I love United’s “unlimited domestic upgrades!”

When United first announced unlimited domestic upgrades earlier in the year, I was pretty pessimistic about it. I had a pretty good upgrade percentage before as a 1K, and I was scared that the new program would ruin that. Why? First of all, a lot of people didn’t know how to use their upgrades efficiently. The system was so complicated that those that were “in the know” could do very well, while the more clueless people didn’t do so well. Along the same lines, I’m betting there were a lot of elites that had no clue they even had upgrade instruments, while they’re now getting upgraded on nearly every flight.

While the Premier member flying mostly hub-to-hub is probably a bit disappointed that the upgrades don’t seem to clear an “unlimited” number of times, I’ve been pretty damn happy. I’ve cleared a complimentary upgrade on every single one of my domestic flights — that’s 46 flights since the program started. Not only that, but my math brain gets to rest as I no longer need to figure out the most efficient use of 500 mile upgrades.

So as a 1K I couldn’t be happier. I’ve even cleared all three Airbus 319 transcon upgrades, including last night’s flight from Seattle to Washington Dulles (right after a long weekend). And I’m thinking upgrades will become even easier next year, as there won’t be six months of double elite qualifying miles this year.

Am I just insanely lucky, or does anyone else have similar luck?

Filed Under: United
  1. I’m 21 out of 28. Most if not all of my 7 fails have been either to or from SFO. I even failed to get UDU on a CRJ at the crack of dawn on Sunday….but it was to SFO. I suspect my issue was flying into SFO just before all the Asia flights or just after a lot of the Asia flights…so many of the seats would be filled with Passengers who were flying F or C to Asia….so fewer seats were available for UDU to start with….and if a A319, well forget it. In the future I’m just going to try and avoid connecting in SFO.

  2. 0 for 1…IAD-JFK on an E170, but it was Saturday afternoon on a V fare. I was not amused.

  3. Just flew 3-class 767 ORD-DEN, and I was the only non-rev in F (on a Z fare). Flight went out full. Last glance at departure monitor noted “1 upgrade to clear / 1 seat left”.

    This implies:
    – there were zero paid Business elites
    – there were hardly any elites at all
    – everyone got upgraded

    Tough times for premium paid traffic.

  4. All of my UA UDU’s have cleared as well including flights between IAD and SFO. I really like it b/c I’m now upgraded on flights I would have never “wasted” an e500 on. My Continental EUA record is slightly worse where one redeye SFO-EWR did not clear, but everything else did including two other flights between SFO and EWR. I love UDU!

  5. I am a Premier Exec. I have cleared all but one leg in about 4 trips to WAS/BWI/BNA.

    I am very happy so far…

  6. 12/13 UDU eligible flights. Only missed on a CR7 ORD-DFW on the first day of UDU. Monday morning road warrior special. Only 13 flights in that timeframe makes me realize I fly too much UX. Ugh. Sadly, my only option from my home airport.

  7. I’ve cleared every flight (25+) but a SFO-PHL Friday afternoon A320 on an L fare.

    Life is indeed good as a 1K on UA.

    As an aside, I’ve had to sweat some of them out, but I have a perfect upgrade as a CO Plat this year, including transcons and a Hawaiian flight.

  8. I have only had 2 short hops SFO-LAX LAX-LAS on UDU and both of those cleared. The rest of my flights had already been upgraded with CR1s or A Fares. At this stage, I probably won’t have need to experience UDU until next year, except for the occasional short hops.

  9. My wife and I have yet to fail (25+) a UDU. And my folks (2P’s) are also 3/3.

    I too was skeptical, but I’m becoming convinced. They just need to fix the process to make it more transparent. I *still* don’t know where CR-1’s fall in the process, how the standby / upgrade list works (though I’ve cleared off of it). etc.

  10. Not sure if this is good news or not, but as CO Gold flying SNA-DEN-LGA I was offered F in exchange for 15K miles and $50. I opted in, knowing it was not a great deal, but I had about 40K miles on UA and about 200K on CO, which will eventually merge, of course.

    That, of course, took away a seat on each for UDU hopefuls.

