Using United GPUs on Lufthansa about to get more difficult

United Airlines is changing the way their Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs, née SWUs) are redeemed for flights on Lufthansa metal and, not surprisingly, the results are bad news. In posts online last night United offered up these details of the new requirements:

Starting March 1, when you request a GPU certificate for use on Lufthansa, we’ll ask you to provide some additional information:

  • First and last name of the traveler who will be presenting the certificate to Lufthansa
  • Departure and arrival city/airport of the flight segment to be upgraded (reminder: GPUs are used on a per-segment basis on LH)
  • Flight number and flight date
  • Confirmation number of itinerary associated with segment to be upgraded (this can be the Lufthansa confirmation number or the confirmation number of another airline/travel agency you used to book your ticket)

If day of travel changes the certificate should remain valid; if the route or passenger name changes the certificate usage will be at the discretion of the Lufthansa agents. In other words, good luck. Oh, and this is on top of the change a while back to reduce the eligible fare classes eligible for upgrade.

Yeah, the reasoning for this is pretty clear: they’re trying to cut down on resale and bartering of the certs. But it is still terribly annoying for the customers who use them legitimately. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if there wasn’t a multiple week turnaround at the request and redeposit cycle when they don’t clear. But there is.

So, yeah, another change to the MileagePlus program. And not a good one.

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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. Where can I find the eligible fare classes? I’m booking fall travel on LH and might want to try using a GPU. Thanks!

    1. From the link above:

      The following Lufthansa fares are not eligible for Global Premier Upgrades: L, T, X, I, R, N, E, S, W, Z, P, K, O, ID, AD and IP.

  2. Any idea what the policy is for certs issued before this change? I have two that were issued back in January that I unsuccessfully tried to use, and since they are good for a year, I was going to just keep them and apply to a future LH itinerary.

    Will I need to redeposit them?

    1. Existing certs will be honored as printed, so no onerous restrictions like the new ones. Keep in mind that the expiry date is tied to when the underlying electronic version was going to expire. I had one recently which was only good for a couple weeks after issue.

  3. Frankly, anyone who still gives their custom to UA…I wouldn’t go so far as to say they deserve being treated this way…oh what the heck, I would. UA is in a dark period of its history and the only way they’ll wake up and shake it off is if/when they lose half their customers. Sadly, people’s threshold for pain (in terms of corporate abuse) has become so high that very few are walking away and so UA isn’t discouraged from pulling stunts like this.

    In any case, I have some GPUs left from last year when I was a 1K (I’ve since quite UA entirely) and I plan on cashing them now before the switchover in case I want to use them on LH. I can always redeposit them later for use on UA if I want.

    I suggest the same for everyone.

    1. As opposed to the AA eVIPs which cannot be used on any partners or the Delta SWUs which can only be used for Coach->Premium Economy on Air France the UA GPUs are still the most valuable for partner travel. Yes, this is an annoying move which serves to punish the vast majority of the customers who aren’t breaking the rules. But it doesn’t actually degrade the program to be so much worse that then others with respect to this benefit.

      If you’re going to be potentially using them legitimately on LH in the future and have anything resembling advance planning on your schedule then it shouldn’t be an issue. For last-minute trips it is more of a pain. But those were always a pain on LH unless you issued a generic SWU well in advance. Those are the customers who will really suffer.

  4. I think UA is pretty generous with the GPU compared to other airlines, both in number and usability on partner airlines.
    In the past, they were “day of travel” availability on LH only, which resulted in limited upgrade success on popular routes. Does anybody know if the new data provision actually will allow for automatic upgrades prior to day of travel? That would be a significant improvement in my book and I’d not mind providing the additional information to get that!

    1. They are still day-of-travel only and still waitlist only. This move simply ties the cert to a specific passenger/flight/date combo rather than being a freely transferable voucher.

  5. @FYD: How can you possibly say that “UA is pretty generous with the GPU compared to other airlines…” when AA give you 8 and they can be used on any fare (even deeply discounted coach). Yes, UA gives you the ability to use on ONE partner (not plural, as you wrote), but in return you are limited to 6 (vs. 8 ) and you are also limited to booking the more expensive fares, including on that partner (LH). That’s not generous at all.

    With the rumored AA/US merger, many believe that this will change and AA will also introduce fare restrictions, but until then they are by so much far the most generous when it comes to SWUs.

    1. Yes, abuses happen, Kerwin. I don’t think that this is a necessary step to curb them, however.

      As for the 6 v 8 GPUs/eVIPs and the fare class restrictions, I wasn’t actually speaking to that. United has the best option for partner redemption if you’re into that. There are also WAY more routes available for UA GPUs than AA eVIPs, even before Lufthansa is considered. Balance that against the number issued and the cost to redeem and you can pick for yourself which one works better for you. There is no absolute answer for everyone.

  6. This just makes the usage more cumbersome for multi segment trips like say EWR-FRA-BOM and you were planning to have a couple and use them where ever they clear. Now one would have to get 4 printed and redeposit the ones that do not clear. A real pain – perhaps that was the intended effect.

    Could they not have stopped with just the name and the confirmation number? So that you can use it for any segment that clears and accomodate re-routes such as XXX-FRA-YYY to XXX-MUC-YYY?

  7. @A.S. I can say they are generous, because:
    – UA gives you 6 after 100K miles and 2 more for every additional 50K miles! I flew 275K miles last year and received 12 GPUs – that’s pretty generous in my book and 50% more than AA would do (unless AA also adds above their treshold, which I don’t know about – never gotten close to that on AA)
    – LH gives you 2 e-upgrades, SQ doesn’t give you any and neither do plenty of other global airlines, so in the big picture (beyond UA-AA), it’s pretty generous!
    – it’s the network: between UA and LH, they cover lots of worldwide destinations I’d want to go to, certainly more than AA! The UA upgrades are therefore more valuable to me
    As all things miles/points, it is a subjective evaluation and between the number of GPU and the usefullness within a large network, I consider them valuable and the policy generous!
    If you get more out of the AA upgrades – power to you, enjoy!

  8. Certainly not good news but the days of me expecting anything but bad news from United are over. I suppose we should be glad they just didn’t yank the whole benefit. It won’t effect me as the chance of a LH same day upgrade is too risky ..if it doesn’t happen you’re in LH coach — been there, done that–never again.

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