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United.com’s Expert Mode gives you access to a detailed view of United fare class inventory that’s typically only seen by United reservation agents (you can skip ahead to see a list of United fare classes here).
The cryptic combinations of letters and numbers are incredibly useful for helping figure out which flights have space for upgrades, where award space is hiding, and whether you have a decent shot of standing by for a flight all in one quick glance.
We’ll explain how to set up Expert Mode below, but before that, read on for an illustrated rundown of what all the United fare classes mean.
United flights have up to 3 classes of service: First Class (which is either the first cabin you see on a domestic flight, or the ‘Global First Class’ you see on international flights, Business Class (for international flights, and sometimes used for domestic first class), and Economy Class.
Each letter represents a different fare or award level within each class of service, and when you see them on Expert Mode they’re arranged from left to right beginning with First Class, and ending with Economy Class as illustrated above.
One of the most useful things you can do with Expert Mode is get a sense of how full a flight is in case you want to gauge your chances of clearing standby.
Tip: Airlines often sell more tickets than there are actual seats, so the numbers you see aren’t the number of seats left. They represent the number of seats they are willing to sell. If you see a flight with all ‘0’ it means there are no seats left for sale, and it’s possible the flight is oversold.
Tip: A flight that shows all ‘9’s is more likely to be less full than one that shows ‘9s’ for the first few buckets, and smaller numbers for the rest. That means that even the lowest fares haven’t yet sold out, which is often the case on less than full flights.
If you’re trying to figure out whether a flight you want has the lowest priced Saver award seats available, or how many award seats are left, Expert Mode can be a big help.
We’ve circled them above, but the letters that represent award seats are O (Global First Class), IN (Business Class / Domestic First Class for Premier Platinum or higher members), I (Business Class / Domestic First Class), XN (Economy Class extra availability for Premier members or if you have a Chase United credit card), and X (Economy Class).
If you’re looking for Saver Level Business Class, but it’s not available on the flight you want, there’s a special way to waitlist for it.
Sometimes you’re willing to pay up for more expensive awards, and in that case you’ll want to see how Standard award availability is shaking out.
If you’re hoping to upgrade with miles, certificates, or via a complimentary upgrade option, Expert Mode can give you a sense of whether a flight has upgrades available before you decide to book. (We also have a guide on navigating all the ways to upgrade United flights)
You can enable Expert Mode by following this link to set your United.com search preferences.
It will ask you to login with your MileagePlus account number.
Then, scroll down the page to the ‘Expert Features’ section, and you’ll see a check box where you can acknowledge all the caveats of Expert Mode.
Once you do that, you’ll see the fare code details whenever you click the ‘Details’ arrow while searching for flights on United.com.
If you’re a true geek, here’s a list of what each of the fare codes typically maps to via Flyertalk.
All fares are upgradable with miles plus a cash copay, or a Regional Premier Upgrade.
If you’re using a Global Premier Upgrade for a long haul international flight, these fare classes are available for upgrades:
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