United Makes Upgrade Changes

Carrier sets increased fees, miles for upgrading on domestic and international flights

United Airlines will change its upgrade program in the first quarter of 2003, to get rid of a complex system that depends on the type and level of upgrade and replace it with two categories: North American and international.

United said the change is “streamlining and simplifying the markets” where customers can use their upgrade.

Also, Premier members of the frequent-flyer program will get 48 hours, up from the current 24 hours, to request upgrades.

For all travelers, however, getting upgrades will be costlier. As of Oct. 1, the monetary purchase price and miles needed to purchase upgrades will rise, United’s first increase since 1996. The carrier has expanded its paper ticket fee to agent bookings, matching the move first made by Continental and later followed by American.

United also eliminated all fare rule waivers, effective Aug. 28. That’s less than two months after the airline introduced a modified agency waiver program under which waivers still were permitted, but under a more centralized system.

United began that program July 18, and less than two weeks later Continental eliminated waivers entirely. Delta followed, eliminating waivers as of Aug. 15. American did the same in late August.