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United Plan B For Business And First Class Awards Still Alive And Well!

Update, 09/11/12: Just wanted to share a success story.  A friend of mine was booked on miles to fly on USAirways to Israel before Yom Kippur.  A few weeks ago I noticed that United opened up saver coach award seats and switched him over (and reported the availability in this DDF thread). After switching him over he told me that he really would like to go in business so I called back, had them deduct 20,000 additional miles from his account as if there was saver business space, and they waitlisted him for BusinessFirst on the same flight on which he was confirmed in coach.
Yesterday United emailed him to tell him that he’s now confirmed in BusinessFirst, not bad for peak holiday travel season!
20K miles to have a lie-flat bed on a a 10+ hour overnight flight? I’d take that in a heartbeat!
Have your own success story? Post a comment!

Originally posted on 08/20/12:

Continental had a policy informally known as “Plan B for BusinessFirst” that was simply awesome.

The way it worked is if you found coach saver award availability you could call them up and request to pay for BusinessFirst and be waitlisted for a BusinessFirst seat. For Newark to Tel Aviv that means paying 120,000 miles instead of 80,000 miles for coach.

A nonstop coach ticket that costs $1,600 for 80,000 miles isn’t a bad deal at about 2 cents per mile, but a BusiniessFirst ticket with a lie-flat bed and upgraded food that normally costs $5,000 for 120,000 miles is a much better deal at a value of over 4 cents per mile.

It’s no secret that Tel Aviv is a very hard award ticket to find nonstop availability for, especially in Business class.  While seats often open up close to the flight, most people like to plan in advance.   There are a smattering of seats available though, and they can be found by searching for nonstop flights between EWR and TLV on United.com

I was curious if the Plan B process still works, so I found award space in November and had United call me up. Most of the reps in this department used to work for Continental so I said straight out that during the Continental days I was able to pay for and be waitlisted for BusinessFirst when there is coach saver availability and was wondering if this is still possible. The agent knew exactly what I was talking about and how to set it up.

After just 5 minutes on the phone and paying 120,000 miles and $45.10 tax I had this all set up for me:







The agent said that this will work for BusinessFirst or Global First awards.

Here’s things to keep in mind:

-This only works on United operated flights, not on partner award flights.

-Be sure to request that the phone booking fee be waived as this can’t be done online.

-The waitlist will keep checking for BusinessFirst awards until 24 hours before the flight.  At that point you will be removed from the waitlist.

-If you have not cleared at 24 hours before the flight you’ll want to go to the airport as soon as you can to be added to the airport upgrade standby list.  It is crucial that you explain to the agent that you a “Displaced BusinessFirst passenger.”  This is true because you have paid the full BusinessFirst rate already.  The agent should give you “PR-1 status” which gives you top-priority status and moves you to very top of the upgrade standby list, ahead of employees and everyone else trying to upgrade with miles+cash.  If one agent won’t put you on the list as a displaced BusinessFirst passenger with PR-1 status then find another one who will.  With this status the odds of you getting into BusinessFirst are very high.

-If the agents in the airport are all clueless you should direct them to look up “gg onestandby” in their system (they’ll know what this is) and look around line 81 which spells out the details of the procedure for this award. (Parenthetically, when trying to get a gate pass to access a club when I’m not flying I sometimes need to tell an agent to look up “gg checkpoint line 53″ which instructs agents to give you a security pass for you and your guests to access post-security United and USAirways clubs even if you aren’t flying.)

-If they need to verify that you are really on a BusinessFirst award then have them call up the reward desk.

-If you do not clear into BusinessFirst just contact United after the flight and they will refund the extra miles you paid for BusinessFirst.  For EWR-TLV this means a refund of the extra 20,000 miles each way they charge to fly in BusinessFirst saver over coach saver.

-If you are on a connecting flight you should be waitlisted for First Class on all of the connecting flights.  Say you are coming from Los Angeles, even if you clear into first class on the LAX-EWR flight, as long as you don’t clear on the international EWR-TLV flight you will still get the 20,000 miles each way refund!

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80 Responses to “United Plan B For Business And First Class Awards Still Alive And Well!”

  1. Gary Says:

    It seems that you are limited though to that specific date. Is there any way to do this within a certain date range of the booking?

  2. mark Says:

    Dan there is a BIG mistake on your ticket you cannot leave EWR at 3:50PM on Monday and arrive at 930AM on Monday in TLV. Time goes the other way…..

  3. Hans Says:

    Great tip! Per your last point, just curious if you’d get refunded the 20k if you don’t get First between LAX-EWR but you did get upgraded for the EWR-TLV portion?

  4. ed Says:

    “Even if you clear into first class on the LAX-EWR flight, as long as you don’t clear on the international EWR-TLV flight you will still get the 20,000 miles each way refund.”

