United offers multiple types of upgrades among different fare classes. If you don’t have elite status, it may seem almost impossible to get a front seat—but it doesn’t have to be so. Check out this guide on United Airlines upgrade types, availability, how the upgrade waitlist works, the importance of elite status in the upgrade process, and more.

United Airlines Seat Upgrade Options – Types of Upgrades

United Airlines provides several options to secure a seat upgrade. You can upgrade your ticket as a Premier elite member, with miles, qualify for a complimentary upgrade, or purchase a full-fare economy ticket that can upgrade instantly. Remember, all upgrades are subject to space availability.

  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades. You can upgrade as a Premier elite member on select United-operated domestic flights.
  • Upgrade with Miles. You can use your miles to upgrade on a United or Copa Airlines-operated flight.
  • Upgrade with PlusPoints. Premier (Platinum and 1K) members can purchase upgrades with PlusPoints on United Airlines and certain global partner airline flights. 
  • Upgrade on Star Alliance Flights. You can upgrade with miles on select Star Alliance network partner flights.
  • Instant Upgrades. You can upgrade instantly at the time of ticketing on full-fare economy Y and B fares as a Premier member or by purchasing an M fare as a Premier 1K member, subject to availability.

Before learning the order of priority for upgrades, you must know how to find out if upgrade space is available on your flight.

How To Determine Upgrade Space Availability?

The quickest way to find out if seats are available for an upgrade is by searching for tickets with United Airlines Expert Mode. To activate United’s expert mode on your account: 

  1. Go to United.com
  2. Log in to your MileagePlus account
  3. Choose the option to access your Profile
  4. Select Search Preferences (where you’ll find Expert Mode
  5. Click to acknowledge and save. The expert mode will now be activated

When you search for a flight in Expert Mode, you’ll be able to view the fare class you’re purchasing and the available fare classes (from highest to lowest) for your flight under the Details tab. You’ll also be able to see the number of seats available in each fare class, which will help you assess your chances for an upgrade.

The number appearing next to the fare class shows how many seats are available for purchase, upgrades, or mileage awards. 9 is the highest number, indicating that 9 or more seats are available in that fare class. 

Although the fare code availability is generally not published by United Airlines, the upgrade availability is typically found in the following classes: 

  • ON, i.e., an upgrade from Business to First Class.
  • PN, i.e., an instant Business class upgrade from Y/B/M fares purchased by Global Services and Premier 1K members.
  • R/PZ, i.e., a Business or First Class upgrade from Economy on domestic routes. 
  • RN, i.e., an instant Business Class upgrade from Y or B fares purchased by Premier status members (Platinum, Gold, or Silver).

For a full list of United’s fare codes (revenue, award, and upgrade), check out CWSI.net.

United Upgrade Waitlist Priority

If you’re upgrading from Economy to Premium, your elite status with United and how you’re upgrading (with miles, PlusPoints, or cash/card) will determine the priority of your upgrade. United Airlines has several elite status tiers and the ranking order below will determine the upgrade priority.

  1. United Global Services is the top level provided to United Airlines most valued clients at the airline’s discretion.
  2. United Premier 1K members earn 280 PlusPoints after qualifying and additional points after exceeding qualification that they can use to upgrade. 1K members are also entitled to complimentary upgrades subject to availability. 
  3. United Premier Platinum level members, who earn 40 PlusPoints after qualifying, can use the points to upgrade and may also receive complimentary upgrades subject to availability.
  4. United Premier Gold level members are entitled to complimentary upgrades subject to availability. 
  5. United Premier Silver level members also receive complimentary upgrades when available.

When does United upgrade waitlist clear?

If your upgrade cannot be immediately confirmed, you’ll be placed on United’s upgrade waitlist with other passengers, regardless of whether or not you have elite status. United Airlines computer system will clear the passenger on top of the list for the upgrade up to 3 hours before departure. After this, the gate agents will take charge to manage the upgrade list in the following order of priority:

  • Premier 1K passengers (Y, B, M fares) who could not be cleared earlier.
  • Passengers using PlusPoints are prioritized in the following order: by status, fare class, then the time of the request.
  • Remaining Premier level members are subsequently prioritized in the following order: by status, followed by fare class, followed by passengers flying on award tickets.
  • Primary cardholders of the cards below who are Premier members, also qualify for such upgrades on award tickets:
    • United℠ Business Card
    • United Club℠ Business Card
    • United Club℠ Infinite Card
    • United Quest℠ Card
    • United Explorer Card
    • United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card and Business Card (closed for new applicants)


  • Before searching for flights, branded United credit card holders must sign in to their MileagePlus accounts to receive expanded search access.
  • Premier members who hold branded United credit cards will be prioritized after the lowest-paid fare class.

