After several promises and false starts, United has finally launched the electronic platform that will allow Mileage Plus 1K members to redeem their Global Premier Upgrades (GPU) electronically for flights operated by Lufthansa. Up until this point, passengers had to request a paper coupon weeks in advance and present it to Lufthansa on the day of travel and hope that a seat would be available.
The new system reverses the previous one.
Passengers now can request the upgrade at the time of booking their upgrade eligible ticket (up to 331 days prior to departure). If a seat is available, it will clear immediately. If a seat is not available, the request will be put on an automatic wait list. Once Lufthansa opens an eligible seat, the upgrade will clear the waitlist and be processed.
The new system is a major improvement over the ‘analog’ process which required a coupon however there are a few minor changes that are less than positive. One of the biggest differences with the new system is the upgrade window. With the old system, you had to wait until the day of travel to find out if a seat was available.
With the new program, the deadline to clear is 10 hours prior to departure. In other words if your upgrade is waitlisted, the request will be cancelled 10 hours prior to departure if no award seat is available. This means that if a seat opens up right before a flight due to a missed connection, cancelled ticket or other issue that removed a passenger from the aircraft, that seat would not be made available to the person trying to upgrade with their GPU. With a paper voucher, a seat could have been awarded at the gate minutes before departure. Minor difference, but one to take note of and one that can have a bit of a negative impact.
Also, there is a restriction on the Lufthansa fare classes that are eligible for upgrades using GPUs. Fares booked in L, T, X, I, R, N, S, W, Z, P, K, O, ID, AD, IP and V are not eligible for upgrades.
Additionally, Lufthansa’s Premium Economy class is not considered a ‘cabin class’ for this process so if you are going to upgrade with a GPU from Economy Class, you would be upgraded to Business Class, not Premium Economy. Eligible Business Class fares remain upgradeable to First Class.
One more thing: If your flight number is a Lufthansa flight number (i.e. LH431) you can process the request online, however if you are ticketed on a UA code share flight number you’ll need to call the Mileage Plus service center to process the upgrade request.
What happens from here?
United as of today has stopped issuing paper vouchers for Lufthansa flights. All upgrade requests must take place online through United.com or by calling the MP customer service center. Effective February 1, 2015 Lufthansa will stop accepting the paper vouchers so if you have already redeemed a voucher for travel beyond February 1, please return your voucher to United for recrediting and apply for the upgrade electronically.
There have already been several instances where LH has stopped accepting the vouchers due to a reservation systems upgrade, so if your travel is more than 7-10 days away, you may want to return your voucher and use the electronic system otherwise your paper voucher may not be accepted. If you have enough GPUs, you could still hold on to your paper cert and try using the electronic system at the same time. If you clear electronically, just return your paper cert to United.
If you booked your ticket through Lufthansa.com, simply look up your reservation on UA’s website and you can process your GPU request.
In my opinion, this move really does help Lufthansa take better care of their Miles & MOre Senators and HONs. LH typically provides SENs and HONs with enhanced inventory and with the window closing at 10 hours prior to departure, it gives LH’s elite level members much better opportunities to score last minute upgrades using the Miles & More voucher system and eliminates the competition coming at the last moment from Mileage Plus members.