In trying to get a head start on elite requalification with United for the year, I’ve done quite a bit of travel this weekend. Since I was returning from my trip on Sunday night, I decided to route through Los Angeles instead of San Francisco when heading back east, since upgrades are usually much easier out of Los Angeles. I booked the Los Angeles to Washington Dulles redeye on United, and figured I had a good shot at the upgrade. Heck, my upgrade percentage was something like 99.4% last year. It was a domestic 767, with 25 empty first class seats before the 1K upgrade window. There can’t possibly be 25 1Ks ahead of me, right? Well, I get to the gate, only to find that I’m number five on the upgrade list with first class checked in full. Guess there were 30+ 1Ks on higher fares than me… and I was even on an “S” fare, which isn’t the lowest fare bucket.
You don’t really appreciate first class until your upgrade doesn’t clear, it seems! On the plus side, the flight was oversold, so I managed to bump and get rebooked on a flight tomorrow. The nice thing about getting bumped isn’t only the $400 in travel credits one receives, but also that the agent will typically rebook you in full fare coach (or sometimes even first class), giving you a great shot at the upgrade, since upgrades are sorted by status, fare class, and then time added to the waitlist.
Let’s just say I had a very by the book agent (which I can’t blame her for), to the point that she called inventory management to open up the original fare class I was booked in. Sure enough, no full fare bonus for me, and I’m waitlisted for upgrades on both segments heading home.
After the agent processed my bump I went to the customer service counter to see where I was on the upgrade list. “Honey, you ain’t on the list,” she said. After pushing the “scroll down” button several more times, she said “oh wait, here you are, you’re number 20 on the upgrade list…. we got a ton of 1Ks lately, it seems.” Not only that, but I have a middle seat in the middle section of five seats on a 777.
Sad to have missed an upgrade so early in the year, happy to have been bumped, and not so happy to be something like number 20 on the upgrade list tomorrow with a center seat in a block of five seats.
There’s no doubt that this time of year is actually among the toughest to get an upgrade, since there are the most 1Ks out there. Those that were 1K last year but dropped down to a lower status level are still 1K for the remainder of the month, and all the new 1Ks have the status as well.
Wish me luck… or at least an aisle seat! And I’m looking forward to February 1.