    That almost sounds too good to be true. Are you certain?

  5. Dan Says:

    Its only good if there is coach saver availability.

    No refund would be due in that case.


  6. Dan Says:

    That’s just Shares acting goofy, it won’t affect anything.
    Anyway I’m cancelling the ticket…it was just a proof of concept.

  7. Yitz Says:

    I recently had a segment that showed waitlisted for global first united miles on lufthansa….

  8. sbr Says:

    my story was i had a ticket tlv ewr via Zurich in business and united direct flight waitlisted about 48 hours before the flight i got an email that the direct flight got available and was changed over to the direct flight

  9. Dan Says:


    Well done!
    I wonder if they would waitlist you on United business nonstop if there was only Swiss coach availability.

  10. sbr Says:

    and u can b waitlisted on more then 1 flight i was on 2

  11. Dan Says:

    Of course.
    Still waitlists often don’t clear until the airport which is why the method in the post works best.
    But it’s definitely worth bearing that in mind when you want a nonstop flight!

  12. Doug Says:

    This is off topic, but if someone could answer I’d appreciate it.

    Regarding Amazon Payments: My wife and I each have an Amazon Payments account, each linked to a totally separate bank account. We also each just got the Starpoints AMEX. I’ve only sent a couple of smallish payments from me to her, but I’m wondering if it will raise flags if I send from her to me since the transactions will be back and forth between two people.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a third account or person to throw into the mix, so if it’ll raise flags I’ll just do it one way and hope I spend the $5K within 6 months on the other card legitimately.


  13. Yitz Says:

    @Dan: you said it can only be done on united and not star aliance partners…

  14. Dan Says:

    @Doug: Please post on the forums.

    I don’t understand exaxtly what you did.

  15. Yehuda Says:

    Can you then fly 3 legs in business and one in coach and then request a mileage refund?

  16. arch Says:

    Classic….Classic Dan :-)

  17. Yitz Says:

    @Dan: “This only works on United operated flights, not on partner award flights.” what does this mean?

  18. Doug Says:

    Sorry…didn’t even know about the forums.

  19. hunch Says:

    [quote] For Newark to Tel Aviv that means paying 120,000 miles instead of 80,000 miles for coach.

    Is that a typo? shouldn’t it say “business” instead of “coach”?

  20. ari Says:

    Dan means paying 120,000 miles for business instead of paying 80,000 miles for coach (a much better value, if you read the post).

  21. medny Says:

    Does United accept Amex points? I had account with continental and amex used to work with them.

  22. Yitz Says:

    @medny: thats been gona quite some time my friend….

  23. Dan Says:

    You can’t do this process using United miles to book a waitlisted business award on Star Alliance partner USAirways from PHL-TLV for example.

    No, you can only transfer Chase points to United.

    You can transfer AMEX points to Air Canada who can book you on their Star Alliance United, but this process requires actual United miles.

  24. fan Says:

    dan is it possible to do it on us air through united miles?

  25. Eric Says:

    Hi Dan. will this “waitlist” work for tickets purchased on continental at full price too? thanks for all of your help!

  26. Dan Says:

    No, United miles, United metal only.

    How would it?

  27. RF Says:

    Dan on the subject of upgrades, how about a post on the best methods of upgrading coach tickets with Cash, Miles, etc. on various airlines. Keep up the good work!

  28. interested Says:

    After booking this ticket, would you be able to cancel the ticket and get a full refund on the miles for non-premium status flyers, as you could claim you booked a businessfirst flight which did not become available.

  29. sillypainter Says:

    Yitz refers to partner flight waitlist when fake avilability shows up for Lufthansa, the reservation goes throug and then it shows “waitlisted” but that’s a completely different ball game, it’s fake availability that will never book.

  30. Fan Of Dan! Says:

    ” Parenthetically, when trying to get a gate pass to access a club when I’m not flying I sometimes need to tell an agent to look up “gg checkpoint line 53″ which instructs agents to give you a security pass for you and your guests to access post-security United and USAirways clubs even if you aren’t flying.”

    How do you do this and how do you get this?

  31. Dan Says:

    There are no good methods, it’s generally a rip-off.


    @Fan Of Dan!:
    You need a United club membership or club credit card to do that.

  32. Fan Of Dan! Says:



    Everybody who walks in to the airport with a club credit card could ask the agents for a gate pass and access to the club?
    Sounds too good to be true!

    If this is the case, which airlines could you do this?

  33. Dan Says:

    @Fan Of Dan!:
    I do it on United all the time.

  34. Fan Of Dan! Says:


    Any other airlins?

    Do they sometimes give you a hard time?

  35. Zlt Says:

    Dan you wrote “& your guests” fors that mean you could take in to the club (past security with no boarding pass) even if your not flying anyone you want???

