United is discounting Skip Waitlist, MileagePlus Upgrade Awards

Jun 16, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Demand for leisure travel continues to grow by the week — with more Americans getting vaccinated, and the world opening up to U.S. passport holders, I imagine that’s a trend we’ll continue to see over the next couple of months.

Like other global airlines, United wants to be in the best possible position to capitalize on that renewed travel interest. United has been quick to expand service throughout the pandemic, and now the airline is adding extra incentives to book, in the form of discounted premium-cabin upgrades.

TPG had a chance to chat with Luc Bondar, the head of MileagePlus, who outlined two especially appealing promotions that help make it more cost-effective to lock in a long-haul upgrade.

The first option applies to all MileagePlus members, giving customers an opportunity to redeem their miles to move up to Polaris business class on flights between the U.S. and Europe at a discount. While the mileage co-pay requirement remains the same, cash co-pays have been discounted by 25%, as outlined below.

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

Some upgrades will be waitlisted — you may clear into Premium Plus or business class before the day of departure, or at the gate — though many flights have availability to confirm an upgrade at booking. See our guide to upgrading your United flight for more.

If you’re looking to grow your United balance quickly, the speediest option is to transfer points instantly from Ultimate Rewards, earned with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Meanwhile, Premier 1K and Global Services members can score a discount when confirming a seat in business class using the airline’s “Skip Waitlist” option.

Previously, confirmed Skip Waitlist redemptions required 140 PlusPoints to move from economy to Polaris or 70 PlusPoints to upgrade to Premium Economy — those redemptions currently require 100 and 50 PlusPoints, respectively.

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

The airline has also expanded Skip Waitlist to include many flights between the U.S. and Europe, along with flights to other destinations. See this detailed post for a closer look at how to take advantage.

Both of these promotions are in place for travel between now and Sept. 15, 2021. It’s possible that United could extend them into the fall and winter, perhaps depending on whether or not business travel demand returns.

What’s clear is that there’s growing demand among leisure travelers — it remains to be seen whether or not that momentum will continue to grow.

“When I look at the award booking activity that we’ve had over the last 30 days, and then the last 14 days and then the last seven days, these are record levels that we’re seeing, Bondar said. “[This Tuesday] alone was our single largest booking day for awards [since the start of the pandemic],” he said.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.