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

Jul 14, 2020

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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

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 photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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