  36. Dan Says:

    @Fan Of Dan!:
    No idea.
    Not usually, but if they do that’s what gg checkpoint line 53 is for.

    They give you a gate pass for you and any guests you want (either your spouse and kids or 2 guests.)

  37. NETANEL Says:

    I bought a ticket in coach JFK to HKG
    There was an option to upgrade to business for $600 + 30K miles each way.
    I selected this option and now i am on wait list as well… :(
    How can i increase the chance of getting the upgrade being that i am not an elite status guy?

  38. ctown Says:

    how do I do this if I already booked a coach ticket one way using 40,000 miles? could I still upgrade?

  39. Dan Says:

    You don’t.

    Sure, just call and say the same thing I did in the post.

  40. ctown Says:

    will this work even though i’m only a regular united mileage plus member?

  41. Dan Says:


  42. ctown Says:

    you don’t need to be an elite member to do this this?

  43. ctown Says:

    I tried calling united and they told me that I need an additional 110k miles (in addition to the original 40k) to upgrade to the business first. what do I do next?

  44. ctown Says:

    I tried calling united and they told me that I need an additional 110k miles (in addition to the original 40k) to upgrade to the business first. what do I do next?

  45. ctown Says:

    Had a real success story. I had booked a coach flight for 40k and saw your post awhile later. I called up and after fighting on the phone with the rep, I wasn’t getting anywhere, she wanted an additional 110k for a total of 150k. I asked to be transferred to her supervisor, and ended up fighting with her for some time. In the end, she said that she would see what she could do. I later got an email that I got business-first for the main leg of my trip (tlv to ewr) and was waitlisted for the other (ewr to cle). Best of all, I was never charged more than my original 40k miles!

  46. bklyn Says:

    DAN, if i have a flight with elal is there anything i can do with Chase sapphire points to upgrade to business class? thanks for your help.

  47. Frequent Traveler Says:

    Dan, I followed your instructions to a T and have been waitlisted on the business/first segments (looks the same as your picture) however the additonal miles have NOT been deducted. Should I call again and redo or leave as is? Thanks for all your help!

  48. Dan Says:

    When you view your ticket online does it say ticketed and confirmed still or do you need to call in?


    @Frequent Traveler:
    I’d call in.

  49. rosanne skopp Says:

    need some advice on global upgrade. although the united website says they can be used on SOME flights on k, t, n etc fares (i.e. lower price nonrefundable), in fact they cannot. now, it does says this in other areas of their website but it never corrects the word SOME. so, if you want to upgrade INTERNATIONALLY you really need to be flying on an expensive Economy ticket or the global upgrade is no better than the regional upgrade. any united contact person who understands that the word SOME shouldn’t mean none? i’ve spilled my blood on the phone with various reps and am really angry now, as well as frustrated.

  50. Dan Says:

    @rosanne skopp:
    Global Premier Upgrades require more expensive fares for international travel. They do not have fare requirements for regional travel, including flights like HNL and PS flights.

  51. ctown Says:

    it says ticketed and confirmed, and then lists the two leg trip with business-first by the tlv-ewr and coach by ewr-cle. it then lists the waitlisted leg of ewr-cle as first class.

  52. thankly Says:

    im also traveling us air before yom kipor -how do i and can i do this with united miles for usair? and how about if i bought it with cash not miles first?

  53. Fan of Dan Says:

    Just did a wait list EWR to PHX and a week later got an email confirming the upgrade!

  54. ZCN Says:

    What about if I do DEN-SEA-NRT-BKK and I only get upgraded to Business/First on the NRT-BKK leg? Would that be considered an upgrade or would it only be on the SEA-NRT leg?

  55. Dan Says:

    No and no.

    As NRT-BKK is marketed as BusinessFirst and not eligible for comp elite upgrades I would assume that clearing just that leg would make you ineligible for a mileage refund, but YMMV.

  56. Deal Guy Says:

    Dan, was your friend originally booked with US Airways miles or was it United miles putting him on US Airways

  57. Dan Says:

    @Deal Guy:
    United miles.

  58. Kroozer Says:

    @Dan We travel as a family of 4.
    Using this method will the waitlist clear only if 4 Business/First award seats open up?
    If only 1 or 2 award seats open up, will we by bypassed and those seats given to other lower in the priority list?
    What do you recommend us for success?

  59. Dan Says:

    I would assume the advance waitlist would only clear if 4 seats opened up.
    If you want to receive an upgrade for some of you then just split each of you on your own itineraries.

