Burning United Regional Upgrade Certs

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Jeanne and I are headed out to Napa soon to celebrate her birthday. At least, that’s the excuse we’re now using. It started because I had no travel planned for the month of February. And unless I want to wind up flying to Singapore or to Australia twice in coach (again) this fall to make 1K, I need to start accruing more EQMs.

Found a $300 flight to Oakland and decided I would spend a weekend wine tasting in Napa and reveling in soup dumplings at Yank Sing. I happened to mention this to Jeanne, who just happened to be free that weekend, and who liked the idea of celebrating her birthday in Northern California.

So once the flights were booked, I started thinking through the best approach for upgrades. First class was wide open for the DEN-OAK portions of our trip, and it was almost guaranteed that we’d clear in advance on my 1K status. However, IAD-DEN on Friday and Sunday nights were much less certain.

Was it worth burning 4 regional upgrades to give us an edge? Under United’s new system, upgrades paid for with miles or certificates trump elite status (which means a non-elite using miles will clear before a 1K upgrading solely on status). By using my regionals, we’d be at the top of the waitlist after Global Services and anyone with a full fare ticket.

But then I had to weigh the value of upgrading a 4 hr flight. 4hrs is long, but much more bearable than a 6 hour direct flight. Should I save my regionals for longer haul flights?

In the end, the question was easily answered. It’s Jeanne’s birthday. If we have the opportunity to not fly in coach cross country for the weekend, we should of course take it!

The DEN-OAK legs cleared instantly. Still waitlisted for the IAD-DEN segments. We’ll know in a few days whether or not my gamble paid off.


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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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