OMG: Is This The Longest Upgrade List Ever?

Filed Under: United

Airlines are offering a lot of extra capacity to Las Vegas this coming week, given that CES 2020 is taking place there from January 7-10, 2020.

The Consumer Electronics Show is one of the most well known conferences out there, and airlines not only add capacity on existing routes, but they even operate special routes just for the event, like Delta flying from Tokyo to Las Vegas direct this coming week.

Well, tomorrow morning’s United flight from Newark to Las Vegas (UA671, departing at 7AM) will be operated by a Boeing 777-200. This is United’s highest density 777-200, featuring a total of 364 seats — that includes 28 seats in business class, and 336 seats in economy.

It’s kind of cool that United publishes their upgrade lists online, so what does the upgrade list look like for this flight? All 28 business class seats are occupied (with zero people having been upgraded), and there are a total of 183 people on the upgrade list.

I’ve seen some long upgrade lists in my day, though I’ve never seen a list even nearly that long. At United, all MileagePlus elite members are eligible for upgrades (including Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Premier 1K members), so that means well over half of the economy passengers (~55%) likely have MileagePlus status.

While that’s the longest upgrade list in absolute terms, it’s interesting to compare that to other Newark to Las Vegas flights tomorrow:

  • The 8:29AM flight is operated by a 757-200 with 153 economy seats, and 86 people are on the upgrade list (~56%)
  • The 10:08AM flight is operated by a 737-900 with 159 economy seats, and 84 people are on the upgrade list (~53%)
  • The 12:30PM flight is operated by a 737-900 with 159 economy seats, and 98 people are on the upgrade list (~62%)

Has anyone ever seen upgrade lists even nearly as long as any of the above?

(Tip of the hat to @AirlineFlyer & @j_feller)

  1. I have seen lists exceeding 50 for flights going between hubs or almost any major city’s airport to ORD and greater than 75 for routes like BOS-SFO, but I’ve never seen so many As you’ve shown here. Wow.

  2. I’ve seen upgrade lists with over 100 people on it for the 5:20 or so pm iad-sfo. Typically a 777. Routine on most Thursdays. Also keep in mind that the upgrade list, in addition to having revenue customers, has any non rev passengers as well who have listed themselves for a premium cabin. They’re at the end of the list after the revenue pax, but United doesn’t demarcate the difference.

  3. @UA-NYC. I just looked at that seat map and thought yikes. 10 across in eco and the infamous 8 across in Biz.

    I happened to check BOS-LAS on JetBlue since at least you get some legroom. $2,293 for Mint on a couple flights! That’s the highest Mint price I’ve ever seen to or from BOS. Of course it was over $4,000 out of NYC,

  4. Ugh my biggest pet peeve with American airlines. Too many upgrades, makes their product feel cheap as shit (it is) and crowded.

  5. Pretty sure this is why UA continues to make it harder and harder to status. Other airlines will follow. Until plane travel declines expect it to continue

  6. @Ethflyer what on earth are you talking about, this article is about United Airlines. And AA doesn’t upgrade all their elites, unlike DL or UA. you’ll never see a list this long on AA.

  7. Anyone know a list of all the cool CES flights? I think UA having a 753 lap SJC-LAS is pretty awesome, as are all the DL WB ATL-JFK positioning flights (tomorrow’s a good day to be flying ATL-JFK!)

  8. Tony if you spent 1 second longer to think about it (maybe 10 in your case) you’d realize that I am talking about all American carriers. And yes AA is always full because of upgrades, aure not 183, but still too many.

  9. I remember a Monday AM flight from MSP to DTW on NW around 2005. On a DC-9-30, the gate agent said “We will not be having elite boarding this morning, since there are 91 elites checked in.”

    Gotta be up there in terms of percentage of passengers, as this was configured F 16 Y 84.

  10. Cheap as shit and crowded is what happens when “upgrades” are free…Anyone who didn’t see this coming when the policies changed years ago doesn’t understand business…

  11. Not all that surprising for UA. I was on a Thursday evening DEN-SFO flight a couple of months ago with an upgrade list pushing 150 and everything in business full. That’s another 777 route.

  12. I’ve seen a 100+ upgrade list on IAD – SAN on a 737 …. I was around number 20 as a 1K on a Y ticket. My guess was that 75% of the plane had status.

  13. Flew SJC-DEN some time back. The ENTRIRE flight was boarding group #1 or #2. Not a single seat in 3+.

  14. Monday morning – IAH to LAX on a 787. I was a 1k, and I believe my upgrade spot was in the 60’s. The grouip 2 line was most of the plane.

  15. God didn’t have anything to do with that “omg” but satan might have “oms”. The worst I’ve ever seen was about 70 on the list for LAX-DFW on AA on a 787 connecting from Japan.