    By the way, I paid for a 1-day pass to the club in DEN. I was NOT impressed. The workstations had chairs with no back support and, worse yet, no power. I had to hunt around for a chair near a power outlet that worked. Then I found the coffee machine was broken. I can only hope the CO club management takes over RCCs.

  11. I had my first UDU fail today (A319) with about 20 segments (incl lots of UX) since UDU started.

  12. UDU has been a blessing for this 1K Lite. Before UDU I could never have amassed so many e-500 certs to cover the upgrades.

    Upgraded 13/14 since inception, including 3 segments on A320 and 1 segment on A319.

    The only failure was IAD-SEA, L-fare on a 752. It was 5:20PM departure. Perhaps those heavy-weight fliers arriving from Europe did me in.

  13. This 1P has cleared on the short stuff (e.g., SFO-DEN, ORD-BDL) and been denied on the long stuff: PHL-LAX (Friday afternoon, S fare, A320) or IAD-SAN (Monday afternoon, K fare, A319) or SFO-EWR (Saturday morning, S fare, A320).

    I’m not complaining (too loudly) though, since not clearing on transcons was kinda expected, and I still get to pre-reserve exit rows. Of course, if anyone wants to throw some UDU karma my way, I’d gladly accept…

  14. Good for you Ben!

    I made Alaska MVP Gold and have been upgraded every flight to Burbank and back over my last 6 sectors. Everyone has had good luck it seems!

  15. I love it as well! Our flights to and fro SFO/KOA both cleared well in advance. And thanks to Ben’s great advice I put our GM son on my 1P husband’s PNR and they cleared at 72 hours. As a lowly 1P I only cleared at 48 hours, but it was awesome.

  16. This 1K started out 1/3 clearing on a IAD-MIA & missing out on UX MIA-ORD & ORD-LGA.

    Since then things have improved a bit, having surprisingly cleared on a 319 LAX-MCO redeye and a prime time LAX-SFO r/t and another SFO-RNO r/t.

    Fwiw, those RNO flights were full in F and had NOBODY in E+.

    I’m still a bit pessimistic about my future flights given my typical L fare trips but perhaps the lucks you folks have had will help me change my perspective.

  17. The most difficult flight to upgrade is SFO-ORD during primetime where one can find some 1K in E- too!

  18. Ben, some self-reporting on UDU outcomes — broken down by elite class and hub-hub vs hub-nonhub — is at http://www.udustats.com/

    One nice feature: you can search any city pair to see the raw data submitted by other flyers on that route.

  19. Have good luck on every routing except IAD-LAX and IAD-SFO. I have yet to get a UDU on those routes even as a 1K. I think the biggest determining factor is the booking class.

  20. But you said previously that you cleared into F every flight that you wanted under the old system. Think of the non-1Ks and their success rate. On the old rules they had a chance using instruments now they stand at the gate and stare up at the upgrade list.

  21. I’m 1P and have cleared 5/6 so far; awesome since I never ever fly in F otherwise. I really think 1Ps have done better under this system than people had originally anticipated. The only one that didn’t clear was a SFO-BOS redeye (and even the 1Ks didn’t clear on that one). I’m loving the UDUs – it’s actually made me even more eager to work on staying a 1P or moving up to 1K this year, since I know I’d have another year of likely upgrades to look forward to (something that *would* probably get lost if I dropped to 2P).

  22. I fly out of AUS so 90% of the time I fail to clear as a 1P b/c they’re all UX. Cleared on a 319 actual United flight AUS-IAD, but I’m also traveling with my husband who’s a 2P, and he won’t let me upgrade if he doesn’t get it either. Had to pass on my upgrade on UX from ORD-AUS on Monday night because it was the last seat. Hope that 2P behind me was happy.

  23. Only missed one, DEN/COS (incredible) but in fairness this was after an irrops re-routed me from EWR/ORD/COS to EWR/DEN/COS (EWR/DEN cleared at the gate).

    I’m amazed that you’ve cleared 3 tcons on an A319. What were the fare bases of those?

  24. Now the program has completely tanked, thanks to the CO merger.

    Thanks, Mr. Smisek. Thanks a lot.

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