United’s Unlimited Domestic Upgrade program has launched, and went into effect today.
The most common question being asked is, “What happened to my 500-mile upgrade certificates?”
For elites, those all went poof. General members and Premier Associates (“3P”‘s) keep theirs and can still use them as before, through the end of their validity date. No more electronic 500-mile upgrade certificates are being sold.
Elites who back in 2007 registered to continue having their 500 mile upgrade certificates converted to miles upon expiration should still see that happen — in a week or so. Certs have gone poof, miles not yet in account, indication is that they will be, but of course only for those who (a) registered to continue to receive the miles on expirattion of the upgrade certains and (b) who have remained elite Mileage Plus members continuously since that time.
When the 500-mile upgrades were paper, you could mail them in on expiration for 250 miles. Then when they went electronic, expiring 500 mile ugprades were worth 500 miles in the Mileage Plus program, and converted automatically. United announced that they were pulling this benefit and elites revolted — imagine an Australia-based elite member with virtually no opportunity to use their 500 mile upgrades but earning perhaps 40 per year. Eliminating the benefit would have cost them 20,000 frequent flyer miles per year, a real kick in the guts. So United said that those who were unhappy with the change and who knew about the offer could register. Those who didn’t, and whose e-500s are expiring now, don’t receive anything.
I really do think that with United’s “p.s.” service flights between New York-JFK and San Francisco/Los Angeles not eligible for unlimited domestic upgrades, that they should have allowed electronic 500-milers to continue so that elites could at least continue to use those on p.s. flights.
Soon United elites and Continental elites will have upgrade reciprocity (
with United Premier Executives trumping Continental Golds on both airlines!). That means that United elites will have a chance (albeit a remote one!) of upgrading automatically from Newark – Los Angeles/San Francisco on Continental… but not JFK-Los Angeles/San Francisco on United. Surreal. (Of course, United elites will be able to upgrade on United flights in and out of Newark.)
One other minor item — since the upgrades are automatic, with no request necessary, if you don’t want the upgrade then you have to contact United reservations to have them cancel the request.
Also, remember that while these are referred to as Unlimited Domestic Upgrades they’re actually ‘Region 1‘ upgrades, so Mexico/Canada/Carribean/Central America are eligible.
For United elites flying in the next few days, how is the Unlimited Domestic Upgrade program working for you?