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Have you ever wondered whether you can upgrade your United Airlines flight cabin to premium economy or business class? Perhaps you want to enjoy its premium perks, such as extra legroom and comfort topped with complimentary beverages? You’ll be surprised to know that you can get all these benefits using your United PlusPoints.

United modified its elite upgrade system to let you upgrade your cabin to premium economy, business or first class. Thanks to your United PlusPoints, you can get massive rewards for being a frequent flyer.

Get to Know United PlusPoints 

United PlusPoints is United Airlines’ current elite upgrade system that allows you to enjoy better flight cabins and perks. 

Eligible MileagePlus Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members can use PlusPoints to upgrade their domestic and international flights. But the fun doesn’t stop there because you can also upgrade someone else’s flight even if you aren’t flying with them.

Before the PlusPoints, United originally had two certificate-based upgrade systems known as the Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) and the Regional Premier Upgrades (RPUs). You’d need to secure hard-to-earn certificates to be eligible for an upgrade to your international or domestic flight, respectively. 

However, United ditched these upgrade systems and merged them for more flexibility and ease.

Now, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K elites can enjoy the best of both upgrades using their PlusPoints. Additionally, you no longer need those restrictive certificates because you have the power to decide where to use your upgrade points. That means you won’t have to worry about being tied to a specific flight route.

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Benefits of Upgrading United Flights

If you’re traveling for more than eight hours by air, the best thing you can have on a flight is a private and comfortable space. This dream isn’t impossible with United because you’ll have tons of benefits when you spend your PlusPoints on long-haul flights.

With just 40 PlusPoints, you can upgrade from economy to Polaris business class on a long-haul flight and access many United perks. You can enjoy complimentary alcoholic drinks and delicious meals while you’re up in the air.

You’ll also have more comfortable seats in much private and better cabins. For instance, you’ll find the seats in Polaris business class more cozy and intimate than in older business class or economy class cabins. So there’s a lot to look forward to when you upgrade using your United PlusPoints.

How Many United PlusPoints are Required for an Upgrade

Not all upgrades on United are worth the same number of PlusPoints. They may differ based on your flight’s distance, your original booked cabin type and your preferred cabin upgrade. Nonetheless, you can use United charts to find out how many PlusPoints you’d need.

Short-Haul Flights

The two reward charts cover short-haul and long-haul flights. United considers flights without the Polaris business class short-haul flights. Additionally, these flights cover specific locations, including intra-Asia, within the U.S. and between the U.S. and several countries.

Generally, you’d need 20 PlusPoints to upgrade to the next cabin from economy class to United Premium Plus, business or first class for your short-haul flights. You’d need just 10 PlusPoints to upgrade from United Premium Plus to business class on the same type of flight.

Long-Haul Flights

When your flight isn’t covering the areas considered short-haul flights, it falls under the terms and conditions of long-haul flights. They have the Polaris business class and include flights between the U.S. and most of the remaining countries and regions, such as Australia and Europe.

Long-haul flights are intercontinental flights, so using your PlusPoints to get exclusive perks and benefits on United will be a great investment. However, the number of PlusPoints you’ll need may also be relatively higher.

You must redeem the following number of points to upgrade a long-haul United flight:

  • 80 PlusPoints to upgrade from discounted economy to Polaris
  • 40 PlusPoints to upgrade from economy to Polaris
  • 30 PlusPoints to upgrade from Premium Plus to Polaris
  • 20 PlusPoints to upgrade from economy to Premium Plus

Skip the Waitlist

There may be other instances in which you’d be paying more PlusPoints. 

For example, flights with limited space may put you on a waitlist when you upgrade to business or first class. You’d have to use more PlusPoints to skip the waitlist. Compared to just paying 20 or 40 PlusPoints, you’d need to redeem as many as 100 PlusPoints to move from economy to Polaris business class on a long-haul flight. 

The price would depend on your flight, departure date and the availability of seats per cabin. The option to skip the waitlist is available to Premier 1K members only.

Upgrade on Partner Airlines

You’ll also be paying more PlusPoints if you’re upgrading your cabin on United partners. With MileagePlus elite status, you’d need 40 PlusPoints for every flight segment to upgrade your flight on All Nippon Airways, Copa Airlines and Lufthansa.

Note that flight upgrades on United’s partner airlines are only available for select fare classes. Each airline may have varying classes they accept. 

The following fare classes can be upgraded:

  • Copa: A, B, E, H, K, L, M, O, Q, S, T, U, V, W and Y
  • Lufthansa: B, C, D, E, G, H, J, M, Q, U and Y 
  • ANA: B, C, D, E, G, J, M, U and Y

How To Use United PlusPoints to Upgrade Flights

Using your PlusPoints on United Airlines’ platform is straightforward. But before you can upgrade your cabin and make the most of it, we highly suggest using its search feature. This way, you’d know the available flights and waitlist options.

