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PASS TRAVEL on United Airlines

Pass Travel Strategies: First Class vs Economy and using Vacation Passes

LAST Updated 6/29/2018 Most information is still good; but some links may be obsolete.

Note: retirees with 25 or more years of service fly FREE in all cabins. Retirees with less than 25 years of service pay a service charge for premium cabin seating (FC and BC). If you cant afford or do not want to fly in a premium cabin, then simply list for economy travel. Remember: We all must pay departure taxes and fees on Intl flights.

We suggest you list in FC. United upgrades all Mileage Plus flyers on domestic flights, so getting a seat in FC is rare, but MP flyers are NOT automatically upgraded on international flights, so its worth a shot! 

If FC and BC are full you should automatically be assigned an available Y seat. If you paid for FC/BC keep your economy class boarding pass and your confirmation number!  You may have to request a refund at>reservations>refund policy. See instructions here: employeeRES>Quick Links> Request Refund. 

If you list in Y and Y is full, you should be boarded in a premium cabin if seats are available, United will send you an invoice for the premium cabin if you retired with less than 25 years of service.

If you list in FC on a 3-class aircraft and it's full, BEWARE, the computer may automatically assign you a seat in Y, even if Business Class has empty seats. If so, ask the agent to seat you in BC (if you so desire).

Traveling on United using a vacation pass:


Retirees only get 8 vacation passes per year (good for 4 roundtrips), use them carefully!

Reasons to use a vacation pass: 1) it has a much better boarding priority for you and your accompanied pass riders and 2) its cheaper than using a personal pass for premium cabin travel (if you have <25 Years of Service).

If you list with a vacation pass and the load drops enough so you can board without it, change it to a personal pass. Save your vacation pass for a rainy day.  But remember:

Pass riders cannot change pass types less than 1 hour before domestic departures or 2 hours before international departures.

To change pass types (vacation>personal or vice versa) you must create a new listing; be sure to cancel your original listing.  Use the United app (if you LINKED IT), employeeRES, mobileres (, or call the ePass Line at 866-359-3727.

If you listed with a vacation pass and youre boarded on that flight, then the vacation pass is used up regardless of the class of service you get. Got Y instead of FC? Sorry, vac pass is poof!

At the Gate:


Use the United app on your smartphone or tablet to check the standby list and seat map on your flight. With the United app you can see seats being assigned in real time.

Didnt get on?

If you listed with a vacation pass or a personal pass and you're not boarded on the airplane, the listing is rolled to the next flight (same day) and used there. 

At the end of the day, if you're still stuck at the airport, you must cancel your listing and make a new listing for the next day; gate agents cannot roll standby lists over to the next day.

SHARES & Aero: Rumors, answers    July 27, 2012  updated Feb 1, 2013

Note: this is a historical article from 2013; United's passenger operating software is much different now.


SHARES/Aero is the passenger operating system that was selected by United Airlines effective March 2012. It houses all revenue passenger and pass rider reservations records for boarding purposes.  Before March 2012 sCO used SHARES and sUA used Apollo/Fastair.

employeeRES is the software that allows United employees and retirees to book pass travel.

Rumor: SHARES/Aero is boarding some pass riders out of seniority order. It bypasses standby passengers who listed in a cabin that has filled up. 

Answer:The following information is verbatim, colored in blue, from the Employee Travel Center:


The system does NOT bypass any standby passengers (revenue or pass riders) based on desired cabin and aircraft availability.

The listing-to-boarding process is as follows; 

·   Booking/listing in employeeRES in the cabin desired for seating

·   The employeeRES record is automatically transferred to SHARES

·   Pass Riders check in

·   The check-in status is automatically and immediately transferred to SHARES/Aero

·   Checked in pass riders are automatically placed on a list in SHARES/Aero in boarding priority order, regardless of cabin booked/listed

·   The agent clears pass riders in boarding priority order, regardless of cabin booked/listed

·   If the next pass rider to be cleared is listed in first & first class is full but economy is available, that pass rider will be cleared and given an economy seat

·    If a pass rider is listed for economy & economy is full but business/first is available, the agent will advise the pass rider accordingly and ask if they want the business/first seat as there may be a service charge involved. If the pass rider says no, the agent moves to the next pass rider on the list.  If that pass rider is booked/listed for economy, they will do the same as with the previous pass rider.  If that pass rider is booked/listed in business/first, the agent will clear them.

