Upgrade Lufthansa Flights Using United Global Premier Upgrades

by Sam Roecker
two airplanes on a runway

Photo by Lufthansa

Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) can be applied on Lufthansa-operated flights for a one-segment, one-cabin upgrade. It’s a great benefit, but can require some research and chicanery to pull off. For online GPU requests, tickets must be purchased from Lufthansa (not United); United-purchased 016 tickets (operated by Lufthansa) are still GPU-eligible but will require calling.

United Premier 1Ks earn six GPUs the day they qualify for 1K status, and an additional two GPUs after every additional 50,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) or 60 Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS).

Upgrading from economy to business class using a GPU

Generally speaking, the cheapest economy fares (deep-discount) are not eligible for GPU-applied upgrades. The following Lufthansa-operated economy fare classes are eligible for GPUs: B, E, G, H, M, Q, U, and Y.

Lufthansa has three economy fares: Light, Basic and Basic Plus I. With the fare below (displayed from Lufthansa.com), the Light and Basic fares book into T class, which is not eligible for a GPU. The Basic Plus I fare bookes into the eligible Q class – note the unfortunate price difference.

How to use United Global Premier Upgrade (GPU) on Lufthansa

GPU-eligible economy fare classes on Lufthansa

How to search for eligible fare classes

When booking flights on Lufthansa.com, select a fare and click “Show booking classes.”

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Show booking classes to ensure fare is GPU-eligible

How and when to request GPU upgrades on Lufthansa

Requests can be made online after booking as early as 331 days before departure and up until 10 hours before departure. You can only make online requests for Lufthansa flights, not United-purchased codeshare flights (016 tickets). For flights purchased through United, you will need to call to process a GPU.

You can upgrade up to four people on the same reservation – using one GPU per passenger – online; more than four will require calling United. You do not need to be traveling on the requested itinerary and passengers can have different last names.

Upgrades that cannot be confirmed will be placed on a waitlist and can even be confirmed after check-in. The GPU will deduct from your account if and when your upgrade clears.

Lufthansa Senator Lounge Frankfurt FRA

Lufthansa Senator Lounge. Photo by Lufthansa

Will my upgrade clear?

While not guaranteed, award availability is generally a good predictor for clearing upgrades. If a Lufthansa flight is showing award availability in searches on United.com, a GPU is more likely clear – although that’s certainly not guaranteed.


While Lufthansa economy fare class limitations somewhat limit the value of Global Premier Upgrades, the addition of Z and P fares to GPU-eligibility is a huge win for United 1Ks who want to fly Lufthansa First Class. Trust me, it’s worth it for the caviar alone.

Lufthansa First Class Caviar Service. Photo by Sam Roecker

Lufthansa First Class signature caviar service – a rather generous serving on this flight! Photo by Sam Roecker.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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jeff jones July 25, 2018 - 4:54 pm

Discounted Z and P fare classes eligible to upgrade to LH First as of April 2018

Sam Roecker July 25, 2018 - 5:04 pm

Hey Jeff, thanks for that correction! Very helpful and will update accordingly. Have you been able to apply a GPU for LH First?

Jason September 17, 2018 - 1:11 pm

The upgrade did not work for me. I have Z class fares on Lufthansa (United flight numbers) and United would not process the GPU given it was a Z class fare.

John Harper September 18, 2018 - 11:22 am

What, specifically, did United tell you? Did they say that the fare didn’t qualify, or just that the upgrade didn’t clear?

Jason September 19, 2018 - 2:18 pm


They said the fare did not qualify.

02nz July 25, 2018 - 6:32 pm

“The following Lufthansa-operated economy fare classes (purchased from Lufthansa, not United) are eligible for GPUs: B, E, G, H, M, Q, U, and Y.” You absolutely CAN purchase those same fares from United (the fare buckets are aligned between the two carriers and 99% of the time the fares are the same). You can even purchase the LH flight number on 016 stock, to get PQDs.

“If a United flight is showing award availability in searches on United.com, a GPU is more likely clear.” I think you mean if a Lufthansa flight is showing award availability, a GPU is likely to clear.

Also, it’s worth noting that using a GPU often (not always) screws up the crediting of the miles. Lufthansa uses the same fare bucket for awards and upgrades, so sometimes the system thinks you’re on an award ticket when in fact it was paid for and upgraded. I’ve always been able to sort it out with MileagePlus but it takes some follow-up.

Sam Roecker July 26, 2018 - 12:08 pm

Hey O2nz, thanks for those corrections – appreciate the feedback! Will update accordingly. Happy flying,

– Sam

Jeff Jones July 25, 2018 - 9:47 pm

Yes I was lucky to get two P fares upgraded to F MUC-SFO in April

I’m spoiled for life 😉

Sam Roecker July 26, 2018 - 12:06 pm

Wow! That is lucky – and on the A380 I’m assuming?

Zack Smith January 17, 2019 - 9:30 am

If you get an upgrade on a LH economy ticket using a GPU, will you be upgraded to LH’s Premium Economy or to Business?

