Huge News: United Is Eliminating Old Upgrades & Introducing “PlusPoints”

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United Airlines has today announced that it is replacing Regional Premier Upgrades (RPUs) and Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) with a new upgrade benefit called “PlusPoints”. The new system shouldn’t see any members disadvantaged and, instead, should add a bit more flexibility to how members can upgrade their flights.

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New United Polaris Business Class – Image United Airlines

The changeover from Regional/Global upgrade instruments to PlusPoints will take place on 4 December 2019 and this is how United says the new upgrade system will work:

Existing Upgrade Instruments Will Be Converted

  • Platinum Elites and higher elites will see their existing RPUs and GPUs converted to PlusPoints on 4 December 2019.
  • Each RPU will be converted to 20 PlusPoints & Each GPU will be converted to 40 PlusPoints

Earning PlusPoints

  • The way elites earn upgrades will not be changing.
  • Going forward, elites who would previously have earned RPUs will now earn 20 points per RPU they would have earned under the old system.
  • Going forward, elites who would previously have earned GPUs will now earn 40 points per GPU they would have earned under the old system.
  • 3 Million Milers who don’t meet the requirements for 1K status within the program year will receive 280 PlusPoints.

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Spending PlusPoints

  • The cost to upgrade from Economy to United First on domestic U.S. and North American flights will be 20 PlusPoints.

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  • The cost to upgrade from Economy to United Polaris business class on international long-haul flights will be 40 PlusPoints
  • In a new move, United will be allowing flyers to upgrade from International Economy Class to Premium Economy for just 20 PlusPoints (a GPU worth 40 PlusPoints has been required for this upgrade up until now).
  • The cost to upgrade from Premium Economy to United Polaris business class on international long-haul flights will be 30 PlusPoints

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  • PlusPoints can be used for any upgrade a Platinum (or higher) elite wishes to apply them too – Platinum elites can, for example, choose to use their 40 PlusPoints for international upgrades.
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An example of how a Platinum Elite may spend 40 PlusPoints
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An example of how a 1K Elite may spend 320 PlusPoints
  • PlusPoints will share the same expiration policy as the outgoing RPUs and GPUs.
  • From December, elites will be able to use their PlusPoints to join upgrade waitlists on multiple trips, and points won’t be deducted from their accounts until upgrades are confirmed.
  • Elites will continue to be able to confirm upgrades at the time of booking if upgrade inventory is available.
  • 1K elites will no longer have to buy non-discounted (W Fare) Economy Class tickets when looking to upgrade from Economy Class to Business Class but the cost of the upgrade will be double the normal cost – 80 PlusPoints.
  • 1K elites will, on some occasions, be able to use additional PlusPoints to skip the waitlist and confirm an upgrade at the time of booking – only certain fare classes will be eligible to skip the waitlist and the request must be made a minimum of 30 days ahead of departure.
  • PlusPoints can be used to upgrade others (as was possible with the outgoing RPUs/GPUs) but a 1K elite must be on the reservation if “skip waitlist” is to be employed.
  • PlusPoints can be used on United, United Express and select United partners: All Nippon Airways (ANA), Lufthansa, and Copa. All upgrades on partner flights will cost 40 PlusPoints but, unlike with United upgrade requests, PlusPoints for partner flights will always be deducted at the time of request.
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Use PlusPoints to upgrade on ANA


I didn’t think I’d be saying this when I first saw that United was changing how its upgrades will work but I actually really like what United has done here.

Yes, the downside to United introducing a points system for upgrades is that it makes it easier for the airline to increase the cost of upgrades in the future but, for the time being, this is mostly good news for United’s elites.

Two big positives of what has been announced today are the fact that the introduction of a Premium Economy cabin isn’t going to stand in the way of upgrades between Economy Class and Business Class and the fact that 1K elites will now be able to upgrade from discounted Economy Class to Business Class (albeit for an increased cost).

Overall, PlusPoints is definitely more flexible than the old RPU/GPU system as members have more options at their disposal and, because there are no real restrictions on how the points can be used (there’s no divide between regional and international upgrades), I suspect that United elites will find PlusPoints to be more useful than the outgoing upgrades.

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Bottom Line

I’m actually a little jealous of United elites right now because I really like the sound of what United has announced today – no one appears to be losing out and upgrades have just become considerably more flexible.

We’re definitely going to have to keep an eye out for PlusPoint inflation but rather than focus on what bad things United may do in the future I’d rather concentrate on the good things it’s doing today – based on what I can see, for once United management may actually deserve a pat on the back.

Link to United’s new PlusPoint information page


  1. Sounds like United is laying the groundwork for future devaluations. This sounds eerily similar to “now you can fly domestically starting at just 5,000 miles”, which while technically true, is just another form of devaluation overall. Maybe I’m just being cynical because I can’t remember one thing that United has done in the last decade that was purely for the benefit of the customer.

    • No harm in being cynical when it comes to the US3 🙂

      Yes, I suspect United will eventually devalue this (just like just about everything else) but for now this looks good….and it keeps the pressure on Doug Parker not to screw over AA flyers!

      • But this new upgrade system doesn’t make it any easier for United to devalue than the current system. If they wanted to devalue upgrades under the current system they would just tell 1Ks (who now get 4 RPUS and 6 GPUS) they’re getting 2 RPUs and 4 GPUS. (In fact they did reduce the number of RPUs 1ks get after they reach 1k!). So now they will just either reduce the points a 1K gets or inflate the points needed for upgrades. . .

        • While United could do as you suggest I suspect that a devaluation as overt and brutal as that would cause quite an outcry.

          Under the points system United can be a lot more subtle with its devaluations (charging, for example, 5 points more for all upgrades) while essentially achieving the same ends.

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