Details on United’s restrictive “BusinessFirst” upgrade policy to Hawaii

While United has long allowed “unlimited domestic upgrades” to be applied on flights from the mainland to Hawaii, Continental operates internationally configured 767s on their routes between Honolulu and Houston/Newark, which they treat as “BusinessFirst” markets. Therefore unlimited domestic upgrades don’t apply on the routes, and the upgrade costs (including co-pays) are steep.

Well, it appears the “new” United will be going the Continental way on those routes. The “BusinessFirst” flights won’t be eligible for upgrades using confirmed regional upgrades. That’s a bit disappointing, given that Premium Service isn’t “unlimited domestic upgrade” eligible either, but confirmed regional upgrades can be applied on that route.

Systemwide upgrades can be applied on the route, though a minimum of a “W” fare will need to be booked in order to be eligible for an upgrade.

So for all practical purposes, Hawaii “BusinessFirst” routes are like any other international routes.

I suppose nothing is “lost” here given that this is the way it was before as well, though my fear is that the new United will operate more internationally configured planes to Hawaii, meaning fewer opportunities for reasonably priced upgrades.

Filed Under: Continental, United
  1. I am a 1K living in Hawaii and have been watching this closely. This is the first step in eliminating UDUs to/from Hawaii. Very disappointing. For those that were excited about this merger, the hits just keep on coming.

  2. I really don’t think United will throw more international birds on the Hawaii routes. That EWR-HNL flight is an exception, so I understand no UDU or CR-1s. I’ll also disagree with Carl and say United will keep the UDUs in place for all other routes. YMMV, as always. šŸ™‚

  3. The fact that United UDU to Hawaii is so easy for almost all UA elites indicates that the market for premium travel to Hawaii is very weak. I can’t see the new UA adding more super-premium seats to that route when they can’t even sell “basic” premium seats.

  4. @Roland – EWR makes sense but not HOU, it’s close to the ORD-OGG/KOA….
    @JetAway – hope your right! I’ll be heading out there over Labor Day wknd.

  5. How hard could it be to base the UDU availability on the type of plane flying the route? If the flight uses an internationally-configured plane like CO’s flights from IAH/EWR, then its not eligible. If it uses a domestic plane, then it is. Yes, there might be times when a plane swap means that it doesn’t work, but those are rare enough that most people would probably take it.

  6. What will happen to 2 class United domestic planes with F and Y(757, 767, etc)and will these be UDU and CR1 elgiible to Hawaii?

  7. @ chasgoose — I think it’s the inconsistency more than anything else that bothers people.

    @ chitownflyer — As of now the domestically configured aircraft will continue to be upgradable through UDU or CR1s.

  8. I don’t really understand some of the CO policies, and this is one of them. I consider domestic a flight to be a flight within the United States, and last time I checked both New Jersey and Hawaii are part of the United States. It is stupid for them to make that a non upgrade eligible flight. Monday I am going DEN-LAX on a newly configured international 777, and my UDU cleared to United Business, so by CO standards this shouldn’t happen because it is an international plane, even though it is on a domestic route.
    One thing I noticed a year or two ago is that CO’s domestic map doesn’t show the routes to Hawaii, but their international map does. Even a few weeks ago when I looked at the route maps, they showed UA flights to Hawaii on the North/Central America map, whereas the international map is where the CO routes are shown. I am not sure if the no UDUs to Hawaii holds true for all CO flights, but that would be a shame if they do, because the “new United” is Continental with a new name and E+ in the next decade some time.
    Sorry for all the rambling.

  9. I predict the Denver and Chicago flights will be the next hammers to fall. And for 1Ks, this merger has been abysmal. Dilution of check-in, boarding, and exit row seating. Loss of 2 regional upgrades. Segment travelers have also seen their qualification criteria increase by 20%.

    In return, we have gotten award chart inflation and significantly higher fares. And still no internet or on-demand video.

  10. It should be noted that this policy falls in line with Delta which also doesn’t do UDU on their Hawaii routes, as well as bars AS from upgrading DL elites on their Hawaiin routes.

    I believe US requires premium ticket, CP certs, or mileage upgrade for Hawaii as well, no UDU either.

    Unsure of AA’s policy here.

  11. I don’t think most elites are unhappy about the flights not being UDU eligible – it’s that you can’t use Confirmed Regional upgrades on them. They shouldn’t be any different than PS flights in that regard.

  12. @Michael

    AA has 4x daily service to Hawaii with internationally configured 763s. The upgrade policy is the same as domestic for elite upgrades: 500 mile upgrades for Gold/Platinum members and free upgrades for Exec. Plats. Mileage upgrades requires a higher copay than within the lower 48 however.

    AA also uses domestic upgrade policy on its 3-class American Flagship Service transcons JFK-LAX/SFO unlike United p.s. as well as to Central America (though these flights tend to be operated by domestic configured planes).

  13. @Carl, 1Ks actually loose 4 CR1s starting next year(post at 75K, then 100K), which is a major reduction of benefits.

    It is one thing to disallow UDU & CR1s on Business First flights. If the combined UA-CO disallows UDU-CR1s on all flights to Hawaii, even those with Y & F(UA 757, 767, 777), then there will be a major uproar. The AA policies and program then begin to look as an attractive alternative.

    Does any one have insight as to whether UA is going to make the non Business First flights to Hawaii ineligible for UDU & CR1s?

  14. This really will have little effect for us as UA/CO prices from California to Hawaii are roughly 100-200% higher than Alaska. So we reluctantly sacrifice UDU for hundreds in savings, and often can get UFC for @ $100 per flight, which is even less than AA’s 500mi “stickers”

    Still sad to see UA/CO continue to gut the value of the program for 1Ks, etc.

  15. @Boraxo – I originate in HNL, where UA is actually price competitive. Otherwise I would switch to AS in a heartbeat, as I love their program.

  16. @ Mike Smith — None do. United just operates domestically configured 767s. Continental operates 762s/764s from Newark and Houston.

  17. I’m a once-a-year Mid-America-Hawaii paid APEX F class flyer. Continental’s BusinesFirst service to the islands is vastly more luxurious then United’s. They can’t/won’t maintain that without the incremental revenue.

    Do not water it down by turning it into “upgrade class”.

    Let the upgraders fly from LAX & SFO on single-aisle domestic a/c.

  18. If they were to add INTL birds on HI-mainland flights (e.g., ORD) I would happily burn a SWU. 10 hours on plane is 10 hours on a plane, and OGG-ORD is further than ORD-LHR.

    I recently took the HNL-EWR flight, and enjoyed it. I wish I could have used a SWU, as instead I bought a BF fare. It would be even better with lie-flat beds…

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