Is United’s Upgrade System Broken?

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This week I was anxious about two things re: my Labor Day weekend travels – would the airports reopen quickly enough after the hurricane so my flight wouldn’t be cancelled, and would my upgrade on United clear?

I should have known the answer to the second, long before I knew the first. As a United 1K, my upgrade could have cleared as early as the beginning of this week, 96 hours out. It didn’t. Ok, so with all the craziness surrounding Hurricane Isaac, I figured they might be holding inventory for people whose flights were cancelled. Fair enough.

Last night I found out the airports had re-opened, YAY! But my upgrade still hadn’t cleared, even though the flight was only half full and 4 seats in first were available. After a long week, I really wanted the comfort of a larger seat and complimentary snacks and beverages, so I decided to call and see if I could apply one of my expiring regional premier upgrades (RPU).

Surprisingly the wait time was non-existent and a helpful agent informed me I could upgrade using my RPU. I then asked if she knew why the complimentary upgrades hadn’t gone through and she checked. As she opened my record, that apparently triggered the upgrade and I soon had an aisle seat up front for free!

I had her check the return which was already within the 96 hour mark, but those (much scarcer) first class seats are apparently still being held and can’t be had for RPU’s or status yet.

I mentioned this experience to a friend, who pointed me to Matthew Flint’s series of posts on this problem. One of his commenters helped shed some light on what was going on:

“It’s very simple — there is someone ahead of you in the CPU queue who has a ticket ‘out of sync’ issue. This prevents the entire CPU process from running at the pre-determined times.”

No surprise that someone on a flight to the Louisiana area might have a ticket out of sync this weekend!

In the comments on Matthew’s next post, Dan gives several tips and does a nice job of summarizing how the upgrades happen. For those of us less familiar with travel terms and acronyms, the take away is that United’s system is buggy, and you may not get the upgrades you’re entitled to.


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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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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: More On United’s Upgrade Glitch

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