United’s Unlimited Complimentary Domestic Elite Upgrades Began Today

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?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. First flight on Mar/20 (today) ORD-YWG cleared – did not see it until check where it showed “Complimentary Upgrade”.

  2. So far, so good. The u-g cleared on my confirmed itin, but I traveled standby earlier. On the first segment, I asked the gate agent once he cleared me into Y and he immediately put me in F. On the second, I didn’t bother asking. Instead I rode in an otherwise empty exit row on a 757. So it looks like it requires reminding the agents when you do an itin. change, but otherwise, all was good.

  3. I’m a happy 2P. Gate agent upgraded me to C on IAD-ORD Sun. afternoon full flight. Glad I called customer service the day before because I was not automatically waitlisted for UDU on pre-March 19 reservation made via travel agent.

  4. This is another example of United declaring war on its employees. One of my benefits as an employee is to ride standby, including first class. Now, due to unearned upgrades, I’ll never see the first class cabin as a standby.
    Many don’t realize that United and other employees sacrifice pay and other benefits for the privilege of standby travel. As it stands now, a portion of my benefits package has been compromised.
    I sincerely appreciate all of the folks that fly United and support the business enterprise. While at work, I work to make sure you are on-time and arrive safe. But this is a case of pitting my benefits against yours. Mine are earned through work and a benefits package where the travel component is a significant part of that. Using my benefits, my family and I flew more than 80,000 miles in 2009, some in first class. Now, I’ll be lucky to ever see that benefit again.

  5. Matt if you don’t like it quit. I for one was sick and tired of non revs ruining my f class experience.Now if we can only get rid of your intl benefits as well.
    And these upgrades arent unearned just now part of our benefits package.

  6. I know this blog post is old, but i feel like I have to address my grievances. I did know that the unlimited domestic upgrades DID NOT apply to United’s Premium Service from jfk to sfo and lax. I have been upgraded with unlimited domestic upgrades on flights from jfk to lax, so I don’t understand why all of the sudden, my flights from jfk to sfo are not. This makes no sense to me. I write a travel blog and have actual visual proof of being on the unlimited domestic upgrade request list when flying from jfk to lax on United premium service. Check it out: http://hilarioustravel.blogspot.com/2010/08/shittalkn-mushrooms.html

  7. @Aaron you wrote in your blog post, “There were, on both flights, a lot of “people” awaiting standby for seats in economy plus.” Right. You received an OPERATIONAL upgrade. They had too many people in coach and empty premium seats so they gave you a free upgrade in order to get the most # of people out on the plane. They did it for operational reasons, not because you were entitled to it.

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