How to Upgrade United Airlines Economy Class to Business Class?
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How to Upgrade United Airlines Economy Class to Business Class?

United Airlines is one of the most popular airline carriers in the United States. The airline is operating with a fleet size of 954 aircrafts covering 354 destinations around the world. The different types of cabin services available on the airline are: United Polaris, United First, United Business, Premium Transcontinental Service, United Premium Plus, United Economy, Economy Plus, and Basic Economy.

With a wide range of cabin services by United Airlines, it is often very confusing for the passengers when they want to upgrade their seat from Economy Class to Business Class. But, we are here to guide you through the upgrade process in this blog. Let’s get started!

Different Types of Upgrades on United Airlines

Here are the different types of upgrades available on United Airlines:

  1. Complimentary Upgrades:

These upgrades are available for Premier Elite Members on the basis of seat availability on selected United Airlines domestic carriers.

  1. MileagePlus Upgrade Awards:

You can get an upgrade using your miles on United or Copa Airlines carriers.

  1. Star Alliance Upgrade Awards:

You can get an upgrade on any Star Alliance network airline carriers using miles under this category.

  1. Instant Upgrades:

These are the types of upgrades that are given during ticket booking on B fares for Premier members, full fare Y economy, and M fares for Premier 1K members.

  1. PlusPoints Upgrades:

These types of upgrades are only applicable for Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members. They can buy these upgrades using PlusPoints.

Upgrade Priority on United Airlines 

The following parameter will decide who will get the upgrade first on a United Airlines flight?

Elite Status

You need to have an elite status with United Airlines to avail for an Upgrade Priority. There are different tiers to the United Elite Status; they are:

  • The topmost status is given to United Airlines trusted best clients at the airline’s discretion.
  • Next in the line are the United Premier 1K members who can earn 289 PlusPoints on qualification and extra points when they exceed the qualification which they can use for upgrades. These members are also eligible for complimentary Upgrades if any.
  • United Premier Platinum members when qualified can earn 40 PlusPoints that they can use for upgrades and are also eligible for more complimentary upgrades.
  • Next comes United Premier Gold who can earn complimentary upgrades.
  • Finally, it’s United Premier Silver Members who can also earn complimentary upgrades when available.

Even Elite Status members will be kept on waitlist with other passengers who have requested for upgrades if their upgrade was not confirmed immediately. In this situation the Upgrade Priority is as follows:

  • Premier 1K Passengers who are traveling on Y/B/M Class Fares
  • PlusPoints travelers
  • Remaining Premier Passengers.

The priority of PlusPoints Travelers and remaining Premier Passengers are decided by status, fare class, and time of request in descending order.

United Credit Cards

You’re eligible for complimentary Premier upgrade when traveling on United Airlines flight if you’re a MileagePlus Premier Member. You can enjoy this type of upgrade on award tickets if you have the following cards:

  • United Explorer Card
  • United Business Card
  • United Club Infinite Card
  • United Club Business Card
  • United Quest Card
  • United Presidential Plus Card (not applicable for new applicants)
  • United Presidential Plus Business Card (not applicable for new applicants).

You can also enjoy lounge access facilities and free checked baggage options when you book United Airlines flight tickets with the above cards.

Upgrades with Miles

You can also upgrade your flight with United MileagePlus Frequent Flier Miles while purchasing your ticket or on your current reservation.

How to upgrade with Miles and Co-pay while purchasing a flight ticket?

  • You must go to the United Airlines homepage and search for your preferred flight.
  • You must click on the Advanced Search option.
  • Now you will see a list of fares and upgrades that are available with your miles and copay.
  • After you have logged in all your preferred details, you must select MileagePlus Upgrade Awards option from the drop-down menu of Upgrades, Certificates, and Promotion Codes Option.

How to upgrade an existing reservation with Miles?

When you already have an existing reservation with United Airlines and you want to upgrade to a premium cabin, you have two options- you can either do it yourself online or you can call the United Airlines customer care to help with the process.

