I won’t get to witness UA’s new UDU program first-hand until Friday (my upgrades are waitlisted, BTW), but my brother traveled from FRA-IAD-LAX on United yesterday. He is a Premier and was traveling on an H-fare–an upper-end Economy ticket.
Sunday is generally not a good day to travel from Europe to the U.S. if you want to upgrade, especially during the spring break period, so it came as no surprise when his SWU-sponsored upgrade did not clear for the transatlantic flight.
What surprised me was that he had to sit in the back on UA947, the evening three-cabin 777 from Dulles to Los Angeles. A SWU was applied three weeks before the trip, which has always has resulted in upgrade clearance in the past, usually well before departure the date. Not this time, though. Even though 15 Business Class seats remained just an hour before departure (and more than 30 unassigned seats when the upgrade was requested), he was #35 on the waitlist because UA’s same-day upgrade processing is determined by status. You would think UA would clear SWU upgrades in the days before departure: better to collect a SWU than give a free ugprade, no? But that wasn’t the case this time at least. I guess that is good news for 1Ks like me.
Glad it was not me spending the extra money for that H-fare, though.
Bottom line, it looks like Premiers are going to find it very hard to upgrade on UA now, especially on hub-to-hub flights. Unless you can confirm an upgrade in advance, I wouldn’t chance it by buying a higher fare class–it probably is not going to help your chances. Even if you are applying a CR-1 or SWU, make sure you have a comfortable seat in Economy.