Star Alliance upgrade awards are back for United

As of today, United has brought back Star Alliance upgrade awards, which they got rid of a while back, probably because it cost them too much. While this isn’t all that useful to most of us in almost all cases, this is great for certain types of travelers, especially full fare coach business travelers (which I know there are many of). Basically, you’re able to upgrade a Y or B fare to business classĀ and C or D fares to first class on select Star Alliance airlines. The chart for upgrades from coach to business doesn’t look half bad, actually, but upgrades to first class seem outrageously expensive. Details along with the participating airlines can be found here, while the upgrade award chart can be found here.

Filed Under: Awards, United
  1. I know the FT speculation that the upgrades were eliminated because they cost too much. But if that’s true, why did they bring them back now? Did they negotiate better pricing in the face of empty premium cabins?

  2. My understanding is that Star Alliance upgrades are not negotiated among the whole alliance, but rather among individual airlines. It’s interesting to see the carriers that United has partnered with, as many of them are the “leftovers” of the Star Alliance. That leads me to believe that they were able to negotiate a decent price with those carriers, while they haven’t been able to do with other airlines. United PR even said on FlyerTalk that they’re working on extending the program to other airlines.

  3. Haha, correct Oliver. That’s why I said “many.” I wouldn’t consider those three to be “leftovers.” Nonetheless the fact that you don’t mention the others makes me think we’re on the same page. šŸ˜€

  4. Well they may be back … if you can get them. I spent 40 minutes on the phone with a United Agent to put through a Lufthansa upgrade request.

    Two days and several status check calls later I was informed that the request could not be processed because of insufficient notice (something about paper tickets and needing 10 days to mail them). Wish my work gave me 10 days notice! šŸ™‚ And of course that prior notice information doesn’t appear anywhere on the web site.

    What I don’t get is why this can’t be processed by United at the airport when I check in if it’s too close to the travel date.

    So my advice for anyone trying to do this: Dial the international desk directly (the Mileage Plus people are domestic only), and choose the reservations option from the telephone system. The upgrades option takes you to another domestic-only queue. And good luck!

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