One the benefits of being an Elite on an airline is the ability to get upgraded to upper class seats on flights. Anyone can use miles and upgrade themselves (more and more with a co-pay), provided space is available. Elite customers though get the ability to get upgraded with using up valuable miles. United has three such kinds of upgrades available for its Elites:
- Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPU)
- Regional Premier Upgrades (RPU)
- Global Premier Upgrades (GPU)
Let’s look at each of them.
Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPU)
CPUs are given to premier passengers on most domestic flights. These are essentially done to reward Elites by giving them seats in Business (if there) and First Class that did not get sold. These, as their name suggests are complimentary. You do not need any coupon or even request you be added to the list of people to be considered. All Elites are added by default. If an Elite purchases a Y or B fare (full fare economy) or if you are a 1K Premier a M fare, you get upgraded on the spot, as soon as you book (provided the upper class is not sold out). In the limited 3-class United domestic flights, these CPUs are for a 1-class bump. The order of upgrades is done by Premier level. PS flights, that are special flight United operates between New York JFK and Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO), do not qualify for CPUs. You need an RPU or GPU for those flights. And yes, if you are a premier elite with others on your reservation, they get added to the upgrade list with you. They do not need to be Elites.
Regional Premier Upgrades (RPU)
RPUs are used to upgrade domestic flights using a coupon. You get two RPUs when you reach Platinum Premier. After that you earn 2 RPUs per 25k Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) earned. RPUs are best used for upgrading someone else not flying with you who is not an Elite. YOu also need RPUs to get an upgrade on PS flights. a single RPU can upgrade a whole leg of a trip (one way), irrespective of how many segments (flight changes) there are on the trip, as long as they are all flights operated by United.
Global Premier Upgrades (GPU)
GPUs are given by United to it’s 1K Premiers. People who earn over 100k EQM in a year. They get 6 GPUs when they hit 1K. GPUs are unique that they can be used to upgrade international flights! (They can be used for domestic flights too, but…). Like RPU, they can be used to upgrade multi-leg trips. Like RPUs, they too can be used to sponsor someone else flying who does not have GPUs or is even an Elite. United has a special agreement with Lufthansa that allows travelers with GPUs to use them for upgrades on Lufthansa. In order to do so, you have to order a paper version of the GPU from United and take it with you to the airport for your Lufthansa flight. It is then applied, if upgrade space is available.
To check for availability for RPU and GPU space on any United look for R or RN fare buckets on the United fly you are looking to fly on. The R bucket fare us used to upgrade from one class to the next, by United. RN fare bucket is used to allocate upgrade space for Elites. R or RN has to be > 0 in order for an upgrade to clear.
An upgrade can however, always clear at the gate if a passenger traveling in an upper class cancels or no-shows. On a recent international flight, I was #1 on the waiting list, but no cigar. I had actually boarded and was sitting in my economy seat when the Gate Agent walked up and handed me a BusinessFirst boarding pass, 2 minutes before the door closed. Someone had missed a connection, opening up the seat.
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