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United’s new process makes it easier to figure out if you’ve been upgraded

July 14, 2020
3 min read
United’s new process makes it easier to figure out if you’ve been upgraded
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One of the best perks of elite status is getting free upgrades on most domestic and short-haul international flights.

However, in a pre-pandemic world, clearing the upgrade list wasn't so easy. There was lots of competition for the few available seats and those flyers with the highest priority would be the ones to clear.

Of the major U.S. carriers, I've long appreciated that United displays the upgrade and standby lists at least two days before departure. Plus, United shows how many premium seats are left for sale, as well as your priority on the list.

Starting today, United is making a big improvement to how you're notified of an upgrade. This change applies to flights departing July 15 and later.

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United's new upgrade notification process

Previously, you'd sometimes receive an email and/or text message confirming that your upgrade request cleared. If you cleared at the gate just before departure, you'd likely get called to the podium for a new physical boarding pass.

United Airlines Airbus A319 first class (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Now, every passenger — regardless of flight — will receive a notification once they've been cleared and assigned a seat. In order to receive text messages, you'll need to opt-in during booking or check-in. Otherwise, you'll get an email. Once your seat is confirmed, you'll be asked to refresh your mobile boarding pass with the new assignment.

This notification process is just the latest step by United to reduce the number of physical touchpoints during the travel journey. Along with United's move to back-to-front boarding, this update will help promote social distancing in the gate area.

Related: How to upgrade United flights

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Bottom line

United's rollout of upgrade and standby notifications couldn't come at a better time. The carrier had paused automatic Complimentary Premier Upgrades for over two months but just restarted automatic processing as of July 8.

This latest move continues paving the way for United being the best about displaying upgrade and standby list data. American Airlines just recently released an updated version of its mobile app, which displays these lists beginning eight hours before departure. Unfortunately, the Dallas-Fort Worth-based carrier doesn't go so far as telling you how many seats are left.

Delta, on the other hand, displays the lists beginning at check-in and includes the number of remaining seats.

Nonetheless, if you're flying with United in the near future, be sure to keep your eyes peeled to your phone since your lucky notification could come at any time.

Featured image by Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees