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American Airlines has a very different upgrade policy than Delta. My recent rendezvous with American caused me to further explore their policy. I took a crash course on their upgrade policy from the vantage point of a gold elite.
In this post I’ll share how the American Airlines 500 upgrade policy works and comment on a recent upgrade experience with American Airlines. There positives and negatives, but one thing for sure is you have a little more control over the process when you would like an upgrade.
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How It Works
The 500 mile upgrade policy allows a member to upgrade from coach to the next level of service. For example, a coach ticket on a two class flight would upgrade you to first class but on a three class flight would upgrade you to business class. The policy has several eligibility and restrictions so it is important to pay close attention.
1. Check to make sure you have 500 mile upgrades in your account
- AAdvantage Platinum and AAdvantage Gold members earn four 500-mile upgrades for every 10,000 qualifying miles flown
- You can purchase them at a discounted rate on AA.com and at the airport Self-Service Check-In machine during flight check-in ($30 online or at kiosk and $35 through an agent)
- AAdvantage elite-status members may buy upgrades with AAdvantage miles at a rate of 35,000 miles for eight (8) upgrades
2. Request an upgrade when making your flight reservations on AA.com, on your mobile device, through an American Airlines agent, or your travel agent.
3. Your upgrade request will be processed automatically if upgrade seating is available based on the applicable upgrade window:
- Executive Platinum at 100 hours prior to departure
- Platinum at 72 hours prior to departure
- Gold at 24 hours prior to departure
- Non-elite member at 24 hours prior to departure
4. Confirmation of upgrade will be sent via email or voicemail
5. If upgrade was not processed at check-in you will automatically be placed on the
gate lottery upgrade list
Make sure you request your upgrade as early as possible since the requests are prioritized within the elite member levels. Y and B fares trump all requests within an elite member level followed by the order in which the request is placed.
- Regular members (non-status) are eligible to upgrade from a full fare coach ticket (Y, B)
- Elite members are eligible to upgrade on any paid coach ticket
- Only Elite members may request an upgrade for themselves and a one companion on a coach ticket
But it gets better:
- Platinum and Gold members receive complimentary upgrades on full fare coach tickets (Y, B)
- Executive Platinum members receive complimentary upgrades on all coach tickets
Several restrictions exist around the use of 500 mile upgrades.
- One upgrade unit is required for every 500 miles of travel
- Travel must be within and between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, The Bahamas and Bermuda
- Or between the U.S. and Central America
I really like having more control over the upgrade process. This gives a little hope for a lowly Gold to use a 500 mile upgrade and secure that first class seat.
For example, I recently flew on American Airlines and wanted to try out their first class regional jet product to report back the difference in upgrade policy with Delta. Purchasing 500 mile upgrades online was easy. I decided to use 35,000 miles to purchase 8 upgrades at 4,375 miles a piece. The flight required 2 upgrades so I essentially upgraded one way for 8,750. The upgrade cleared at the 24 hour window, since I’m gold, and off to first class I went. The seats were as comfortable as the Delta regional jet first class seats. I did notice the head rest sides, when pulled out, really support your head for sleeping.
So what do you think about AA’s upgrade policy when compared to Delta’s?
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This post was accurate at the time of posting. For details on current offers visit the card issuer’s site.