United Airlines will be introducing a new upgrade system – called PlusPoints, for both Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members (requires 75k and 100k elite qualifying miles respectively) on 4th December 2019.

Currently, all MileagePlus elite members are entitled to complimentary upgrades on most domestic and selected international flights, subjected to availability a few days before the flight. In addition, based on availability, Platinum Premier and Premier 1k members are currently entitled to the following confirmed upgrade, which can be requested at the time of booking:

  • Premier Platinum Members: 2 Regional Premier Upgrades per annum.
  • Premier 1k members: 6 Global Premier Upgrades and 2 Regional Premier Upgrades per annum

United Airlines PlusPoints

The existing confirmed upgrades (Regional Premier Upgrades and Global Premier Upgrades) will be switched to PlusPoints from 4th December 2019 onward. Instead of giving members an absolute number of upgrades, these confirmed upgrades will be based on a point system:

  • Economy to Premium Economy for 20 PlusPoints
  • Premium Economy to Business Class for 30 PlusPoints
  • Economy to Business Class for 40 PlusPoints. For discounted Economy fares that are not upgradable previously with Global Premier Upgrades, members can now request for such upgrade at 80 PlusPoints.

These PlusPoints can be used for domestic or international upgrades. An upgrade request can be done online. PlusPoints is still applicable for ANA and Lufthansa upgrades at the same cost and with the same fare class restriction.

How to Earn PlusPoints?

  • Premier Platinum Members: 40 PlusPoints will be allocated per annum
  • Premier 1k members: 320 PlusPoints will be allocated per annum

As of 4th December 2019, each remaining Regional Premier Upgrade will be converted into 20 PlusPoints and each remaining Global Premier Upgrade will be converted into 40 PlusPoints.

Redeem More PlusPoints to Skip Upgrade Waitlist

On top of the fixed PlusPoints upgrade rates as mentioned above, members can choose to pay more PlusPoints to skip upgrade wait lists to get their upgrade confirmed. This additional cost varies across different itineraries.

Pay The Highest Upgrade PlusPoints Rate For Each Itinerary

Suppose you are flying Boston – New York – Tokyo, if upgrades for all flight sectors are cleared, you will only burn PlusPoints for the longest sector (New York – Tokyo).

Conclusion

This is a welcome change as it gives members lots of flexibility. However, it also creates more manoeuvring space for United to cut down the number of upgrades in future. An easy way could be by devaluing PlusPoints for upgrades and etc.