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Mixed Cabin awards on United – Tactics to make sure you sit in Business or First Class

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United.com is one of the easier places to search for award flights.

But if you’re on the hunt for the hardest to score awards, Business and First Class seats, you’ll probably run into this frustrating ‘Mixed Cabin’ message at some point:

It means that while you’re paying the full mileage price for a First or Business Class award ticket, part of your award is seated in Economy Class.

Most people who book these awards simply resign themselves to sitting in Economy Class for that part of the flight.

But that’s a missed opportunity, and you can move up to Business or First Class on a Mixed Cabin award without spending anything on change fees.

Here are two kinds of Mixed Cabin award situations and how to deal with them:

#1: The Economy Class portion is on a United flight.

If that’s the case, you can call United and ask to be put on the waitlist for First or Business Class. Unfortunately this isn’t an automatic process, and is by request only. But now that you’ve read this you’ll now to call and ask.

After your call, check your reservation on United.com. If you see the ‘class requested’ message below, you’re good to go.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 9.35.09 PM

Now you will have priority to get into First or Business Class when an award seat opens up. And if it doesn’t open up before the day of departure, your wait list will transfer over to the airport, with priority over upgrades.

So unless First or Business Class sells out entirely with paid cash tickets or the expensive ‘Standard’ awards, you’ll sit up front on your flight. There’s more detail on that in this post, including how to waitlist even of none of your trip is in First or Business Class.

#2. The Economy Class portion is on a non-United partner flight

This case is a little tougher.

United can’t waitlist you on partner flights, but it can move you from Economy to Business if an award seat opens up. They’ll do it free of charge since you’ve already paid the full business class price for your award.

So in this situation, keep checking the award availability on United.com. If the flight you’re on opens up, you can call in and ask to be moved to the cabin you paid for.

You can’t though switch to another airline and try to snag a seat there. That will land you with a change fee.

But knowing all of this, you can feel more confident choosing a ‘Mixed Cabin’ award in the future, with at least reasonable hope you could eventually end up in First or Business Class for the whole trip.

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June 3, 2015