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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.
- The numbers next to each letter represent the number of tickets available for sale in a fare bucket.
- The largest number you’ll ever see is 9, which means there are 9 (or more) tickets available. So if you see ‘Y9’ there are 9 or more coach tickets left for sale. And if you see ‘Y5’ there are exactly 5 seats left for sale.
- If you’re trying to figure out how many seats are left in each cabin of the plane overall, focus on the letters F, J, and Y that are circled above (F for First Class, J for Business Class, and Y for Economy Class).
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 are a Premier member or Chase United credit card holder, you’ll have access to the very last seat on the plane in Economy Class, and that’s represented by the YN code.
- If not, Standard Economy Class award space is made available via the HN code.
- Global First Class uses FN, and for Business Class / Domestic First Class it’s ZN (it’s JN if you’re a Premier Platinum or higher).
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)
- The most common upgrade class is ‘R’, which is what most MileagePlus® members will need to use miles or a certificate to upgrade from Economy Class.
- If you’re a Global Services member, you have access to additional upgrade space via the ‘PN’ class. And that space is also available if you’re a regular Premier level flier on a ‘Y’ or ‘B’ fare as a complimentary upgrade, or a 1K member on an ‘M’ fare.
- If you’re hoping for your Premier level complimentary upgrade (with no miles or certificates needed), you can keep an eye on ‘RN’ space, though it really won’t do you much good. Even if space is open and you haven’t cleared, United agents aren’t allowed to clear any upgrades into ‘RN’ space manually. The computer system has to take care of it.
- Upgrades into ‘R’ using miles or certificates can be cleared manually, so if you see space there you can grab it.
Enabling Expert Mode
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.
Full fare code list
If you’re a true geek, here’s a list of what each of the fare codes typically maps to via Flyertalk.
- F – First Class (full fare)
- FN – First Class (standard level award)
- A- First Class (discount fare)
- ON – First Class (First Class upgrade from Business Class)
- O – First Class (saver award)
- J – Business Class (full fare)
- JN – Business Class (standard level award)
- C – Business Class (full fare)
- D – Business Class (full fare)
- Z – Business Class (discount fare)
- ZN – Business Class (standard level award)
- P – Business Class (discount fare)
- PN – Business Class (Global Services upgrade – both paid and award tickets, Y/B/M fare upgrade)
- R – Business Class (upgrade from Economy – miles / instrument – note Global Services members can also book a saver business class award if ‘R’ class is available by calling the Global Services desk)
- RN – Business Class (upgrade from Economy – Complimentary Premier)
- IN – Business Class (saver award – Platinum Premier or higher)
- I – Business Class (saver award)
- Y – Economy Class (full fare)
- YN – Economy Class (standard award – Premier and Chase credit card holders)
- B – Economy Class (full fare)
- M – Economy Class (full fare)
- HN – Economy Class (standard award)
- E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G – Economy Class (discount fare)
- N – Economy Class (Basic Economy – no full sized carryon bag, no seat assignment)
- XN – Economy Class (saver award – Premier and Chase credit card holders)
- X – Economy Class (saver award – note Global Services members can also book a saver economy award if ‘T’ class is available by calling the Global Services desk)
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:
- Economy to Business: Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W
- Business to First: J, C, D