How to Get Upgraded on United Airlines?

Upgraded on United Airlines

There are several ways to get upgraded on United Airlines, including using your frequent flyer miles, purchasing an upgrade with cash or credit card points, and being selected for a complimentary upgrade based on your elite status or fare class. 
If you’re a MileagePlus member, you can use your miles to upgrade your seat to a higher class. You can also purchase an upgrade in advance using cash or credit card points. Additionally, if you have elite status with United Airlines or book a more expensive fare class, you may be eligible for a complimentary upgrade. It’s important to note that upgrades are subject to availability and not guaranteed, so it’s always best to plan ahead and explore all options when looking to upgrade your United Airlines flight.

United Upgrade with Miles

How does United Airlines upgrade with miles work?

You can upgrade your United Airlines flight with miles (i.e., United MileagePlus frequent flyer miles) at the time of purchasing your ticket or on an existing booking. While this may not always provide the maximum value, the important thing is that you can upgrade all fares with miles or miles plus a co-pay.

United Airlines upgrade cost

To find the cost of an upgrade with miles and whether it is worthwhile to use miles and a co-pay option, you will need to log into your MileagePlus account prior to searching for flights. 

How many miles to upgrade on United?

United has got rid of its award chart, so you’ll have to search for your flight online through United.com or the United MileagePlus X app to figure out how many miles you need for a given flight. Typically, the number of miles required to upgrade will depend on many factors, such as your route, fare class, and the availability of upgrades. Upgrades can range from as little as 5,000 miles for a short domestic flight to over 100,000 miles for a long-haul international flight in a premium cabin. 

United PlusPoints Upgrade

United Airlines also offers the option to use PlusPoints to upgrade your booking. PlusPoints are a new currency that replaces Regional Premier Upgrades (RPUs) and Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) and can be used to upgrade flights or select other benefits. To determine how many miles or PlusPoints you need to upgrade your flight on United Airlines, it is best to check directly with the airline.

How do United PlusPoints upgrades work?

United Plus Points upgrades are a great way to enhance your travel experience and enjoy the perks of premium cabin seating. They can be used to upgrade eligible fares to Business or First Class on flights operated by United Airlines and United Express. The number of points required for an upgrade varies based on the length of the flight and the cabin being upgraded to.

To use your PlusPoints, you must have a confirmed reservation and sufficient points in your account. Once you have selected the flight you wish to upgrade, you can request an upgrade using PlusPoints through the United app or website. If there is availability in the upgraded cabin, your request will be granted and you’ll receive a confirmation email with updated booking details.

How do I upgrade United flight with points?

To upgrade a United flight with PlusPoints, you’ll need to make sure that your reservation is eligible for an upgrade using PlusPoints. You can do this by logging into your MileagePlus account and clicking on View Upgrade Options on the My Reservations page. If your reservation is eligible, you can request an upgrade by clicking on Upgrade with PlusPoints and following the prompts. 

You’ll need to have enough PlusPoints in your account to cover the cost of the upgrade, and the availability of upgrades may vary depending on the flight and time of day. Once your upgrade request has been confirmed, you’ll receive a confirmation email and your upgraded seat assignment will be reflected in your reservation.

How to Get Upgraded on United with Miles & Co-Pay?

Any passenger can upgrade with miles either when booking a new flight or upgrading an existing flight. However, Premier level members are not charged a co-pay on select routes, which makes it a useful option to consider when discounted business-class fares are not attractive. 

You can get upgraded on United Airlines as follows:

Upgrading a New Reservation

To search for fares that can be upgraded with miles and co-pays, use the Advanced Search option on the homepage (United.com) when you’re searching for flights. Enter your preferred trip requirements (departure, destination, and dates), and then from the Upgrades, certificates, and promotion codes option select MileagePlus Upgrade Awards from the drop-down box.

If seats are available on your flight, you’ll see several options to upgrade:

  • You may be able to upgrade with miles only, or with a co-pay if you’re not an elite status member. 
  • You can choose to upgrade to Business from Economy or to First from Business, etc.

Note. Always check the fares to make sure that purchasing an upgrade is more cost-effective than purchasing a lower-priced discounted Business Class ticket. Also, you don’t need to be an elite-level member to upgrade with miles and co-pay.

Upgrading an Existing Reservation

If you want to upgrade an existing reservation to a premium cabin, you can request an upgrade by phone or at the airportcounter. Alternatively, you can upgrade your ticket online by logging in to your MileagePlus account, accessing your existing reservation, choosing Redeem upgrade, and then selecting from the following upgrade options:

  • Purchase a premium cabin upgrade
  • Use PlusPoints for an upgrade (if available)
  • Use miles and co-pay for the upgrade

United Star Alliance Upgrade

If you’re a MileagePlus member, you can request an upgrade on United’s 20-plus Star Alliance partner airlines from Economy to Business or First Class on 2-class planes, and from Business Class to First Class subject to seat availability on the partner airline. 

