United reverts to a customer-friendly expiry policy for upgrade instruments

United Airlines used to have a reasonably customer-friendly expiry policy for the upgrade instruments earned by their top elite members: they were valid through the end of the year after they were earned. As part of the merger with Continental that policy changed to a slightly less friendly one year validity. As of tonight the policy has changed again to be even more friendly than the old one. Upgrades are now valid through the end of the following elite program year, meaning January 31. Here’s the announcement:

  • Newly-earned GPUs and RPUs will be valid longer. Starting later this month, when newly earned GPUs and RPUs are deposited into your account, they will be valid through the end of the following Premier program year instead of just one year from the date of issue. So, for example, all GPUs and RPUs earned in 2012 will be valid through January 31, 2014; those earned in 2013 will be valid through January 31, 2015 and so on.
  • Unused GPUs and RPUs earned in 2012 will also be extended. For those of you who currently have GPUs or RPUs in your account that were earned based on 2012 travel, these will also automatically be extended and will be valid through the end of the next Premier program year (January 31, 2014). This includes GPUs and RPUs that are waitlisted or redeposited. Upon redeposit, the extended validity date will be reflected.

These validity changes will take effect by the end of this month, and in the meantime, no action will be required on your part.

We know GPUs and RPUs are an important benefit and we hope this change will provide more flexibility in using your GPUs and RPUs. As always, thanks for the feedback and please let us know what questions you may have.

The one year rule didn’t really affect me too much personally but there were many who felt it was really, really bad. Hopefully this change will soften the pain a bit.

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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.


  1. Just for the record, pre-merger United Regional upgrades expired twelve months after they were earned. Only the pre-merger United Systemwide upgrades were good for the entire elite year. They were also deposited to the member’s account at the beginning of the year, not when the qualifying flight posted, unless the member called and specifically requested an early deposit.

    This new policy is the best of all worlds – immediate deposit of upgrades like Continental had, plus validity until the end of the next elite year on the Global upgrades like pre-merger United had, and extended validity on Regional upgrades that beats what has always existed with those.

  2. I think this just makes good business sense. I have personally booked away from United to avoid early deposit of upgrade instruments. I’m glad United actually listened to their customers, but it makes me wonder what they were thinking in the first place.

  3. Miles: try calling them – they may reinstate it? I am happier that they have done this.

  4. What’s the point? I haven’t been able to use any GPUs/SWUs – between them not clearing (even domestically) and requiring $800+ extra to upfare for a chance to play the upgrade lottery, I don’t really see much point…

    1. Your luck has been completely different than mine Asya. I’ve not had to pay nearly that much a premium and all mine have cleared this year. Not all at booking, but all in advance of the day of travel.

      As for the few months shorter utility driving you to AA, TopGunner, whatever works for you. Personally having more destinations to use the upgrades to is way more important to me.

  5. Nice for those that benefit, but the Inconsistent experience on extension of expiring instruments put me fully into AA’s hands. I’m thinking UA saw that GPU usage was minimal due to the lottery situation that giving an extension was revenue positive with a few more gamblers enticed to upfare into the lottery.

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