Jason January 20, 2019 - 7:28 pm


Andy July 27, 2018 - 11:32 am

I am speaking to a united supervisor now, flying JFK to FRA in October in a P class (9:55pm direct flight). My ticket starts with 016 so I cannot use the online tool. They indicated my ticket would not be upgradable. I asked them to look into it and they confirmed that it is not an upgradable fare on Lufthansa, with or without availability. (A and F is free on this flight BTW, I checked on lufthansa’s site). Any advice on how to successfully make this upgrade request? I spoke to several agents and a supervisor trying to experience LH First class.

Sam Roecker July 27, 2018 - 3:41 pm

Hi Andy, sorry to hear about that experience. Were you able to finally get an answer from a supervisor? My understanding is Business > First upgrades clear into the ‘O’ bucket (F is certainly a higher fare class). Another option is to ask if UA can convert the flight to a LH flight number (versus UA codeshare); it’s unlikely, but you never know until you ask. The P-fare upgrade eligibility is still new so many if not most agents might not be aware of the change (it’s also worth noting UA’s website excludes these changes). Sorry, I wish I had a better answer for you! Keep us posted.

Andy July 31, 2018 - 7:57 am

Interesting thing happened today. I went to the *A section of the United web site and tried the online upgrade again, and it gave me a completely different result (It had been just giving me an `error’ screen. Today, it indicated that my request was successfully submitted and that there was not an upgrade available, but I am now on the waitlist. I received and email confirmation and then looked at the reservation in lufthansa’s site and indeed my P class has been upgraded to an O waitlist request. So, I can confirm that yes this worked, even though I am on the waitlist, but also that there was something in the system as the agent moved my ticket somehow behind the system that must have needed to be approved/changed/not sure. Or the united website wasn’t working last week, or I was making a user error and didn’t realize it! One consistent thing, not a single person at United when I spoke to them (4-5 agents and a supervisor) knew this was possible to move a P to an O class as even a request/waitlist on Lufthansa metal.

Sam Roecker July 31, 2018 - 10:27 am

Very interesting! Thanks for the update, Andy. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised…classic left hand not communicating with the right hand in siloed corporations 🙂

Fingers crossed for your upgrade – let us know if/when it clears. Thanks again! – S

Andy October 9, 2018 - 3:04 pm

So I made it to Frankfurt. Had dinner in JFK at the First class `wining and dining’ lounge. Boarded Lufthansa and had a great tip. Service nice, bed wide and long and a good trup. Amenity gift was a portable watch container, which is super attractive. Thanks for your post, I would never tried otherwise! FYI, I used one of my GPUs for a colleague on a FRA to PEK flight and it had a bunch of online intermittent problems too, until I called United an an agent was able to `unstick and clear’ the ticket to be online upgrade requestable. Which it did.

Raghavan Venugopal May 30, 2019 - 5:35 pm

Andy, do you have the link to the United site where you were able to successfully submit your request?

RiRa12621 September 16, 2018 - 3:15 pm

I think the post is missing the information, what fare classes to look for if you want to upgrade.
So upgrade space in first should be fare class O but what’s the equivalent for business class? J?

John Harper September 18, 2018 - 11:23 am

Two-class or three-class wide-body business class is also O. J is paid business class.

Esteban October 20, 2018 - 12:34 am

No longer working. Apparently it was a glitch that got fixed.

John Harper October 20, 2018 - 2:56 pm

By no longer working, what exactly do you mean? Where are you encountering the problem?

Bernadette October 24, 2018 - 6:32 am

I tried to upgrade from Lufthansa Business (fare class P) to First Class with a GPU on the United Website. Unfortunately I got the following error message: Your paid fare class is not eligible for upgrades. (Error code: 523).

Esteban October 25, 2018 - 2:10 pm

I meant upgrades on Lufthansa P and Z fares. I tried requesting an upgrade of a Lufthansa business class P fare using the United website tool and also tried calling the Premier 1 K telephone line with the same result. “Your paid fare class is not eligible for upgrades. (Error code: 523)”. It was possible to upgrade these fares before using both methods for a few months but apparently was due to a glitch that has been fixed.

Donnie October 26, 2018 - 12:46 pm

I am getting the same error message (paid fare class not eligible) when trying to upgrade my Z & P fares on LH numbered flights with GPUs.

Bernadette October 22, 2018 - 3:04 am

I just tried to upgrade Lufthansa Business (fare class P) with an GPU. I got an error message stating that my fare class wouldn’t qualify for an upgrade.

Gunnar November 6, 2018 - 4:14 am

FYI: Lufthansa stopped accepting (waitlisting) GPUs for upgrades into First class from discounted Business class fares P and Z. It’s still possible to upgrade a P fare into First using Lufthansa Miles & More miles. But GPU no longer work.

DCS September 1, 2019 - 12:41 am

“For online GPU requests, tickets must be purchased from Lufthansa (not United); United-purchased 016 tickets (operated by Lufthansa) are still GPU-eligible but will require calling.”

I am not sure if this has already been corrected but the above claim is no longer true and needs to be updated. It is possible to request online GPUs on a LH-operated flights for UA-purchased tickets (016) online. In fact, it was the only way to do it after I called United 1K Desk to request assistance. The agent told me that I she could not do it for me and that I needed to do it myself online. She then navigated me to the following link, which has fillable form GPU request form for either ANA or LH:



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