  16. United Airlines will upgrade absolutely anybody. I have seen more little children with their own seats in first class lately then adults on some flights. It is absolutely ridiculous and has diminished the quality of first-class to practically nothing worth paying for anymore.

  17. Even as a 1K, Y fare and down, you can pretty much forget an upgrade of any kind on United on trans-con flights.

  18. It will be worse next year.
    Every single broom salesman in the US will be elite. It will only take a couple of work trips to get silver ($5000 worth of OPM)

  19. I am sure this flight sold out in F, but just an FYI, UA typically only shows upgrades on the list which clear at time of check-in or later. Anyone who clears before 24 hours out is usually removed from the list (Gold status and higher are eligible for clearing in advance of check-in).

  20. An awful lot of whinging on this topic. Just buy first, it is like this every year for CES. Oh, and first and flexible econ were the same price. But, the comment is interesting – a lot a status fliers heading to Vegas this week. The airlines should get booths and try and pull the big hitters from each other….

  21. In 2012, I relocated to STL from DFW. On my first flight back to DFW, 22 checked in F and 50 something waitlisted on a 757. Just a lowly lifetime Gold, this was an epiphany about my status. Since that moment, over time SWA has become my carrier of choice.

  22. I used to commute ATL-LGA regularly. DL flights would often have UG lists indicating the entire plane had status. 130+ on an M88.

  23. Ben,
    Have you thought about doing a piece of the worthlessness of United’s Global Upgrade certificates?
    They never seem to clear, and all they’re good for is to scam a lot of flyers into paying the extra for an upgradeable fare, in the mistaken belief of the “Myth” of a United International upgrade.

  24. I’ve sat B and E seat as a gold on Delta in the back on many a flight between ATL-MSP on a Friday afternoon. Wedged between Diamonds. Don’t even bother looking at the upgrade list it’s 80 or more deep. Other flights I’m the only medallion member and get upgraded to first more often than not.

  25. I love the entitlement of Americans. If you want to fly up front, how about paying for it? That’s why I love international travel on normal airlines and seeing Americans get irate they don’t get upgraded despite there being empty seats up front.

  26. Jt said, United Airlines will upgrade absolutely anybody. I have seen more little children with their own seats in first class lately then adults on some flights. It is absolutely ridiculous and has diminished the quality of first-class to practically nothing worth paying for anymore.

    I’m a 1k with United and have never experienced this. Do you think that United would chose a child over a GS or 1k, I don’t think so. I feel lucky to only fly in paid business so I earn status but rarely am able to use what use to be called Global upgrades. I have seen many times a GS preboarding going back to economy so somebody thinking about an upgrade from silver status is dreaming.

  27. I’ve done CLT-PHX with about 70-75 pax on the upgrade list on AA on the 332,
    Monday morning. Lax-dfw gets crowded as well, but I don’t recall anything above 70ish

  28. @John

    I agree that Americans are often entitled, but I don’t think this article was about entitlement. Rather, it seems to be about the large number of elites on this flight combined with United’s rather liberal upgrade policies.

  29. One time at MSP (maybe it was still NWA), I barreled in front of dozens of people that I assumed were non-elite gate lice. Once I was in front and among the first of the elites to board, I looked up ams saw that the upgrade standby list was over 70 and that I had cut in front of many people. Whoops!

  30. Before CES there was Comdex. And I remember having a ticket for LAS-SNA that said its fare code was neither Y, J, nor F. No, it was COMDEX.

  31. @John not sure where you’re flying but InterEurope “up front” isn’t worth paying for and in all my years of travel the most irate travellers arguing about not getting upgrades were on CX and CA.

  32. @Bryan domestic US is not worth paying for either, so that means I should just get, or let me rephrase, deserve a free upgrade? All of you “frequent fliers” are delusional.

  33. I was on the final 747 flight from ord-sfo and 80% of the flight was employees. I was the only upgrade being 1K. There where over 200 on the list.

  34. Also that time of the year where there are tons of elites, including people who will lose status end of the month.

  35. Not an upgrade list record, but was flying EWR to SFO and guy in biz next to me asked that his drink be first, saying “I’m a Global Services member”. Flight attendant replied back, “so is 90% of this cabin today, sir.” 50+ people upgrade list is frequent on this route, especially on redeyes

  36. The best part of United is that you can often just skip the upgrade line completely by taking the cash buy offer on check-in. I do that all the time while 1k’s sit and wonder why they never clear the list.

