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TPG reader Neel sent me a message on Facebook to ask about upgrades on United:
“I have United Platinum status; since I get put on the upgrade list automatically for all domestic flights, when is the best time to use my Regional Premier Upgrades?”
Upgrades are one of the prime motivations for earning airline status, as frequent flyers can get premium service while paying coach fares. As an elite member, you’ll typically be added to an upgrade waitlist based on your status level. However, airlines also offer special upgrade options to elites in the upper tiers.
One of the more valuable benefits of United Platinum status is the two Regional Premier Upgrades (RPUs), which can be used for one-way, single cabin upgrades on most United or Copa Airlines flights within the Americas. Unlike Complimentary Premier Upgrades (which aren’t confirmable until a few days prior to departure), RPUs can be used to confirm an upgrade at the time of booking. That means you don’t have to worry about your upgrade priority — you’ll be bumped up a cabin so long as space is available.
Naturally, the best way to use those confirmed upgrades is when they’ll provide the most value. You can use RPUs for upgrades to BusinessFirst on United’s Premium Service transcon flights, which are now operated solely out of Newark to either Los Angeles or San Francisco. While it’s not my favorite lie-flat option for transcontinental flights, it’s a quality product.
Another way to maximize value is to simply request upgrades on the lengthiest flights, which you can do on any of United’s other long-distance flights within the eligible regions. In particular, upgrades on United’s nonstop service from Newark or D.C. to Honolulu can get you around 11 hours in a flat-bed seat on the way there, or 9-10 hours on the way back. Other routes (like Boston to Los Angeles, or Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco) can easily last more than six hours.
Finally, you should consider using RPUs whenever the premium cabin is nearly sold out, especially when getting upgraded is a priority (like on a red-eye when you need to be well rested). With limited availability, your odds of scoring a complimentary upgrade are low, but your RPUs can guarantee you a more comfortable trip.
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at email@example.com.
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