United’s Star Alliance partner airlines include:

Air IndiaBrussels AirlinesSingapore Airlines
Air CanadaCroatia AirlinesShenzhen Airlines
AegeanCopa AirlinesSWISS
Air New ZealandEthiopian AirlinesSouth African Airways
Air ChinaEVA AirwaysTurkish Airlines
Asiana AirlinesEgyptAirTHAI
ANA LufthansaTAP

You can request an upgrade with most participating partner airlines up to 331 days prior to departure for up to 4 passengers on the same booking. To request an upgrade on a Star Alliance partner airline with miles, you will need to book your ticket first, access the booking on United.com, and then request the upgrade under Redeem Upgrade just as you would upgrade a normal flight booking. To learn about the upgrade conditions for partner airlines, refer to the Star Alliance Upgrade Awards page.

How to Get on United Upgrade List?

If you’re looking to get on the United Airlines upgrade list, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances. First and foremost, make sure that you are a member of United’s MileagePlus program. This will give you access to a range of benefits, including the ability to earn and redeem miles for upgrades. Additionally, consider booking your flight during off-peak times when upgrades may be more readily available. 

You can also try asking at check-in or the gate if any upgrades are available, as sometimes they become available at the last minute due to flight cancellations and other factors. Finally, consider upgrading using cash or miles if the cost is within your budget. All of these strategies can help increase your chances of getting on the United Airlines upgrade list and enjoying a more comfortable and luxurious travel experience.

How to Improve Your Upgrade Chances with United Airlines?

If you’re looking to increase your chances of scoring an upgrade on United Airlines, there are a few things you can do.

  • As an Elite Status member, you can improve your upgrade chances as follows:
    • Earn PlusPoints after attaining Platinum or Premier 1K status and using them for upgrades.
    • Purchase a Y fare class or a full-fare discounted Economy Class B fare to receive an instant upgrade on certain flights. If you’re a Premier 1K member, book an M fare to get an instant upgrade (subject to availability).
    • Check discounted Business Class fares before using your miles to upgrade from an Economy Class ticket. 
    • Book an upgradable ticket with the help of United’s advanced search tool and by choosing the MUA option (MileagePlus upgrade award) to find upgradeable flights with miles. 
    • Purchase a higher fare ticket to increase the chances of securing an upgrade over other same-status Premier when you’re redeeming an upgrade. 
    • Use your MileagePlus miles to purchase a Business or a First Class ticket.
    • Request an early upgrade because the time of the upgrade request matters.
  • If you’re not an Elite Status member, you can improve your upgrade chances as follows:
    • Check and compare all service class fares, because Business and First Class fares can occasionally offer cheaper fares than Economy Class fares. 
    • Book an upgradable flight ticket and use your frequent flyer miles and co-pay to secure a higher-class ticket if seats are available. Select the MileagePlus upgrade award option (MUA) on the advanced search page.
    • Use your MileagePlus miles to book a First or Business Class ticket.
    • Book flights during off-peak times or on less-popular routes, as this can also increase your chances of scoring an upgrade.
    • Be flexible with your travel plans. If you’re willing to take a later flight or connect through a different airport, you may be able to find more available upgrade seats.
    • Use your United MileagePlus credit card for purchases to earn miles that can be used towards upgrades.

United Upgrade to First Class

United Upgrade to First Class

If you’re looking to upgrade to First Class on United Airlines, there are a few different options available. The first is to use your frequent flyer miles or travel points to book a First Class seat directly. Alternatively, you can try to secure an upgrade at check-in or the gate by asking if any First Class seats are available. Keep in mind that upgrades are typically awarded based on status level and availability, so it’s important to have elite status with the airline or travel during a less busy time to increase your chances of snagging an upgrade. If all else fails, consider purchasing a First Class ticket outright.

How to upgrade to First Class on United for free?

There are some tips and tricks to upgrade to First Class on United for free. One option is to use your frequent flyer miles or PlusPoints to upgrade your ticket. Another option is to achieve elite status and receive a complimentary upgrade on a domestic route. You can also check in early and ask the agent at the counter or gate if there are any upgrades available. However, keep in mind that upgrades are not guaranteed and depend on availability. Lastly, consider signing up for a United credit card, as they often offer perks such as free upgrades and priority boarding.  

