500-Mile Upgrade / e500 (UA)

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United Airlines no longer issues or sells 500-Mile Upgrades, as of March 2010. The information below is out of date and should be revised or deleted. Please see the later pages in this FlyerTalk forum thread.

Summary

An e500 (also known as a “500 miler”) is an upgrade certificate that allows a one-cabin upgrade on a flight of 500 miles or less within Region 1. They can be combined to upgrade longer flights (details below). Mileage Plus elite members who are Premier or above earn 4 e500s for every 10,000 miles flown on revenue tickets on flights operated by United or United Express (also referred to as "BIS" or "butt-in-seat" miles). e500s may also be purchased.

UA.com e500 links: 500-mile upgrades | e500 T&Cs | e-500 Upgrade FAQs | Check upgrade balance

E=500's are no longer in use. They have been replaced by unlimited domestic (regional) upgrades in 2010.

Earning e500s

Most elite members of Mileage Plus (specifically: Premier, Premier Executive, and 1K) earn 4 e500s for every 10,000 paid miles flown on flights operated by United or United Express (i.e. "BIS" miles) within a calendar year (the e500 clock resets on Jan 1st). For example: US Airways codeshares operated by United count toward e500s but flights operated by US Airways or other Star Alliance partners do not.

  • Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) obtained from any source other than a revenue flight operated by United or United Express do not count (FT).
  • Class-of-service bonuses do not count (FT Post #5).
  • e500 qualifying miles are subject to the 500-mile segment minimum, just like EQMs (FT).
  • The e500 mile ‘clock’ resets on January 1st (FT).

You start earning complimentary e500s once you reach Premier (2P; 25K EQMs or 30 EQS) status. However, in the year in which you qualify for 2P, you don't receive the first set of 4 until you fly 10K BIS after the flight on which you qualify for 2P. For example: say you're at 24K EQMs. You take a flight and earn 2,500 EQMs, earning you 2P status with a total of 26,500 EQMs. You will earn your first set of e500s when you reach 36,500 EQMs, not 35,000 (FT Post #3,8).

e500 sweeps

e500s should be automatically deposited in your account after each 10K BIS flown within a calendar year. The consensus is that e500s credit every Saturday, but mileage earned late in the week may not post in time to contribute to that week’s sweep (FT).

Purchasing e500s

e500s can be purchased from United (either at united.com or at an airport counter) at the following rates (per 4 upgrades) (UA):

  • 1K, Premier Executive (1P), Premier (2P), and Premier Associate (3P): $200
  • General (non-status) members and non-members: $325

Using e500s

You can request an upgrade using e500s on united.com for an entire itinerary or for only specific segments. You need one e500 for every 500 miles you want to upgrade. There is a 50 mile ‘grace’ per upgraded segment or itinerary (FT). For example, LAX-PHL (2401 miles) requires 5 e500s, but so does SFO-PHL (2521). e500s can be applied only to flight segments operated by United or United Express within Region 1*.

* Region 1 includes North America, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Central America. (UA)

You can request an upgrade with e500s even if you do not have enough to support the upgrade. If your upgrade clears, you will have the opportunity to purchase additional e500s or decline the upgrade (FT).

Calculating e500 requirements based on mileage

If all segments clear before check-in, the number of e500s is based on non-stop mileage between origin and destination, regardless of whether a non-stop flight exists. However, if all segments do not clear in advance (and instead clear individually) or if some segments cannot be upgraded (e.g. one-class planes like CRJs or Ted), you will be charged according to the distance of each segment [(FT), (FT)]. For example, traveling ORD-DEN-TUS, you would need 3 e500s if all flights clear in advance (1437 miles), but you would need 4 e500s to clear both ORD-DEN (888) and DEN-TUS (639) individually.

e500s become "active" for a given flight only within a specific time window, the length of which is determined by status as follows (UA):

  • GS: 120 hours
  • 1K: 100 hours
  • 1P: 72 hours
  • 2P: 48 hours
  • 3P: 36 hours
  • GM: 24 hours

An upgrade using e500s may be requested at any time, but the request is only active within the e500 window. An upgrade requested prior to the e500 window will be "pending," which means it is in the queue for requests but has not actually been applied; pending requests can neither clear nor be waitlisted. Upgrade requests made within the e500 window will clear immediately if confirmable upgrade space is available, or will be added to the waitlist, if no upgrade space is available. "Pending" requests will automatically clear or waitlist at the start of the e500 window; hence, it may be wise to request the e500 upgrade as early as possible so the system can automatically clear or waitlist the upgrade at the earliest possible opportunity.

Tips:

  • If you have requested an upgrade and some segments remain waitlisted, don’t check-in early (to allow the best chance of having all segments clear prior to check-in, thus potentially costing fewer e500s).
  • If you change status while you have an upgrade pending, you need to have the upgrade request canceled and reentered in order to clear at your new window (according to the FT UA FAQ "TIP #1").

Expiring e500s

e500s are valid through the end of the month one year after issuance. They must be used (not just applied) by the date of expiry. Expired e500s cannot be reinstated and do not convert to miles.*

* Prior to June 1, 2007, expiring e500s were converted to redeemable miles (RDMs) at the rate of 500 RDM per expiring e500. After this date, expiring e500s no longer convert to RDM. United briefly allowed 1P and 1K Mileage Plus members and/or members who live internationally to register to have the automatic conversion continue indefinitely (FT); registration closed on August 15, 2007 and e500s no longer convert for any member who did not (or could not) register.

Miscellaneous

“Gifting” upgrades with e500s: Unlike other upgrade instruments, e500s can only be used to upgrade a person traveling with you. However, some have reported exceptions to this rule (FT).

One companion on the same itinerary/PNR may be sponsored directly on united.com. In other situations, companions may not be sponsored with e500s directly on united.com, but this can be done over the phone or at the airport. As stated on united.com, the companion must be traveling on the same flight (not necessarily the same itinerary/PNR) as the sponsor.

Swapping upgrade instruments

  • You can switch upgrade instruments (e.g., from a CR-1 to e500s) over the phone (FT).
  • Before the upgrade has cleared & before the flight goes to airport control, it may be prudent to avoid switching instruments. Once on airport control, upgrades clear (first) by status so switching is probably okay. (FT)
  • After the upgrade has cleared... (FT)

Using e500s on mixed UA/US itineraries

You can upgrade any UA-operated segments (though your flight needs to have a UA flight number to upgrade in advance). (FT, post #29)

Profile for 500 mile upgrades

The policy governing e500s is detailed in S*MPI/Upgrade500 and/or in S*PMO/UG-500.