This most definitely isn’t good news, though only time will tell whether it’s just moderately bad, or terrible. More than anything I’m puzzled about the timing — is this time of record low business travel and record losses really the time to make a negative change to upgrades?
American adjusts confirmed upgrade space
American appears to have just made some changes to how it makes confirmable upgrade seats available:
- Confirmed upgrades refers to upgrades with miles, systemwide upgrades, or Business Extra certificates
- This does not refer to complimentary elite upgrades, as well as upgrades with 500-mile stickers, which are confirmed within days of departure
Historically American’s confirmable upgrade has been tied to availability in a specific fare bucket:
- Confirmed upgrades to three cabin business class and two cabin first & business class have required seats to be available in the “C” bucket
- Confirmed upgrades to three cabin first class have required seats to be available in the “A” bucket
Upgrades to two cabin first class have booked into the “C” fare bucket
With a recent change, American Airlines’ confirmable upgrade seats will only include a subset of seats in the “A” and “C” fare bucket. In other words, you could previously tell whether a flight would have upgrade space that could be confirmed by looking at availability in the “A” and “C” buckets, while that’s no longer the case.
Upgrades to three cabin first class have historically booked into the “A” fare bucket
Only time will tell how bad this change is
It goes without saying that this is a negative change, because confirmed upgrade availability will only be a subset of what it was before. What remains to be seen is how bad the change will be.
Will upgrade availability be reduced slightly, or by a lot? Generally American’s upgrade availability from business to first class has been readily available, while upgrade availability from economy to business class most definitely hasn’t been readily available.
Making this change at a time like this seems especially backwards, since this isn’t a time to make negative changes. My guess is that American figures it might as well upgrade some back-end systems while demand is down, so that they’re ready for better times. It’s still not cool, though.
Upgrades to three cabin first class have mostly been readily available
What’s the logic for this change?
The whole concept of airline fare buckets is quite complicated. The way this works out at American:
- “A” also happens to be the fare bucket for discounted three cabin first class, meaning historically discounted first class fares have had the same availability as confirmed upgrades
- Up until this point “C” has simply been used as a confirmed upgrade fare bucket, and not as a revenue fare bucket
- American wants the ability to sell discounted first class seats in the “A” bucket without necessarily making those seats available as confirmed upgrades
- American plans to make “C” a revenue fare bucket as well, though I’m not totally sure I get the logic there, since “I” is already a discounted business class fare bucket; could we see American introduce a “basic” business class concept?
American is introducing a new revenue business class fare bucket
American will now only make a subset of seats in the “A” and “C” fare buckets available as confirmable upgrade seats. Only time will tell how much of a reduction in upgrade space this leads to, though it’s definitely not good.
In general I can appreciate the concept of American wanting to be able to sell discounted first class seats without making upgrade seats available, but I’m also curious about how American will be making “C” a revenue fare bucket for business class.
What do you make of these upgrade changes at American?