  60. Kroozer Says:

    If we wanted all 4 to be upgraded or none at all, and kept single itinerary, are we holding everyone to be cleared on advance waitlist or losing the upgrade chance for some of us? Same question when we put ourselves on the airport upgrade standby list with PR-1 status.
    Essentially we really strongly prefer to be all upgraded or none at all, but wouldn’t want 1’s or 2’s to be upgraded bypassing us for a total count of > 4. If that is a possibility then we would need to split the itineraries regardless. Thanks for your insight.

  61. Dan Says:

    In advance you would likely be passed up by others due to having 4 people on 1 reservation.
    However at the airport you shouldn’t be passed up by others.

  62. pilot Says:

    do not do it, either amex financial revue or account closing, all this stuff is not worth the headaches that come with it.

  63. Frequent Traveler Says:

    Dan, I had asked you about the fact that I am wait listed but the miles have not been deducted. I have called now six times and spoken with six different ppl and they all either have no idea or tell me impossible to deduct miles unless it’s available-even ppl who worked for continental prior. Any ideas?? Also, if it is two ppl on the reservation, do you suggest we separate and have more possibility? Thank you!

  64. ctown Says:

    online it says ticketed and confirmed, and then lists the two leg trip with business-first by the tlv-ewr and coach by ewr-cle. it then lists the waitlisted leg of ewr-cle as first class. will I get charged the additional 20k later? what’s going on with it?

  65. Brook Says:

    not really related to this thread, but i was talking to a united rep and randomly asked if he can put in some courtesy points onto my account. he said that if im planning to fly soon and need a certain amount of miles, he’s authorized to give me 5k miles bonus as a courtesy.
    now I have now an additional 5K points i didnt count on :)

  66. jj Says:

    Dan, I am about to book a ticket on united for a domestic trip. the trip cost 25,000 miles (my bal on united in 25,300), is there any way I can get an upgrade to business either one way or r/t? Thanks!

  67. fan Says:

    @Fan Of Dan!: What is “gg checkpoint line 53” bec. I have the credit card?

  68. jj Says:

    dan, you there?

  69. myb821 Says:

    @jj no
    @dan u got a shout out from gary at viewfromthewing

  70. jj Says:

    myb821, can you get him? :)

  71. alohastephen Says:

    My favorite United Lounge is in Narita. Will “gg checkpoint line 53” work there?
    I would assume that I need a boarding pass to get through immigration to access the lounge.

  72. AA Says:

    Hi, I just made reservation this morning and everything seem to work out. However, i just checked my receipt this afternoon and i see they only deducted 80,000. I called them back a few times each person is telling me that my reservation is a mistake there isnt a such thing to be put on a waitinglist by giving 120,000.

    Any advice?

  73. Jay Says:

    This is no longer their method. Dan got lucky and I am sure that he would not be able to get United to take the 120k upfront again. As other commentors have experienced, I had spoken to over 40 reps via multiple channels including having them call me and they will only take the coach saver amount of miles when waitlisting, claiming the procedure has changed.

  74. Dan Says:

    Funny because I’ve done it 3 times already this month.

  75. Ellen Says:

    DOES NOT WORK, Jay is right, i experienced the same.

  76. Anonymous Says:

    hi dan just wanted to report a little success story that i had i am a platinum member with united and on a flight from nyc to ord got three first class seats confirmed a week before as complimentry upgrades ben

  77. StillWork Says:

    Does this still work now? Even if not Elite?

  78. Enigma Says:

    Hi Dan,

    I used your plan B for the my trip from Delhi-PEK-SFO. DEl-PEK is on air china and I have business class booking. PEK-SFO flight is on United had only economy class available. I booked the economy class and asked them to put me on waitlist for business class. They did that but confirmation is showing “(I class requested)” instead of “This flight segment is wait-listed” like shown in your picture.

    Explanation of “I-class requested” on united website shows “you are booked in X class and requested I class. You will be automatically confirmed if space on I class becomes available.”

    Wait-listed and “I class requested” are same?


  79. Tim Says:

    I just attempted a plan B. The first agent simply put me on the waitlist and “I class requested” appeared on my account. After my fourth call the agent I spoke with knew exactly what I was trying to do and said the previous agent “half did” what I was describing but explained that they no longer debit the miles until you your upgrade is processed. After 5 minutes it was done with no miles debited. So looks like, since the miles aren’t debited, I don’t have an option to do the gate trick of saying that I have a displaced business class ticket. Oh well, fingers crossed.

  80. mb Says:

    After being told by a rep that she’s been with United for 17 years and there’s “no such thing as Plan B,” I insisted to speak to a supervisor. The rep told me, “Sir, I don’t want to waste your time, I guarantee you there is no such thing. I am a rep here for 17 years on the premier desk with our most sophisticated customers.” After pushing for a supervisor, they right away confirmed that Plan B does exist and they helped book it immediately thereafter! Go DDF! Plan B is alive and kicking.


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