Overlooked in the big announcement yesterday from United introducing PlusPoints was a re-classification of four routes, which will effectively halve the cost of an upgrade on them.
Starting on December 4th, United will move from a system of Global Premier Upgrades and Regional Premier Upgrades to a new points-based program called PlusPoints. You can read all about it here.
> Read More: United Introduces PlusPoints, A New Upgrade Currency
While the focus yesterday was on the flexibility of the new upgrade currency, United also quietly re-defined what a longhaul flight means for purposes of upgrade cost:
Long-haul flights are flights with United Polaris business, including flights between the U.S. and Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand, South America, and Tahiti.
By distinguishing between Polaris and non-Polaris routes, the wording suggested that three longish (but not longhaul) routes that United currently requires a GPU to upgrade will soon require only 20 PlusPoints (the equivalent of a present-day RDU).
- Guam ⇄ Honolulu
- Newark/Houston ⇄ Bogota
- Houston ⇄ Quito
Sure enough, United confirmed this will be the case, essentially halving the cost of upgrades on four routes. These flights do not receive “Polaris” service onboard, including international-style meal service or Saks Fifth Avenue bedding. Only flights between Guam and Honolulu offer lie-flat seating.
In that sense, this adjustment is logical, fair, and should have been made a long time ago. But it does mark progress, even if corrective. Starting on December 4th, these flights will cost less to upgrade than they have since the United-Continental merger.
The devil will be in the details, particularly the threat of dynamic award pricing in years ahead. Still, the upgrade news from United this week is largely positive and the re-classification of these four routes represents another customer-friendly change.