As I posted yesterday, United is ending 500-mile upgrade certificates and going to unlimited complimentary upgrades.
This change on its own is on the whole good for 1K (100,000 mile) flyers. They won’t have limited free upgrades, having to pick and choose which domestic flights to use them on. It’s not good for lower-tiered elites, who will now have to compete against 100,000-mile flyers (and Global Services members) on every flight.
Unsurprisingly, though, this change comes along with some other tweaking which is not good.
As speculated yesterday, confirmed regional upgrades go away. Currently 1K members get up to 8 of these a year (promotions aside) and they’re good for confirming a domestic (including Hawaii) upgrade at time of booking from any fare. While there are no more 500 mile upgrades to worry about, there are no more special domestic confirmed upgrades either, there will be far fewer upgrades at booking and more upgrades pushed to the complimentary upgrade window.
Of course any Mileage Plus member can use miles to upgrade domestically, elite or not, but mileage upgrades will have a co-pay next year — and in the case of Hawaii the co-pay is hefty.
It’s also worth noting that United’s p.s. flights from JFK to San Francisco and Los Angeles are not part of the complimentary upgrade scheme. The only way to upgrade those flights will be miles (with a co-pay) or Systemwide upgrades (which feels like such a waste). Glad I don’t usually have to fly this route. And frankly p.s. service has been so degraded that I’d prefer first class on a standard route utilizing three-cabin equipment (and even business class on that same route provided it’s on a 3-cabin 767 or 747).
At the top tier, speciifc routes flown notwithstanding, I now consider American’s Executive Platinum level superior to United’s 1K. Both get unlimited complimentary domestic upgrades. American’s 100,000 mile flyers get 8 systemwide upgrades while United’s get 6, and American’s are valid on even more fares than United’s. The only benefit to United, then, is routes flown. If you want to upgrade to Asia United is a better bet for instance. Of course American has much more of Latin America covered.