What you need to know about United fares - The Points Guy (2023)

If you are looking for ways to improve yourrecently devalued United miles, you are not alone.

When you dive into its detailsMileagePlus-program, you'll come across categories of fares that can be like alphabet soup. United uses different letter codes in its reservation systems to designate different ticket bins. Although we usually call them economy, premium economy, business class or first class, reservation systems use designations such as Y, O and J,including.

For example, let's look at the United Polaris cabin. Regardless of which seat they choose, passengers in this cabin can have their tickets booked in different price ranges. A passenger in seat 1A may have booked 'I' class by entering an award ticket with miles. Another passenger in seat 8L may have booked a full "J" ticket. The in-flight experience will not differ, but there are still important differences between the two.

What you need to know about United fares - The Points Guy (1)

Understanding fares is critical for United frequent flyers as they affect mileage and Premier Priority Points (PQPs), which are usually dependent on the price of your ticket. For example onebasic economicsPassengers on an "N" class ticket will generally earn significantly fewer miles than a business traveler on a full-fare "Y" ticket.

Additionally, if you're hoping to upgrade to a higher cabin, it's important to pay attention to price categories. Booking a flight in the "W" fare class or higher requires 40 points plus, while the cheapest fares require double that number.

These fare category codes also play a role when making flight changes. If only a higher ticket class is available, you may be required to pay the price difference even if you use United's same-day change policy. That is why it is important to familiarize yourself with these codes.

Let's take a closer look at how United divide them.

Income rate categories

United uses several different ticket categories for standard revenue tickets. These letters apply to paid tickets booked on United.com, as well as reservations made through United.comcredit card travel portals- includedHunt the toursIAmerican Express travels.

For information on these ticket categories, we recommend that you visit United's website andEnable expert modeon your profile page. This allows you to see the full list of fares when searching for paid routes on United flights, as shown below with an example from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Singapore Changi Airport (SIN).

What you need to know about United fares - The Points Guy (3)

The list of available fares includes paid tickets, upgrades and awards, all mixed together.

Starting with revenue percentages, it looks like this:

First/Business class

J: Full price
C: High price
D: High price
G: reduced coefficient
P: deeper discount rate

Premium Plus

O: High price
A: Prisrabat
R: deeper discount rate


Y: Higher full rate — local instant upgrades for all elite members when PN is available (or PZ if Premier 1K)
B: Full price — local instant upgrades for all elite members when PN is available (or PZ if Premier 1K)
M: High Speed ​​— Premier 1K local direct upgrades when PZ is available
Q: High price
You: High price
H: High price
Question: Price discount
V: reduced coefficient
W: The lowest default value eligible for a Polaris upgrade
S: Greatly reduced rate
T: Greatly reduced rate
L: Large discount rate
K: Deeply discounted price
G: deeper discount rate
N: Basic economic data for domestic and international short-haul flights

Remember that you will often see multiple prices for the same economy class. International domestic and short-haul flights offer an "upgrade" option to convert a reduced fare to a fully refundable fare. Meanwhile, long-haul international flights usually have three different options for the cheapest economy class:

  • Basic Economics (Limited Benefits)
  • Economy (standard benefits)
  • Flexible finances (standard benefits with fully refundable price)

Pay close attention to the ticket you order so you know exactly what to expect.

How price classes affect the partner's mileage prices

When you book United flights through United.com, you earn Mileage Plus Miles based on your fare. However, if you choose to attribute these flights to an affiliate program, most still calculate profit percentages based on price range and flight distance.

To takeAir Canada Aeroplan. Here is the schedule of accruals for flights from the United States that will be credited to your Aeroplan account:

What you need to know about United fares - The Points Guy (4)

On the above flight from San Francisco to Singapore, the Great Circle Mapper calculates the distance as 8,446 miles. If you book a ticket in ticket class S, you will earn Aeroplan points on 50% of the declared distance – so you get 4,223 points. That's significantly higher than the 3,675 United Miles you'd earn with United MileagePlus.

Related:United's best-kept secret to elite status: How to earn PQPs faster on partner flights

Upgrading ticket categories

What you need to know about United fares - The Points Guy (5)

United also has different ticket categories for upgrading to a higher cabin. This includes travelers booked in economy class who wish to upgrade to Premium Plus or Polaris business class, as well as passengers ticketed in Premium Plus who wish to secure a business class seat. These may also vary depending on yoursUnited elite statuslav.

First/Business class

PN:Global servicesmileage and PlusPoint upgrade and direct upgrades for Premier 1K customers to full economy fares on eligible routes.
PZ: Premier Platinum and 1K PlusPoints and all mileage upgrade awards, but if you received a free Premier upgrade (CPU) you will also automatically receive a new ticket in that award category

Premium Plus

RN: Upgrades for all members

Upgrading of appropriate price categories

Although these upgrade categories are fixed, the price you have to pay for the upgrade is not, as it depends on the income category you order. Passengers with tickets in ticket class "W" or higher can use 40 PlusPoints to upgrade to Polaris Business Class on eligible international flights. However, tickets booked in price classes S, T, L, K or G require 80 points to upgrade.

All Premium Plus fares paid are eligible for Polaris upgrades for 30 Plus points, and all regular economy fares can be upgraded to Premium Plus for 20 Plus points.

Please note that United's basic economy fares – booked in the N fare class – are not eligible for any type of upgrade.

Related:Why Premium Plus and higher fares are the secret behind United's upgrades

Prize categories

Now let's discuss the award tickets. There are nine price categories for mileage tickets, and prices can vary significantly by code. As mentioned above, you can see the availability of all ticket categories by enabling Expert Mode. From there, you can start an earning search instead of choosing "book with miles" on United.com.

Here is an overview of United's award categories.

First/Business class

JN: Daily price for all members (dynamic rates)
IN: Price savings for Premier Platinum and 1,000 members
I: Savings bonus for all other customers and partner exchanges

Premier Platinum, 1K and Global Services members have access to extensive corporate and premier economy on flights operated by United. These are published in the category IN prices, but are only displayed if you are logged into a qualified account.

For example, I am a Premier 1K member and this is what I see when I search for the same flight from San Francisco to Singapore described above.

What you need to know about United fares - The Points Guy (6)

In this particular example, the IN inventory corresponds to the I inventory. However, as a general rule of thumb, United typically releases more seats for the IN award than the I award (the standard ticket category for Business Class and domestic First Class Economy Awards).

Please note that only my warehouse can be booked with rewards from affiliate programs such asAir Canada AeroplanIPER Kilometer Club.

Read more:The best sites to search for Star Alliance award availability

Premium Plus

ON: All Rewards (Dynamic Rewards)


YN: Daily reward for all members (dynamic pricing)
XN: Reward savings for elite members and select credit cardholders
X: Savings Reward for all other customers and affiliate redemptions

If you are the primary cardholder aUnited Explorer-kort,United business card,United Quest-kortofUnited Club Infinite-kort, you have accesscomprehensive savings rates on economy class, which gives you access to the XN tariff class. This also applies to all United elites, including Premier Silver and Premier Gold members. United often releases more seats for the XN award than the X award (the standard ticket category for economy awards).

However, as in Business Class, only X inventory is available in partner currencies.


Frequent flyers often become familiar with fare categories, as understanding their meaning allows them to book, change and earn flights more efficiently. Although you don't need to memorize all ticket categories right away, we recommend that you doEnable expert modeon United's website. This gives you access to this valuable information when you check in, either via the airline's website or mobile app.

Additional reporting by Zach Honig.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author, not of any bank, credit card company, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


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