Washington Worldwide Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) to San Francisco Worldwide Airport (SFO).
  • Austin-Bergstrom Worldwide Airport (AUS) to Dulles Worldwide Airport (IAD).

The following time it seems such as you’re not going to get upgraded, do this tip and see when you can snag a seat up entrance.

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