How and Why You Should Use the United Airlines Expert Mode How and Why You Should Use the United Airlines Expert Mode

How and Why You Should Use the United Airlines "Expert Mode"

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Have you ever flown United Airlines and wanted to know if you could confirm an upgrade with miles or Plus Points before you purchased the ticket? Alternatively, have you ever wondered how many award seats are available when debating whether to book a redemption? Luckily, United Airlines has an expert mode that solves these exact problems.

United Airlines’ expert mode opens up a new world of insight into flights and options available for those flights, from the number of seats left in a fare bucket to award and upgrade availability. This incredible tool is unique to United and can help you upgrade your travel game, especially if you frequent the airline. 

Why You Should Care About Expert Mode

Although the name might be intimidating, the usefulness of this tool can help even the occasional United flyer. Not to mention that expert mode is incredibly valuable, despite being easy to use (more on that later).

Using expert mode displays all available fare classes for a particular flight, information often reserved for airline agents. Different fare classes, or fare buckets, correspond to different types of tickets, from award space and upgrade availability to even the rules and prices of revenue tickets. 

a United Polaris business class seat
United Polaris business class seat. Credit: Max Prosperi/AwardWallet

Viewing how many seats are available, if any, at certain levels will help determine whether you can instantly confirm an upgrade to United’s Polaris business class after purchasing the ticket. Alternatively, knowing the number of saver award space tickets will help to determine if you can book a United Airlines flight via a partner award program, such as booking United flights with Air Canada Aeroplan.

United Airlines Fare Class Basics

In order to maximize all United’s expert mode has to offer, understanding the differences in fare classes is essential. Each fare class is represented by one or two letters plus a number. The letter represents the fare class, and the number represents the seats left in that fare class. 

Knowing which fare class represents which type of ticket or award is necessary for expert mode to be useful. Although United has many different fare classes, here are some of the most helpful:

Award ticket space (available to anyone):

  • X: Saver economy award space, which is bookable by partners
  • HN: Everyday economy award space (more expensive miles cost) 
  • I: Saver business or domestic first-class award space, which is bookable by partners 
  • ZN: Everyday business or domestic first-class award space (more expensive miles cost)

Elite member award tickets (and some United cardholders):

  • XN: Saver economy award space 
  • YN: Everyday economy award space (more expensive miles cost)
  • IN: Saver business or domestic first-class award space
  • JN: Everyday business or domestic first-class award space (more expensive miles cost)

Revenue tickets (correlate to the paid cost of the ticket):

  • Economy Class: Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G, and N
  • Premium Plus: O, A, and R
  • Business Class (domestic first-class): J, C, D, Z, and P

Upgrade space:

  • PZ: Confirmable upgrade space to business or domestic first class with PlusPoints or miles.
  • PN: Instant upgrade at booking for United elite members booked into the Y or B (full-fare economy) fare class. Top-tier Premier 1K members can receive the upgrade when booked into the M fare class; invite-only Global Services members can upgrade from most fare classes.
  • RN: Confirmable upgrade space to Premium Plus (premium economy) class with PlusPoints or miles.

How To Use Expert Mode

United Airlines’ expert mode appears in your flight searches when turned on. To access these results, you need to enable it in your MileagePlus settings on United's website.

First, log in to your United account and navigate to “My United” or your account homepage. Click “Settings,” followed by “Special preferences & accommodations.”

United Airlines My United

On the next page, scroll down. Just above the yellow “save” button, there is a box to check to “Enable expert mode.” Simply check the box and save. 

Check the box to turn on expert mode

If you perform a United search, expert mode results will now appear. You need to ensure that you are logged into your account for the results to appear, and if it is ever not working, simply repeat these steps. Now that you have enabled expert mode and want to use it to find award space on your next flight, here is how you view the results. 

Performing a search

Search for the United flight that you want. Note that whether you are searching for an upgrade or award ticket, in order to have the expert mode results populate, you need to be searching for a paid ticket. Uncheck the “Book with miles” box, which you can recheck later if you want to book the award with miles

For example, when searching for a flight from Washington Dulles (IAD) to London (LHR) and finding the flight I want, I can click on “Details” and view the results in the drop-down. The list displays the fare class, followed by the number of seats available. For example, “X9” means that nine or more seats are available for saver economy award tickets. 9 is the highest number you'll see, even if there are 10 or 15 seats available in a fare bucket.

United expert mode search result fare classes

In this case, I see PZ5. PZ is miles or PlusPoints upgrade space, meaning I could pay for an upgrade-eligible economy ticket and confirm an upgrade to United Polaris business class. Five seats are available for this upgrade, so I would be out of luck trying to upgrade more people.

Alternatively, if I wanted to book using miles, I see that “I2” means two saver business class seats are available. I could book with United miles or with a partner, such as Avianca LifeMiles. You can tell that this flight is relatively empty, with many fare classes having nine or more seats available. 

Bottom Line

United Airlines’ expert mode is a great tool to help frequent and occasional United flyers elevate their travels. By allowing users to see specific upgrade, award, and revenue fare classes, travelers can make informed decisions on the best way to book the flights they desire for their entire party.

If you are looking to redeem PlusPoints to upgrade your flight or see if space is available for booking partner awards on United flights, expert mode is a powerful tool that will help you do so.

Were you aware of expert mode previously? What do you think is its best feature? 

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