United Airlines has changed their Regional Premier and Global Premier upgrade system, replacing them with Plus Points instead. And now it’s not just 1K flyers that benefit.
Replacement Upgrade System: Plus Points
Matthew spilled plenty of ink on the new PlusPoints system in a great post here. To boil it down to the simplest terms, Global Premier Upgrades (GPU) and Regional Premier Upgrades (RPU) were distibuted to 1K members to push them to the front of the line for upgrades. Those have been replaced by a point system that allows more fluidity in upgrade usage.
Instead of (6) GPUs and (4) RPUs, 1K members will earn 40 points per GPU and 20 points per RPU or a total pool of 320 Plus Points.
United Closes Down Their Only Upgrade Deficiency
The one area where I would have graded Mileage Plus lower than other programs in the past was in the (W) fare requirement for using upgrade certificates. Meaning, the cheapoest (not just Basic Economy but regular economy too) fares didn’t allow for GPUs to be applied. Sometimes the fare difference could be hundreds of dollars and still, the upgrade isn’t confirmed. If an economy fare between New York and Hong Kong is available for $500, a W fare (still economy – same earnings, same seat) might cost $800-900. Multiply the fare difference times three or four people and you have significantly increased the cost of your trip.
Even then, your upgrade may not clear. That goes away with Plus Points.
I rarely use RPUs. Some United flyers are able to use them on trans-continental flights and even to Hawaii. Personally, I find myself wanting to use them for something adventurous in Central America or maybe into Micronesia but just haven’t found the time to use them. In my case, I burn RPUs on silly routes like Pittsburgh-Houston toward their expiration date.
With the new system, I can use those points for long-haul upgrades instead.
Upgrades Now Extend Down to Platinums
Even United Mileage Plus Platinum Premiers require 75,000 Premier-qualifying miles and $9,000 Premier-qualifying dollars. Each year, Platinums will earn 40 Plus Points upon qualifying, enough to move from coach to Polaris business class or two regional upgrades from coach to business class. They will earn just 280 upon later qualifying for 1K status as I understand the terms.
Which US Frequent Flyer Program Is Better Than Mileage Plus?
American awards just four eVIPs (systemwide upgrades) to their Executive Platinum customers. There are no fare restrictions, one of their strengths, but for my family of three, this isn’t even enough for one roundtrip upgrade for my family. Regardless of the quantity, American has made them nearly useless by not clearing them very often and certainly not in advance. My last two years as an Executive Platinum I was unable to use a single one for myself.
Delta offers some flexibility for their Diamond members, either four Global Upgrades, eight Regional Upgrades or a combination of two Global Upgrades and four Regional Upgrades but there is a bit of a minefield to those as well. First, Diamonds have a higher requirement (125,000 miles instead of 100,000 with the others), second, more upgrades are offered than American but less than the old United system (now significantly less.)
- One Upgrade Certificate can put you on a single waitlist or multiple waitlists – from a specific cabin on a particular flight to multiple cabins on multiple flights. But, your upgrade will only clear off of ONE waitlist and will be based on the FIRST seat that becomes available across all of the waitlists the Certificate is listed on.
- For example, if you are waitlisted on DTW-NRT and also JFK-LAX with one certificate, if a seat becomes available on the DTW-NRT flight you will be upgraded on that flight and you will no longer be waitlisted on the JFK-LAX flight as the certificate has been used.
- Or, if you are waitlisted for both Delta One and Delta Premium Select on your DTW-NRT flight, if a seat in Delta Premium Select becomes available first, you will be upgraded to Delta Premium Select and you will no longer be waitlisted for Delta One as the certificate has been used.
United is the program to beat. American and Delta offer nothing that United doesn’t. The new flexibility isn’t just better than what Delta offers, it’s far better. Further, even Platinums get in the game and have an opportunity to occasionally secure upgrades that no other carrier does.
What do you think? Is this a welcome change? If you’re a 1K elite, do you wish that these benefits were not extended to Platinums? Is there an objectively better US frequent flyer program?