United Cuts Elite Upgrades On Some Hawaii Flights

Filed Under: United

Different U.S. carriers have different policies when it comes to complimentary upgrades on flights to Hawaii. For example, American allows elite upgrades on all routes to Hawaii, while Delta only allows elite upgrades to Hawaii on their flights out of Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Seattle.

Well, it looks like United is making some changes to their complimentary elite upgrade policy for flights to Hawaii:

As of December 8, 2016: All Chicago (ORD) and Denver (DEN) Hawaii flights departing on or after March 1st, 2017 will no longer be eligible for Complimentary Premier Upgrades or Instant upgrades. West coast routes between Hawaii and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) will continue to eligible for both Complimentary Premier Upgrades and Instant Upgrades.

Prior to this United didn’t allow complimentary elite upgrades on Hawaii flights out of Houston, Newark, and Washington Dulles, given that these routes have been operated by aircraft featuring fully flat beds in business class (not to mention that Newark to Honolulu is a long flight).

With this change, United will only be offering complimentary elite upgrades on Hawaii flights departing from Los Angeles and San Francisco.


This change is fairly logical given that United is in the process of installing flat beds on their existing domestic 777s, meaning that the flights from Chicago and Denver to Hawaii will feature flat beds pretty soon.

The flights from Chicago and Denver are tough complimentary upgrades anyway, given the number of people paying for first class and confirming upgrades to Hawaii. So while it’s certainly a negative change on the surface, at the same time it’s not like upgrade chances were great before this.


Bottom line

Now that United has made this change, neither Delta nor United offer complimentary upgrades to Hawaii, except for flights from the west coast (we’re including Salt Lake City with that). However, American continues to offer elite upgrades on all flights to Hawaii, including out of Dallas. Given the copycat attitude U.S. airlines take, you have to wonder if American will match…

How do you feel about United’s Hawaiian upgrade policy change?

(Tip of the hat to CMK10 and View from the Wing)

  1. I’ve heard many times that UA will upgrade their domestic 777s to include flat beds in biz but, which ones will they be? The old UA 8 across seats, the old CO B/E diamond seats or, the polaris seats?

  2. @Andrew
    yes….its been that way since Continental. Smallest plane that can fly that route is a 767.

  3. Big mistake. It will alienate frequent business travelers that are looking to take a vacation and/or with family, etc. Only to get turned away from an upgrade after being loyal all year long as road warriors.

  4. Either DEN and ORD needed to go this way or IAH needed to go complimentary elite upgrade. The notion that legacy CO midcon Continental routes didn’t get complimentary upgrades and mid-con legacy UA routes did was something that should have been done away with a long, long time ago.

  5. As of January, ONLY EWR and IAD have lie flat on UA to HNL. This may be temporary, but look at flights on January 14-16, for example.

  6. UA downgraded the IAH flight from Houston to HNL a while back. It went from a Continental 767 with lie flat seats to a united 777 with their crappy Barco loungers. Outbound out of IAH you can rarely find award availability anyway in business and the mileage is ridiculous for a crappy seat. American out of DFW to OGG currently is my way to go.

  7. I have been monitoring DFW HNL & DFW OGG for almost a year, Rarely are there any EXP Systematic upgrades on AA123, AA5, AA7 or AA119. Few and Far Between. Appears that in most cases First Class is already booked full with either Paid FC or AA Awards.

  8. @DaninMCI – Like Lucky mentions, I don’t think many United elites would expect a CPU to clear on that route anyway. I’m a 1K and I certainly wouldn’t count on it.

  9. I scored the upgrade 3 times in 2013 between ORD & HNL as UA gold. Haven’t been to hawaii much since then.

  10. I think it is horrible. A 9 + hour flight from ORD and no meals and now no upgrades. Yet to use miles for upgrades they want to charge you $500 + 30,000 miles each way. As a gold member I an very disappointed. Last time I flew I got upgraded and I didn’t realize this changed until I checked into my flight. It is impossible to find this information on the web site too. BIG fail United. I know this is considered a “vacation” destination but many business travelers flew many miles to get their status they deserve to be treated right on this flight. At 9+ hours you shouldn’t treat this as a domestic flight it should have the same service as your other long haul flights. Makes me not want to go back to Hawaii to be treated like cattle on such a long flight

  11. I have booked a flight from OGG to ORD on United November 25, the seat map is showing lie flat seats in herringbone configuration, but seat guru is showing recliner style, it looks like only Sat. flights out of OGG are lie flat, anyone know for sure?

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