After intense pressure from frequent flyers, United Airlines backed down and agreed to restore the ability to view upgrade availability online last week. Today, that functionality is back. Similar to the way it was for the pre-merger united.com, however, you must opt-in to view the fare buckets--including upgrade and award buckets.
Login to your MileagePlus account, click on "Manage Profile" in the Profile box where your address and username are, then you can check a box to enable "Expert" mode. You'll encounter the following warning/instructions:
Expert Mode is a fare class availability feature designed to help our most experienced travelers with the planning process. This feature is intended for informational purposes only, and may not always match our exact availability or reflect the stages of our upgrade processes.
Please keep the following considerations in mind when using Expert Mode:
- This is not a forecasting tool. Availability levels in certain fare classes should not be interpreted as indicating that we will make other fare classes available.
- The presence of a particular fare class does not mean that there is a fare associated with it. For example, we may offer availability in a discounted fare class, but that does not necessarily mean we have published a fare that corresponds to it.
- Not all upgrades are cleared in real time. Our process of clearing upgrades varies based on the type of upgrade and when the upgrade inventory becomes available. Upgrades that are not able to be cleared in advance will be managed at the departure gate, subject to availability and in priority order.
- Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPUs): As a Premier member awaiting a CPU, you may see upgrade availability and still not be cleared. This is because the process for clearing CPUs runs at 24-hour intervals before the departure date based on the eligibility window for your Premier status. Inside of 24 hours, the process will run more frequently. When these processes run, they take into consideration all customers awaiting an upgrade at that time and clear them in priority order.
- All other MileagePlus upgrades: For all other MileagePlus upgrades, waitlists are cleared in real time except during the 24-hour period before trip departure. Inside this 24-hour window, upgrades requested for flights in CPU-eligible regions will be cleared using the same automated system that processes CPUs. For all other flights, upgrade clearance inside of 24 hours will be managed at the departure gate in priority order.
- Our phone agents will not clear pending upgrades. Our representatives do not have complete visibility into the upgrade priority order for a given flight. Because we would not want to potentially clear customers in the wrong order, upgrades are only processed by our automated system, or at the gate prior to departure. You can view the status of your pending upgrade through Manage Reservations on united.com
- Availability changes frequently. Availability for specific fare classes changes frequently, and sometimes the fare class information we provide in Expert Mode may not be completely up to date. While this is rare for United- and United Express-operated flights, it is not uncommon with flights operated by our codeshare partners and other airlines. Due to these potential discrepancies, we are not able to honor availability based on what is displayed in Expert Mode.
United Airlines reserves the right to limit access to this feature at its sole discretion.
This is nothing short of a confirmation that their upgrade system is broken. While United's new upgrade "pending" status was a welcome addition, it does nothing to address the core problem of the upgrade system--which both Damian and I have recently addressed.
Despite the "warning" above, if you find yourself waitlisted for a mileage or instrument-supported upgrade--even within 24 hours before travel--and you find R space, do not wait for the system to work--call United immediately to clear yourself into business or first.
United won't like to hear that, but upgrade clearance of these RPU, GPU, and mileage supported upgrades should clear in real-time and any lag in the system means someone else--perhaps a once-a-year traveler checking into his flight and being offered a $99 upgrade--will likely take the seat before you get it. Better safe than sorry.