When you’re all set and ready, access the United website and click the “Sign In” button. Then, enter your United MileagePlus details to access your account.

Next, click on “Advanced Search” and type in all the needed information, such as your destination and expected travel dates.

Afterwards, navigate the page and look for the “Upgrades, Certificates and Promotion Codes” section.

Then, click on the “PlusPoints Upgrades” option on the drop-down menu and press the search button.

By now, you’ll have the power to filter the existing flights depending on your preferences. You can select upgrades with immediate availability or waitlist choices. You can also pick both options to generate more results. Take note that you can choose between the “Available and Waitlist” option and the “Available and Skip Waitlist” option.

Now, you can pick from the list of upgrades with immediate availability or apply to be on the waitlist on another flight.

If you choose an upgrade with immediate availability, your PlusPoints will automatically get deducted from your account. On the other hand, waitlisted elite flyers would have to wait for their flight’s availability unless they decide to skip waiting in line by paying more United PlusPoints. PlusPoints will be deducted only when your waitlist has succeeded.

Regardless of your choice, you must click the “Checkout” button to finish your transaction. You’ll then receive a confirmation message indicating that you’re all set for your upcoming flight.

How to Upgrade After Booking a Flight

Although you’ve already booked a flight, you can still upgrade to the next cabin in two ways. The first method is by calling United customer service. If you’re not comfortable with that, you can also do everything online.

If you’re calling customer service, tell them your situation. The agent will need as much information as possible, such as your preferred cabin and mode of payment. Tell them these details and let them make the necessary changes to your flight and PlusPoints.

Alternatively, you can also modify your flight using your United MileagePlus account. Look for the “My Trips” section.

Afterwards, click on “Manage Trips” and choose the “Upgrade Cabin” option.

You’ll see three modes of payment for your upgrade (Money, PlusPoints or both). Select PlusPoints.

Then, you’ll see the list of existing flights with immediate availability or waitlist options. Now, you can choose your preferred upgrade among them.

Finally, click the “Checkout” button. You should then see the confirmation page.

How to Earn United PlusPoints

Enjoying these superior flight benefits won’t happen automatically. Instead, you’d need to reach at least United MileagePlus Premier Platinum elite status to upgrade your flight cabin and enjoy the perks. You can do this by flying United and Star Alliance partners more often.

In particular, United determines your elite status based on your Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs). The more you fly, the faster you’ll be able to accumulate points and build your status up to Premier Platinum and eventually to Premier 1K, the two highest elite status tiers.

You’ll automatically get 40 PlusPoints once you’ve reached Premier Platinum elite status. You would need at least 24 PQFs and 9,000 PQPs to earn it. This reward alone can give you up to two upgrades on a short-haul flight or one upgrade on a long-haul flight. 

When you get to 36 PQFs and 13,500 PQPs and reach Premier 1K status tier, you’ll earn an extra 280 PlusPoints. You’ll then get 20 PlusPoints for every 2,000 PQPs earned beyond 15,000.

The United PlusPoints last for a year. That means you’ll have an entire year to spend these PlusPoints on flight upgrades. 

For instance, if you’ve accumulated 25,000 PQPs in a year, you’ll be eligible for 420 PlusPoints. You’ll have 21 upgrades from United economy to first class on short-haul flights or 10 upgrades from economy to Polaris business class on long-haul flights.

Things to Consider Before Using United PlusPoints

Before upgrading your flights using your United PlusPoints, it’s best to consider several factors. Don’t immediately spend your accumulated PlusPoints on upgrades that may not be worth the price.

Using your PlusPoints is also extremely useful and flexible, especially if you don’t have enough points to spend in your account. 

When you’ve booked a round-trip ticket, you have the power to upgrade your cabin per direction. That means you can upgrade to business class on the way to your destination and decide not to use your PlusPoints on the way back. The same rule applies to flights with multiple segments.

Additionally, upgrading your flights using United PlusPoints is final and irreversible. You can’t ask for a refund once you’ve confirmed your transaction. However, you can still choose to upgrade your flight after booking a ticket.

Finally, United also allows you to upgrade your companion’s flight. You can upgrade someone’s flight even if you’re not traveling with them. This rule gives you extensive flexibility, especially since your accumulated PlusPoints last for only a year. That means you can’t carry over your points and use them to upgrade flights in the following year.

Final Thoughts

United is one of the top airline services you can find. It rewards its MileagePlus Premier elite members with tons of flexibility for upgrading flights using their hard-earned PlusPoints. With this privilege, you can enjoy extra space and perks during your flights.

Overall, the United PlusPoints is a worthwhile investment, especially if you’re a frequent United flyer. However, there are several things to consider and understand to make the most out of your PlusPoints. Nonetheless, their perks and benefits are worth looking forward to.

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