The new Mileage Plus program doesn’t start until the beginning of March, I’ve ranted on this before, but the thing I like least about it (beyond taking economy plus-at-booking away from first-tier elites) is that upgrade priority now factors in how you’re paying for the upgrade even ahead of elite status.
In other words, a general member burning miles they earned from their United Visa trumps a 1K. I’m expecting that to be the death knell for 1K complimentary upgrades on smaller planes during peak business travel times.
But is the new algorithm already in effect? Here’s a battlefield report that makes me think that it is — a 1K and a non-status member are on the same reservation. They don’t clear in advance, though their upgrades had been supported by confirmed regionals. At the gate the 1K is number one on the list (1K on a discounted fare but ‘paying’ for their upgrade rather than waiting for it for free). The non-status member is #14, The upgrade list was over 40 people long.
Historically the United method has been that at the airport everyone is on their own status. A non-status member would have been at the very bottom of the pack. But this non-status member, whose upgrade was being supported by a 1K’s confirmed regional, was in the top third.
Since the changes to the Mileage Plus program have been announced I’ve paid less and less attention to it, and more and more time spent learning AAdvantage and also poking around US Airways Dividend Miles (I live about 10 minutes from Washington’s National Airport where US Airways is the dominant carrier, and they’ve added first class to plenty of their regional airports, there’s a certain attraction to the program now). So I admit I have not tracked the progress of changes to upgrade priority in Mileage Plus as closely as I normally would have. Is the new upgrade priority in effect, and driving this example? Or is something else going on here, like higher priority for companions at the airport than in the past, i.e. 1K companions fall below 1Ks but about Premier Executive 75Ks on the airport list? If that were the case, it would be another change from how upgrades worked at pre-merger United as well.