United has revamped its upgrade benefits for elite tier members of the carrier’s Mileage Plus loyalty scheme, in a move which it says “creates more opportunities – and more freedom – for them to be upgraded on flights”.

Premier Platinum and 1K members will now receive an allocation of Plus Points, which can be used to request upgrades online. These replace the previous Regional Premier Upgrades (RPU) and Global Premier Upgrades (GPU) system.

Members will receive 40 Plus Points when reaching Premier Platinum status (existing members will see any remaining RPUs converted at a rate of 20 Plus Points per RPU), while those attaining 1K status will receive an additional 280 Plus Points (equivalent to two RPUs and six GPUs).

These points can then be used as the member wishes, to request upgrades on flights across United’s network.

For example it will cost 20 Plus Points to upgrade from economy to business or first class on short-haul flights. On long-haul services there are a number of options:

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

Members can request upgrades on several upcoming flights, with the points not being deducted until the upgrade(s) are confirmed.

United also says that “From time to time, United may also allow 1K members the opportunity to use additional Plus Points to skip the waitlist and receive a confirmed upgrade at booking when traveling on select international long-haul flights, even when upgrade fare classes are closed”.

When the Skip Waitlist option is available, members will have the choice to either request an upgrade using the standard waitlist, or use additional Plus Points to confirm an upgrade immediately, “even if the upgrade inventory is closed”.

The carrier stressed that the new Plus Points system “does not replace or change United’s Complimentary Premier Upgrades benefit”, where all Premier members are placed on availability-dependent upgrade waitlists for flights operated by United and United Express.

Commenting on the news Luc Bondar, vice president of loyalty and president of Mileage Plus, said:

“We’re making it even easier for our Premier members to use upgrades when and how they want. The new Plus Points programme increases the overall number of upgrade opportunities for top tier Premier members, expands the fare classes where they can be used, and lets members request upgrades on multiple flights all at once.

“We already make it easy for members to manage all of their upgrades online, and the move to Plus Points is yet another way we are making Mileage Plus the best loyalty programme in the industry.”

Earlier this year United announced plans to revamp its Mileage Plus pricing structure, bringing in a flexible system which will “fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including demand”.

From November 15 the carrier will no longer publish an award chart detailing the set amount of miles needed for a flight redemption.

And last month the carrier removed expiry dates for earned Mileage Plus miles.