I’ve been watching the tickets like crazy, waiting for upgrades to be available. The leg to HNL is United, but the trip back is US Airways. I’ve been traveling like crazy for work (and some for pleasure), so I have been stockpiling miles. It would be 15,000 miles each with no fee (since I am US Airways Platinum)
Then on Monday, upgrades became available. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and my miles were burning a hole in my (award) wallet. I cheerily called up the number listed for upgrades with miles.
I gave her our confirmation number and she typed for a little bit. Suddenly, she snapped, “You can’t use those miles for a flight you booked through United! You have to do it at the gate!” I asked some questions for clarification, but none of her answers made sense, and I still wasn’t sure what she meant by using them at the gate. So I did what I do when I need clarification that I’m not getting–I politely thanked her, got off the phone, and called back on the platinum line.
The agent on the platinum line was extremely helpful and tried for a while to find any way she could override the system. She finally sighed and explained that even though it is a US Airways flight, United owns the ticket. It never issued directly out of US Airways and she couldn’t get it to take.
The upgrades at the gate the other agent was talking about were the cash upgrades they typically sell within 24 hours of the flight. They are apparently “relatively inexpensive” compared to the cost of first class outright, so they tend to sell out (thus no random upgrades at the gate for elites).
Sigh, oh well! No upgrades for us!
But the lesson out of this (which I never knew!) is to book US Airways flights you want to upgrade with miles through US Airways. This makes me a bit sad because it is much easier to grab US Airways flights on United than vice versa. But now we know, and our cost of this knowledge is coach for a very long flight.