You can use the following steps to do it on your own:

  • You must go to the United Airlines homepage
  • Now you must sign in to your MileagePlus account.
  • Navigate to your existing reservation that you want to upgrade.
  • Now click on Redeem Upgrade and check your options.
  • If you have premium cabin options available, you can use your plus points, miles, or copay to upgrade your cabin.

Upgrades on Partner Airlines

Yes, you heard it right! Since United Airlines is a Star Alliance member, you can enjoy upgrades even on partner airlines if you’re a MileagePlus member. You can request for upgrades from Economy to Business or First class on 2-class planes and from Business to First Class. There are around 20 Star Alliance partners for United Airlines and you can request upgrades on Partner Airlines for up to 4 passengers and 331 days before departure.

If you want a Star Alliance Upgrade with miles, you need to book your ticket first on United Airlines website and then opt for redeem upgrade option.

Tips and Tricks to get faster upgrades on United Airlines

  • You must select an upgrade eligible flight.
  • It’s best to earn PlusPoints with Premier Platinum or United Premier 1K elite status for an easy upgrade.
  • Opt for discounted business class fares
  • It ideal to buy a high fare ticket to land and upgrade faster.
  • Since time of request is also a consideration, try to place your upgrade request early.
  • You can buy Business or First-Class ticket with United MileagePlus miles.
  • You can buy a Y fare class ticket or discounted full-fare Economy B fare ticket to be eligible for instant upgrades on selected United Airlines flights.
  • If you don’t have an United Elite Status, it is ideal to compare cabins because sometimes discounted first and business class tickets are cheaper than economy class tickets.


The complete system of upgrades on United Airlines can be confusing; hence, the above guide can be beneficial to understand the whole process. There are several factors that are involved in order to get an upgrade on United Airlines. However, the thumb rule for all assengers is to achieve a Premier Elite Status with United Airlines to land better upgrade opportunities. Also, one of the best way to fly on premium cabins is to make your bookings early to avail of a business or first class cabins on United Airlines flights. A detailed review and comparison of the fares of all cabin classes is necessary before you make your bookings.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. How many types of cabin classes are available on United Airlines?
  • United Polaris, United First, United Business, Premium Transcontinental Service, United Premium Plus, United Economy, Economy Plus, and Basic Economy are the different types of cabin classes available on United Airlines.
  1. Who is eligible for upgrades on United Airlines?
  • Except Basic Economy passengers, all paid tickets are eligible for Regional Premier Upgrades. Also, Award Tickets are not eligible for both Regional and Global Premier Upgrades.
  1. How can I get an upgrade from Economy Class to Business Class?
  • If you buy a Y fare class ticket or discounted full-fare Economy B fare ticket, you’re eligible for instant upgrades on selected United Airlines flights.
  1. What is the cost of upgrading from Economy to Business Class on United Airlines?
  • The cost of upgrading from Economy to Class may range between $400 to $1000.
  1. Does United Airlines allow passengers to upgrade seats after booking?
  • You can go on the airline website and opt for the Manage Trips option from the My Trips tab to upgrade seats of your existing booking.
  1. How many PlusPoints are required to upgrade from Economy to Business Class?
  • For Economy eligible fares, you need 40 PlusPoints to upgrade to Polaris Business Class. For Economy Discounted fares, 80 PlusPoints are needed to upgrade to Polaris Business Class.
  1. Can I get an upgrade on an international ticket, but I don’t have status with United?
  • There are no complimentary upgrades on international tickets, but you can upgrade using miles and co-pay if there is seat availability on international tickets.
  1. Is there any upgrade available on United award tickets purchased with miles?
  • There is no upgrade available on United award tickets when purchased with miles. But, if you are a MileagePlus member or if you have a United Credit Card, you can get complimentary upgrades on domestic award tickets.
  1. Which cabin class ticket on United Airlines offers guaranteed upgrade?
  • The best way to have a seat in premium Cabins of United Airlines is by purchasing a Business or First-Class ticket.
  1. When does United Airlines provide upgrades before a scheduled flight?
  • The process requests for upgrades by United Airlines are done 3 hours before flight departure.

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