United Upgrade to Business Class

If you’re looking to upgrade to Business Class on United Airlines, there are a few options available to you. The first option is to use your MileagePlus miles to upgrade your ticket. If you have enough miles or PlusPoints, you can simply log into your account on the United Airlines website and select the upgrade option for your flight. 

Another option is to try your luck with United’s complimentary Premier Upgrades, which are given out based on your status in the airline’s frequent flyer program and availability on your flight. you can also pay for an upgrade using cash or a credit card at check-in or the gate. 

However, the availability for these upgrades can be limited and may not be available for every flight. It’s always best to check with United Airlines directly or speak with a travel agent to determine the best way to upgrade your seat and enjoy all the benefits of Business Class travel.

How to Get Free Upgrade on United Airlines?

Getting a free upgrade on United Airlines can be a bit tricky, but there are a few ways to increase your chances. One option is to sign up for United’s MileagePlus loyalty program, which offers members the opportunity to earn elite status and potentially receive complimentary upgrades. Another strategy is to arrive early at the airport and ask the gate agent if there are any available upgrades. It’s important to be polite and respectful when making this request, as gate agents have the discretion to grant or deny upgrades based on a variety of factors. Finally, consider using your frequent flyer miles or credit card rewards points to purchase an upgrade directly. While this may not be completely free, it can be a cost-effective way to enjoy the perks of flying in business or first class.

Frequently Asked Questions on United Airlines Upgrade

Planning a trip and want to know more about United Airlines upgrade options? Look no further! This section will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about upgrading your seat on United Airlines. Whether you’re a frequent flyer or new to Delta, read on to clear your doubts about upgrading your United Airlines flight experience.

How do United complimentary Premier upgrades work?

United Airlines offers complimentary Premier upgrades to its MileagePlus Premier members based on their elite status and availability of seats. The upgrades are processed automatically before the flight departure, and eligible members will receive an email notification if they have been upgraded. The order of priority for the upgrades is based on the member’s Premier status level, fare class, and time of request. Members can also use miles to upgrade their flights, but complimentary Premier upgrades are a perk that comes with being a MileagePlus member. 

When does United clear its upgrade waitlist?

United clears its upgrade waitlist up to 3 hours prior to departure, after which the gate agents manage the upgrade list in a pre-determined order of priority, depending on membership status and the time of placing the upgrade request. 

How do I check my upgrade waitlist on United?

To check your upgrade waitlist on United Airlines, you can log in to your MileagePlus account on the United Airlines website or mobile app. Once logged in, navigate to the My Trips section and select the flight for which you are waitlisted for an upgrade. You should be able to see your upgrade status and position on the waitlist. Alternatively, you can call United’s customer service hotline and provide them with your reservation number to inquire about your upgrade status. It is important to note that upgrades are not guaranteed and are subject to availability and other factors.

How does the United upgrade waitlist work?

The United Airlines upgrade waitlist allows passengers to request an upgrade to a higher class of service after booking their flight. Passengers can request an upgrade by using their MileagePlus miles or by paying for the upgrade with cash (or both). Once a request is made, the passenger is placed on a waitlist and their status will be updated as seats become available. The waitlist is prioritized based on the passenger’s status in the MileagePlus program, fare class, and time of request. As seats become available, passengers at the top of the list will be upgraded automatically and notified via email or through the United app. 
It’s important to note that upgrades are not guaranteed, and availability can vary depending on factors such as flight route and time of day. 

Am I allowed to upgrade an award ticket purchased with miles on United?

No, you cannot upgrade an award ticket purchased with miles. However, if you’re a Mileage Plus Premier member and have booked an award ticket, or have a UA-branded credit card, you could be eligible for a complimentary upgrade on a domestic award ticket.

Remember, Complimentary upgrades are subject to availability and are based on membership status followed by United credit cardholders. Also, you may be able to purchase an upgrade at the gate on the day of travel.

What fare class should I purchase to make sure I can upgrade?

The best way to ensure you’re sitting in the front is to buy a Business or First Class ticket with cash or miles. You can upgrade other fare classes with miles, miles and co-pays, or qualify for an instant upgrade if you hold Premier status, buy an upgradable fare, and if space is available.

You can also upgrade an eligible flight with PlusPoints, subject to seat availability. Other tickets are prioritized for upgrades depending on certain criteria such as Premier status, fare class, and time of placing the upgrade request.

How do Economy and Economy Plus seats differ on United?

One major difference between Economy and Economy Plus seats is extra legroom. Plus, you’ll be seated closer to the front of the aircraft because that’s where the Economy Plus section is located. 
Economy Plus seating can be purchased when you’re making a seat selection or at check-in if you’re traveling on a Basic Economy fare.

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