United After Check Out Upgrade Offers: Cheaper First Class Opportunity

The struggle is real for status flyers right now. United was running a really cool flash sale yesterday that I took advantage of. I booked three one-way tickets from PHX – IAD for only $40 each including taxes and fees. This is my first paid fare on United in several years, so bear with me if this is common… After paying, I was given the opportunity to upgrade to first class for $199. That’s not a bad deal on an already extremely cheap cross country flight.  My initial thought was that United after checkout upgrade offers must be awful for elite status members looking for upgrades.

United After Checkout Upgrade Offers

Here you can see a screenshot of the upgrade offer I received. It’s important to note that this came after I had already paid the economy fare. Nonetheless, it presents an intriguing opportunity to paid first class flyers. Additionally, casual flyers like myself might be interested in a better flying experience.

United After Checkout Upgrade Offers
$199 – Not bad since my original flight only cost $40!

As you can see, my total one way first class ticket would have been $239 had we chosen to upgrade. In this case we didn’t because we’ll be flying with our (now unborn) baby. Here’s where things get interesting. I decided to take a look at how much a first class ticket would be if I had purchased it outright:

$385 first class fare available for direct purchase, much higher than my offer.

Well, $385 is certainly a lot higher than the $239 I could have paid at checkout. Next I decided to access my reservation online to see what United would charge for an upgrade through that portal. Here’s a look:

United Reservation Lookup Offer
$385 total, which is also much higher than my post checkout offer.

Welp, there you have it. It would be a whopping $345 to upgrade, which exactly matches what I would pay to outright purchase the first class flight ($385).

Paid First Class Trick?

My question for United flyers: How often are first class upgrades offered after purchase? If I’m a paid first class flyer, why not just book economy seats and see what type of offer I’m presented with at checkout? If United doesn’t present an discounted offer, couldn’t you just access your reservation and upgrade for as much as the paid first class fare would have been in the first place? Furthermore, if none of these opportunities presented themselves, you could always cancel since refunds are available within 24 hours.

Bottom Line

I’m not at all familiar with Mileage Plus status levels, and frankly I’ve got zero interest in them. United isn’t a large player in my home city of Phoenix. I find it interesting that United is doing everything they can to unload first class seats before their status members can be upgraded. It seems like that’s just the way things are now, a tough ride for status flyers. Furthermore, United appears to be opening the door for savvy, paid first class flyers to pay a little less than they normally would to fly up front.

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3 thoughts on “United After Check Out Upgrade Offers: Cheaper First Class Opportunity

  1. Is there a typo in your blog post? at the top you say Phoenix to IAH (Houston) for $40. But all the screenshots shows IAD (Washington DC). $40 is dirt cheap for Phoenix to DC.

    1. I always confuse those two airport codes, thanks for catching that! Yes we’ll be flying to DC one way for $40 each. Secret Flying alerted me to the flash sale yesterday. The deal was gone within a few hours. P.S. – We love the blog updates on your site! We started this blog around the same time, so it’s cool to see your progress! Best of luck!

      1. that’s an awesome rate!
        thanks for the nice comment, glad I stumbled upon your site – adding to feedly!
        let me know if i can help out in anyway

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