Decoding fare buckets on the new United


Like nearly everything associated with the merger between Continental and United Airlines there are adjustments being made in the fare buckets that are used for bookings. There are changes from both the legacy Continental and United systems, resulting in an alphabet soup that is pretty convoluted to parse through. Even more confusing is that some of the changes are already creeping into the system while others (namely on the earning rates) are not going to take effect for a few weeks yet. Still, getting to the bottom of the new fare buckets is a useful exercise.

At least I hope it is, because I just did it.

Perhaps the most challenging in all of this will be tweaking all the various award monitoring and alert systems to help ensure that folks looking for award seats are getting the correct information in a timely manner.

Going forward I’ll be maintaining this information in a wiki rather than here as the wiki format is much more conducive to sharing and editing this sort of stuff, but I figured that the initial share wouldn’t hurt in both. You can find the wiki here.

Here’s what the new buckets look like:

Revenue Fare Buckets

Class of Service Purchased Fare Class Award Miles Elite Qualification Miles Elite Qualification Points
First Class (3-cabin)
F, A
250%
150%
1.5
First Class (2-cabin)
F, A
175%
150%
1.5
Full Fare Business Class
J, C, D
175%
150%
1.5
Discounted Business Class
P
150%
150%
1.5
Deep Discounted Business Class*
Z
150%
150%
1.5
Full Fare Economy Class
Y, B
125%
150%
1.5
Discounted Economy Class
M, E, U, H, Q, V, W
100%
100%
1
Deep Discounted Economy Class*
S, T, L, K, G, N
100%
100%
1

*Most fares in the “Deep Discounted” buckets are ineligible for MileagePlus promotions. They are also not eligible for GPU (formerly known as SWU) upgrades on longhaul routes marketed with a premium cabin.
** The N fare bucket is currently flagged as unused in the system; it is the only letter as yet unused. As of at least early 2013 N is now in use as the lowest revenue bucket.

Award Fare Buckets

Redeemed Cabin Premier Status SaverPass/Saver Award Bucket EasyPass/Standard Award Bucket
First Class (3-cabin) Premier Platinum/1K/Global Services
O
FN
First Class (3-cabin) Premier Gold/Silver/Platinum
O
FN
First Class (3-cabin) Chase CC Holder
O
FN
First Class (3-cabin) Non-Elite
O
FN
First Class (2-cabin) Premier Platinum/1K/Global Services
IN
JN
First Class (2-cabin) Premier Gold/Silver/Platinum
I
JN
First Class (2-cabin) Chase CC Holder
I
JN
First Class (2-cabin) Non-Elite
I
ZN
Business Class (3-cabin) Premier Platinum/1K/Global Services
IN
JN
Business Class (3-cabin) Premier Gold/Silver/Platinum
I
JN
Business Class (3-cabin) Chase CC Holder
I
JN
Business Class (3-cabin) Non-Elite
I
ZN
Economy Class Premier Platinum/1K/Global Services
XN
YN
Economy Class Premier Gold/Silver/Platinum
XN
YN
Economy Class Chase CC Holder
X
YN
Economy Class Non-Elite
X
HN

 

Upgrade Fare Buckets

Redeemed Cabin Premier Status Award Bucket
Biz to First (3-cabin) All Passengers
ON
Economy to Business (3-cabin) Global Services
PN
Economy to Business (3-cabin) All Other Levels
R
Economy to Business (3-cabin) Non-elite
R
Economy to First (2-cabin)* Global Services
PN
Economy to First (2-cabin)* All Other Levels
R
Economy to First (2-cabin) Non-elite
R

*This includes Complimentary Premium Upgrades (CPUs) which were formerly known as UDU or EUA.

Insta-Upgrade Fare Buckets

Redeemed Cabin Award Bucket
Y-Up
JN PN
B/M-Up
PN

Updated 5 September 2013 to reflect new PN upgrade policy for Global Services members.

Updated 4 April 2014 to reflect Y->PN change.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

44 Comments

  1. This is a big deal, especially coding domestic F awards as “I” instead of “O”. Makes using a Star-Alliance award with a domestic segment much more affordable eg when using US, BMI, AC miles. I think you have the exclusive scoop on this.

    1. @FriendlySkies – The letters are still quite easy; they’re just different than what they were. X, I and O are consistent with most Star Alliance partners and nearly every upgrade will clear into R. Add an N to the end if you’re elite. Piece of cake.

      @AS – Yes, being able to redeem those domestic 2-cabin seats as C awards rather than F is, indeed, quite a nice move. It is also consistent with the relatively customer-friendly behavior of Continental prior to the merger. For all the complaining that goes on about the changes the fact is that much of the merger really is moving in a direction that is still quite beneficial to customers.

  2. Seth,
    re: ‘The N fare bucket is currently flagged as unused in the system; it is the only letter as yet unused.’

    N is generally used by *A for non rev ID/AD travel in coach, I would assume UA will use that bucket as such.

  3. The phrases “SaverPass” and “EasyPass” are quite confusing. Hope UA doesn’t adopt those.

  4. This is a very useful and informative chart for deciphering fare buckets and award travel on the new United. Thank you very much for publishing it.

  5. Seth,

    I updated the wiki as Platinum will be given the same access as 1K and GS for IN or ON.

  6. Just to be clear about the new classes, the following fares are eligible for upgrades:

    M, E, U, H, Q, V, W

    (This would include GPU, RPU, CPU, miles, etc)

    By the way, your other Chrome scripting trick for available buckets is simply genius. So awesome. What a great share with the community.

    1. Those fare classes are some of the SWU-able buckets on premium cabin routes, John. Y and B would also be in there.

      For non-premium cabin routes all fares buckets are eligible for GPU or RPU. And all fares are eligible for miles-supported upgrades, assuming the co-pay is also paid.

  7. I just did Y-up on a UDU eligible segment and the system assigned a business class seat on international segment when it should have upgraded the SFO-BOS segment. Now it says I have to call reservation. Hopefully my upgrades wont get taken away. I’m not even sure why my trip booked into Y.

  8. Hi!

    My frequent flyer record lists a fare as “ZY”.

    What the heck is that??? I was in a business/1st class seat. It was domestic US: IAH-ORD. Not sure if it was booked in business class or I got upgraded. My company bought the ticket and I didn’t see the ticket or seat until I checked in, so may have been upgraded without me knowing about it…(I was flying on another flight just before I got on this UAL flight).
    cliff
    PVG

    1. ZY is a Y fare upgraded to business for reasons other than a normal upgrade. Dunno how you got that one; it isn’t common at all. But that would be what it is best I can tell.

  9. Bingo! What a fabulous resource!
    Combined with the Greasemonkey script, this is the way to go! Thanks, Seth!

  10. Cliff – it appears United now codes complimentary upgrades by appending a “Z” to the beginning of your original fare class. I get upgraded the vast majority of the time, and so my account activity for my last 5 flights shows “ZW”, “ZV”, “ZU”, “ZQ”, “ZT”, when I know my tickets were originally booked in W, V, U, Q, T.

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