  37. There are way too many “status” flyers nowadays. Frequent flyers and upgrades used to never be this ridiculous, but the advent of airline-branded credit cards and the multitude of ways people can acquire miles now makes the whole thing abhorrent. Every flight I take, the list is chocked full of people, no matter the destination. The entire experiment of frequent flyer clubs was created to give perks only to an airline’s “very best and most loyal” flyers. You felt special to have it. It felt exclusive. Now, everyone has it, so it’s no longer special or exclusive. There is no point to it all anymore.

  38. Don’t forgot Endre travels first class only (paid not with the points game) and his favourite products are:
    Cathay Pacific

    P.s. love you Endre. Had to make this comment because you didn’t mention your first class shenanigans on this post

  39. @Endre You Did Rlly Well Today

    What first class?
    In busy days like CES everyone brags flying first. No big deal anymore as @Endre and Carlos #FliesPrivate.

    His name says it call, Carlos Gone!!!!

    You all just got owned.
    Japan just got owned.

  40. The whining in the comments is incredible. I see the same whining when it comes to crowded lounges.

    1) Newsflash, more people have the money, time and desire to travel than ever before. Ultimately that’s a good thing. It’s no longer exclusive to travel.

    2) If people wanted to CES on less crowded airlines, all they had to do was go to Vegas early. Take the Saturday morning flight for example. For conferences that start on a Monday, I almost always fly in Saturday morning or afternoon.

  41. Since no one seems to have mentioned it – UAs employees on standby appear on the upgrade list. We really dont have a good idea of how many were revenue upgrades vs employee standby

  42. My wife is on this flight this morning. She is not a large person, rarely ever complains about airline seats. First thing she texts me when she gets on the plane “Omg seats on this plane are tiny!”.

  43. Why even bother with worrying about upgrades between major hubs or major routes? The chances are slim to none. If you want to fly biz, you need to buy a biz ticket. Its nice if once in a blue moon an upgrade come through, but upgrades seem the least valuable part of a Frequent Flyer program.

  44. I’m going back about 15 years ago. The choices to fly out of Huntsville, AL were Delta to Atlanta (about 6 times a day) or drive to another city. Delta must have loved the city as they had a Sky Club for 6 flights!

    Friday 6 pm flight out, fully booked flight has ONE non-elite flyer. So the upgrade list was 99% of the coach cabin (about 100 people on DC-9). The non-elite flyer was a colleague. After boarding all the levels of elite-dom, the gate agent literally said, “Okay Frank you can board”

  45. When everyone is elite, no one is elite. You have to wonder when people will wake up that being elite on Ua/aa/ delta doesn’t mean jack. Just buy the cheapest j ticket and call it a day.

  46. Glad I don’t need to fly in until Wednesday – upgrade already cleared.

  47. You can see the non-revs on the ‘Standby’ list. Then cross-reference that list to the upgrade standby list, and that’s the non-revs on the flight. Typically, standby for F or J will bump you to the top of the standby list.

  48. These days of free upgrades needs to stop now. If you want to fly First of Business, pay for it. That was the worst idea airlines ever had.

  49. Tony says:
    January 5, 2020 at 6:25 pm
    @Ethflyer what on earth are you talking about, this article is about United Airlines. And AA doesn’t upgrade all their elites, unlike DL or UA. you’ll never see a list this long on AA.

    They mis-spoke a common mistake for US residents… they meant to say U.S.A. Airlines

  50. Kevin is correct. As a 3 million / 1K flyer on United, the upgrade certificates / points are useless. The only way to fly first is to pay for it. They suckered people into liking the terrible first class product, and when you can’t upgrade, you now pay for it !!

  51. Whatever JT. Sorry my chid who I buy a first class ticket for diminishes your flying experience. She is more well behaved than most adults and has flown more paid miles than most adults. Find another airline to fly!

  52. LOL, the last time I upgraded my coach tic to 1st class for an EWR to PDX nonstop it was a waste of miles. The product and service was SO mediocre that I just use my miles for economy flights. It wasn’t worth the miles to upgrade for a purely pedestrian meal and a flight attendant who disappeared into the galley for nearly the entire flight. I was totally ignored except for the utter basic necessity of putting a plate down and picking it up.

  53. 126 people for Delta’s noon flights from ATL to LAS today. Only noticed as I was waaayyy down the list and have reasonable status!

  54. Doesn’t this just mean that the flight has a lot of people on it who have a United Mileage Plus account? Everyone hear is acting like it is the end of days but if you have an account wouldn’t you want to be on the list? Or is it better to be left off and wonder where you would be if you were listed?

  55. Wow, I’ve never seen that many. MSP is my hometown airport, and often I’ll see long upgrade lists for any Delta flights to cities such as ATL, LAS, SEA, LAX, SLC, SFO, but I’ve never seen one over the 100’s before. I think my record was seeing 83 on the upgrade list for a MSP-SLC flight I took, and I was in the 40’s as a Gold Medallion!

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