American AAdvantage Has A New Companion Upgrade Policy

Filed Under: American, American AAdvantage

Over the weekend American made some updates to how their companion upgrades work, which is either good or bad news, depending on your travel patterns and status.

This relates to something I first wrote about in late 2016, that was supposed to be implemented as of January 1, 2017. That didn’t happen due to American’s systems not being ready for this, though it’s now finally happening, only 16 months later. 😉

Previously American’s companion upgrade policy was that if you were on the same reservation and requested an upgrade, both people would clear based on the higher member’s status if the upgrade cleared in advance. However, if the upgrade cleared at the airport (within a few hours of departure) then each person cleared based on their own status, meaning that typically an elite member and their companion would have very different places on the airport upgrade list.

Here’s how American describes the updates they’re making:

Companion benefit for systemwide and mileage award upgrades

We are introducing a new companion benefit for AAdvantage members who are waitlisted for a systemwide or mileage award upgrade. When sponsoring a companion, they’ll receive the same priority on the waitlist. They don’t have to be booked in the same reservation but do have to be traveling on the same flight and using the same type of upgrade. The upgrades can come from anyone’s account – they don’t need to come from the sponsor.

To identify a companion when using a systemwide or mileage award upgrade, the customer will need to call AAdvantage Reservations or their Elite Service Desk.

Companion benefit for two elite members on 500-mile upgrades

Additionally, we are now providing a way for two elite status members using 500-mile upgrades to be prioritized together at the airport. Today, two elite status members can be prioritized together if they clear prior to arriving at the airport. However, they are prioritized based on their own individual status at the airport.

To simplify this even further, what has changed is that:

  • When requesting a mileage upgrade or systemwide upgrade, your companion can get your upgrade priority even if you’re on separate reservations, and this priority should hold until the airport; you’ll need to make the request by phone, and if you’re on separate reservations then you’ll have to ask to have them linked, so that the companion has the correct upgrade priority
  • Now companions on 500-mile upgrades can have the higher upgrade priority even on the airport upgrade list; note that this won’t happen automatically, but rather at the airport you’ll have to ask the agent to link your companion to you, and then you should be behind one another on the list

American’s companion upgrade priority will be changing on all flights 

Improved upgrade priority for companions can be either good or bad news, depending on how you look at it:

  • If you’re traveling with a companion and are near the top of the list, it’s great news, since you have a better chance of snagging you and your companion seats in a premium cabin
  • The downside is that you could get beaten out for an upgrade by someone’s companion, which could be frustrating; imagine if there are two seats left, two Executives Platinum members on the list, and the one with slightly higher priority has a companion

Bottom line

This update is good news for those who typically travel with companions, while for lower level elite members and those who typically travel alone, it’s probably bad news. I dos till wish American would make their whole process of applying upgrades easier, as you still have to call to apply a systemwide upgrade or mileage upgrade, which is kind of annoying. It’s also interesting to me that they’ve created a system where you specifically have to ask at the airport to be in a specific order on the list, rather than automating that.

What do you make to American’s updated companion upgrade policy?

  1. If an EXP has cleared prior to the airport, and they find a “companion” at the airport, does this companion go to the top of the list?

  2. I’ve already observed this behavior for a long time. Not sure how this is new news. I am an EXP, and my non-status companion is always right underneath me on the airport upgrade list. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember.

  3. hmm not sure how i feel about this. all the EXPs and CKs wives/husbands/friends/kids who have never taken a flight automatically jump people who fly slightly less than the sponsor…

    guess I’m biased b/c mainly travel alone but it seems like this targets family (leisure spend) more than business people, the biggest market.

  4. Can anyone clarify the upgrade instrument required to upgrade a companion with no status on domestic only flights?

    To my understanding 500 mile stickers must be used, but EXP members do not actively earn them – and if we are out – we have to buy more. This seems like an oversight and a far worse policy than the policies with the other two in the US3.

    Limited information about this out there.

  5. @Nick Tan: I had the same questions and the thread on FT confirms your understanding. I am a new AA elite and I am shocked that a single companion is not complimentary like I enjoyed on United and Alaska for years. I told my wife the other day, “remember the good ole days when we both got upgraded together on almost every flight…?”.

  6. Thank you AA for screwing me yet again. It’s bad enough trying to get an upgrade as an EXP. Now I have to contend with companions that hold no status potentially getting an upgrade before me. Thanks AA!

  7. As a MM ‘lifetime’ Gold I travel with my companion, who is on again off again Gold or Plat…Currently she is non status with 30+ ‘Locked’ upgrades….which neither she nor I, could use up to now….due to her current non-status….
    If I understand this revision correctly, her upgrades would be ‘unlocked’ to be used by both, as long as she traveled with me as an ‘Elite’…..seems like a favorable change to me, or did I miss something ?

  8. This is about time. I am Elite and travel with my wife 1-2x year and last trip I was #1 and she was into the 20s, just because we moved inside 24 hours and were on airport list? Lame IT glitch. If you don’t like it, it’s because you benefited from flawed IT. I’m a road warrior and it’s appropriate that when I finally reward my wife with a trip and use the benefits of my spend and loyalty that she benefit from the perks I get as well – since she maintained the house and kids while I was traveling. Boohoo if you’re on the same flight as us. Thanks AA.

  9. Totally disagree with David’s comment. Upgrades should go to those that earn them… As a solo EP flyer I find it incredibly annoying that I could be bounced by someone who doesn’t even have status and might be flying just a couple of times a year. It’s rare enough already to get an upgrade these days…

  10. Questioning my spouse and my Exp loyalty and all the shares I’ve purchased. Not cool at all.
    Guess I’m writing a letter to AA

  11. Agree with Andrew, this has already been my experience with companion upgrades for some time.

  12. This will probably also increase the number of times people try to do seat swaps in domestic First. (What are the chances the last two seats will be adjacent?)

  13. @Everyone, especially the shrill ones:

    The only change here for 500-mile upgrades is when you have two elite members on the same reservation. One elite plus one non-status companion have been prioritized at the elite level for some time now.

  14. “To identify a companion when using a systemwide or mileage award upgrade, the customer will need to call AAdvantage Reservations or their Elite Service Desk.”

    If my husband is already flying on the same reservation with me and I requested the mile +copay upgrades at the same time for the both of us do I still need to call back and make sure he is listed as my “companion” for purposes of the reservation?

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