United Airlines and Lufthansa have changed the way some upgrades are handled between the two carriers. The long-awaited (or at least long-indicated) transition from paper GPU certificates to an electronic solution has finally happened and, as is often the case, there is good and bad news.
The good news is that upgrades can be processed in advance, as early as the time of ticketing. Previously upgrades were only available at the departure gate. And upgrades can be waitlisted if it cannot confirm at booking. These are two significant changes and should be relatively well received. The bad news is that GPU-supported upgrades now carry a 10-hour cutoff. They must be REQUESTED at least 10 hours prior to departure and they must CLEAR 10 hours prior to departure. This means no last-minute upgrades at the gate when there is a no-show.
Eligible Fare Classes
For United Airlines-operated flights passengers must have a minimum of a W fare class to upgrade from coach to business. Using those same GPUs on Lufthansa metal has required a V fare class (one higher than W) for the past few years. Combined with the upgrades only clearing at the gate that made for a bit of a gamble in paying more in hopes of an upgrade. Under the new policy the minimum fare class on Lufthansa-operated flights is now a Q fare, two higher than the W for United flights. That gamble just got a bit bigger.
Codeshare flights (i.e. UA flight number operated by Lufthansa) are also eligible for upgrades which is another win for customers. Unfortunately they cannot be processed online; one must call in to request the upgrade in such cases.
Overall it is a mixed bag of changes. Some will love the advance confirmation potential while others will lament the inability to clear at the last minute or the higher minimum fare requirement. At least the upgrades are skipping Lufthansa’s new premium economy cabin for now.
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