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United Airlines restarts automatic upgrades to first class

July 08, 2020
3 min read
United Airlines restarts automatic upgrades to first class
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When the coronavirus pandemic landed stateside, airlines immediately responded by modifying many aspects of the travel journey. In an effort to create a safer environment onboard, some carriers introduced social distancing policies, modified boarding procedures and limited inflight service.

As airlines embark on the long road to recovery, some have begun scaling back these changes. Each airline is going at its own pace, but United has some good news for its Premier elite members: As of July 8, all Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPUs) will once again be processed automatically.

At the outset of the pandemic, United temporarily stopped processing automatic upgrades. Eligible customers would be notified at the gate if they cleared into first and elites could voluntarily turn down the upgrade if they preferred to remain in economy class (possibly with more space).

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

Today's update will likely be great news for those who've already restarted traveling. Since United doesn't cap the capacity of its flights, knowing whether you've been upgraded in advance will reassure you that there will be a little more space between you and your neighbor. And if you're not happy about how full your flight is, you can always make a same-day change.

Additionally, this should reduce the congestion in the gate area before departure and hopefully speed up the turn-time between flights.

With this change, the system will once again clear upgrades in priority order based on the appropriate window, assuming there's space available. Premier 1Ks — United's highest published status — will be bumped up as early as 96 hours before departure. Premier Platinums, Golds and Silvers are at 72 hours, 48 hours and 24 hours, respectively.

Related: Inflight service is resuming — here’s what food and drinks you can expect on your next flight

United isn't the only airline to restart automatic upgrades. Of the U.S. “big three” carriers, Delta also paused automatic elite upgrades at the outset of the pandemic. However, Delta beat United to restarting the automatic process on June 4 (with capacity caps in place through Sept. 30). American Airlines, on the other hand, has continued to process elite upgrades as normal throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

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Restarting automatic upgrades is just one of the many modifications that United's making to the travel experience. Last week, the Chicago-based carrier announced that it's bringing back beverages in all cabins. Coffee and tea have returned on certain flights as well, and liquor is now available in all premium cabins.

Beginning July 15, the carrier will be reducing its Saks Fifth Avenue bedding on certain flights. The plush Saks duvet will no longer be available in domestic business class or on lie-flat first-class seats between the mainland U.S. and Alaska and Hawaii. Instead, the airline will be offering a light throw blanket. That same light blanket will be removed from international Polaris cabins.

Nonetheless, if you're an elite member traveling with United in the near future, be sure to check the upgrade list. You're once again eligible for automatic advanced upgrades.

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on United Airlines

Featured image by Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

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    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
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Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

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  • Extended warranty protection
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Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.