Using United GPUs To Upgrade Lufthansa Flights — Change In Procedure

Filed Under: Lufthansa, United

While several airlines issue upgrade instruments, they can typically only be applied for travel on that airline. United Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) are unique in that they can be applied for travel on Lufthansa as well, which is United’s transatlantic joint venture partner. As a reminder, GPUs are the upgrade vouchers that Premier 1K members receive six of each year just for qualifying for status.

Use United GPUs for upgrades on Lufthansa

Up until now the process of using United upgrades on Lufthansa has been cumbersome. You needed to request a paper voucher, and it would only clear on a space available basis day of departure — there was no way to confirm the upgrade in advance.

Via UA Insider on FlyerTalk, United has now changed the process for how GPUs can be applied for travel on United:

  • Lufthansa GPU requests will be electronic: No more paper certificates. Starting today, you may go to the Lufthansa GPU page on to learn more about the process and link to an online portal where you can request your upgrade. The request may be made as soon as your ticket is issued, up to 10 hours before flight departure.
  • Please note: The online process works for flights marketed with a Lufthansa flight number (e.g. LH431). For codeshare flights marketed by United (e.g. UA8837, operated by Lufthansa), please contact the MileagePlus Service Center to make the request, rather than going online.
  • Paper certificates remain valid for a very limited time: Lufthansa will retain limited capability to accept paper certificates for flights through January 31, 2015. However, acceptance is at Lufthansa’s discretion and may vary based on station capability, so we highly recommend you convert to the online process as soon as possible. If you currently have paper certificates already issued for future flights, please mail them back to using the return address on the front of the certificate, with a request that they be re-deposited to your account for future use. After today, we will no longer issue paper certificates.
  • Lufthansa handles clearance priority: Your request may be confirmed instantly if upgrade seats are available. If upgrade seats are not available, you may choose to be placed on Lufthansa’s internal upgrade waitlist.
  • Please note: Currently, waitlist requests will remain valid until 10 hours before departure. If Lufthansa does not clear your upgrade request by this time, we will automatically re-deposit the GPU into your account.

You can find a more detailed description of the changes on the Lufthansa Global Premier Upgrade page on

The pros of GPUs on Lufthansa:

  • The upgrades are now electronic, so the process will be easier
  • The upgrades can now be cleared at the time of booking, as opposed to only at check-in, pending availability (I would expect that upgrade space is the same as saver award space, which can be looked up on the ANA tool)
  • The certificates will continue to be valid for upgrades from economy to business class, and not for upgrades to premium economy class, which Lufthansa is now progressively introducing throughout their fleet

The cons of GPUs on Lufthansa:

  • United has made the fare classes eligible for upgrades on Lufthansa more restrictive — unlike before, V fares no longer qualify (the following fare classes are now ineligible for these kinds of upgrades: L, T, X, I, R, N, S, W, Z, P, K, O, ID, AD, IP and V)
  • Upgrades can only clear between the time of booking and 10 hours of departure, so you can’t clear less than 10 hours before departure, even if there are empty seats

Bottom line

All things considered I’d say these changes are kind of a wash. The increase in fare class requirements and inability to upgrade within 10 hours of departure sucks. at the same time, being able to confirm a Lufthansa upgrade in advance is awesome. So I think whether this is good or bad news depends on your specific travel patterns.

Lufthansa 747-8 business class

How do you feel about these changes to how United GPUs on Lufthansa are processed?

  1. To even things up with them taking out upgrades within 10 hours, find a flight with space, book it, if upgrade not confirmed within 24 hours, cancel and refund flight.
    Willing to bet they will shortly change upgrades so none are instantly confirmed.

  2. Some business wag once noted that margin=mystery. I’ve had great success with the cumbersome paper cert process. Ensuring you got those upgrades also required understanding how Lufthansa caters food for business class (I won’t bore readers with the details). I’ll bet that this improvement will increase the general availability of upgrades for others and decrease it for those of us that had the old process down.

  3. hey mr. lucky ,

    im in med school in GND , i read your blog while i study all the time.. anyway u have an extra aa SWU so i can get home in style? i would forever be grateful! shoot me an email if ya do!

    p.s : one day i hope to do to my dad what you did to urs! you ROCK!!


  4. What does the loss in being able to upgrade V fares do to The fare spread for these so called complimentary upgrades? Would be nice if one of the bloggers can do an analysis on what exactly it costs to buy up with these certs?

  5. to see upgrade availability: do you search for I inventory (award seats)? I can’t find any information about this anywhere…

  6. @ dmodemd — The difference really varies based on the market, but I’d say on average it’s a $200-400 difference for a roundtrip.

  7. @ augias — The information hasn’t been published, but my assumption would be that it’s “I” inventory that’s needed.

  8. Which Lufthansa booking class is current needed to be eligible for an upgrade?

    As of August 10, 2015, I got the following reply from United:
    “I regret we do not have a list of the valid fares when using a GPU on
    The Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) are not valid on the following
    Lufthansa fares: L, T, X, I, R, N, E, S, W, Z, P, K, O, ID, AD and IP
    (these are subject to change without notice)”

    So, does this mean that GPU’s cannot be used on Lufthansa flights?

  9. Dear lucky

    Are the Mileage GPU upgrade good for the entire one way or just one segment on Lufthansa flights. so for eg. DEN-FRA-DEL. Will i need 2 upgrades or 1 upgrade to upgrade the entire segment.

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