·   Agents cannot manipulate the clearance order of standby customers, revenue or pass riders

·    The SHARES/Aero system does not allow reordering of the standby list

·    The only thing available to an agent is the SKIP entry, which is needed.  If, for example, the last names on the clearance list are a party of two and only one seat remains. If the two pass riders choose to take a later flight so that they can remain together, the agent can SKIP the name items of the two pass riders and clear the next single pass rider into the sole remaining seat.

This system and process has been in place for many years and continues to work with precise accuracy today.  I ask that you please reassure retirees of these facts.

Rumor: Some gate agents are not rolling pass riders to the next flight.

Answer:  In SHARES, the gate agent must remember to rollover pass riders beforeclosing out the flight. In APOLLO, the flight close out process was different.  As airport agents become more and more familiar with SHARES, this will improve; also, SHARES has been improved so this may no longer happen.

If you are not cleared for the flight, politely ask the gate agent if they have rolled the standby list to the next flight.  Also note: The standby list cannot be rolled to the nextday.  Pass riders who are not accommodated on the last flight of the day must cancel their reservation and make a new booking/listing for the following day.

Rumor: Pass riders at the top of the standby list get seats in economy while those farther down on the list are getting Economy Plus.

Answer: Effective November 14, 2012, a SHARES/Aero enhancement now assigns seats to pass riders from the front section of the economy cabin, including Economy Plus, to the back of the aircraft. This change will apply to both United and United Express flights.  What this means is the very first person in line may get a middle seat in Economy Plus and the person second in line may get an aisle seat a few rows back in Economy Plus.  IT is currently working on window/aisle logic for phase two of this project with an estimate of completion for first quarter 2013.  Pass rider boarding priority will not change; space available riders will still be boarded by Board Date order within each priority group.  Your Board Date is shown in Employee Profile underQuick Links in employeeRES.   Space available boarding priority groups and codes are listed on pages 3-4 of the pdf on Flying Together>Travel>Travel Policies>Boarding Priorities.

Rumor: Some people are manipulating the system

Answer: People are not manipulating the system:

Example: Some pass riders can have two bookings/listings on the same flight.  Qualified employees are permitted to book/list with a jump seat boarding priority (SJ2U) and a personal boarding priority (SA1P) or a vacation boarding priority (SA0V) on the same flight.

However, pass riders MAY NOT:

1)  list with a personal pass and a vacation pass on the same flight.

2)  list in FC and Y on the same flight.

3)  list for more than one flight with the same origin and destination on the same day.

If you see any of that happening, document and report it to

Unusual boarding priority codes (for example: PS0U, PS5B) are for deadheading crew or employees on business.  Common codes are listed on pages 3 and 4 in the pdf here: FlyingTogether>Travel>BoardingPriorities (under Travel Policies). If you see a code on the pass rider list you dont know, write to the ETC for an explanation.

Rumor: What happened with the retiree who couldnt change from Y to FC at the gate and missed the flight? She had listed in Y, but the Y cabin had filled up. The agent said he couldnt move the retiree to FC. Does SHARES allow an agent to move a retiree up to FC? 

Answer: YES! Retirees can be upgraded and then sent an invoice, if theres an applicable service charge for that flight. This time the gate agent was incorrect. Next time, politely ask the agent ““Is there another agent or a supervisor that could help?  I would really like to sit in First class and make the flight!

SHARES is programmed with the pass travel business rules as outlined in the policy and program documents and the booking/listing and clearing process is operating in sync with these rules.  Ask retirees to be patient with agents who are still learning SHARES and to trust that the process is sound and the agents will eventually become more comfortable with the system and the process.

SHARES/Aero is a completely different language than Apollo/Fastair; its all different keystrokes.  Imagine speaking fluent English and suddenly having to switch to Latin.  Its very frustrating for agents who want to help pass riders, but are unable to do so. 

The Bottom Line: The issues discussed are being addressed by the ETC and the IT department and as agents become more familiar with SHARES/Aero, the process of clearing pass riders will be much smoother.  We must have patience and understanding, keep notes for possible refunds, and have a back-up plan for pass travels.



Compiled by Kirk Moore, RAFA Travel Benefits Committee               July 27, 2012  updated Feb 1, 2013



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