Why Your American A319 Upgrade Odds Are Better Than You Think

Filed Under: Advice, American

As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, American is in the process of reconfiguring their former US Airways A319s.

The bad news with the reconfiguration is that the first class seat count on the plane is being reduced from 12 to eight. The good news is that American is adding Main Cabin Extra on these planes, which is at least a consolation prize in the event your upgrade doesn’t clear.

Former US Airways A319 first class

Last night I flew from Toronto to Los Angeles on a former US Airways A319, and I noticed something unusual from the moment I booked. At the time of booking the flight showed as being “J0,” meaning no business class seats were available for purchase (these are standard domestic first class seats, but on international flights they’re marketed as business class).

But what’s strange is that the flight had four empty seats on the business class seatmap. Sure, it could have just been that some people didn’t assign seats in business class. But then I noticed a consistent pattern, where all the flights operated by former US Airways A319s had at least four fewer seats for sale than seats available on the seatmap.

For example, take the below flight between Toronto and Los Angeles on Sunday, which is sold out in business class, but has four seats unassigned:


Or this flight on Saturday between Philadelphia and Tampa, which has three seats for sale and seven seats unassigned:


I asked the gate agent in Toronto about it last night, and she explained that American is holding back four A319 first class seats until day of departure in the event of an aircraft change. In other words, they don’t want to sell all 12 seats in the event that a plane with only eight first class seats operates the flight. I’m not sure if this is true on all routes or what, but it helped me score an upgrade tonight on a flight where business class was sold out from the moment I booked.

So if you’re booked on a former US Airways A319 (one with 12 first class seats) and the cabin is more sold out than the seatmap suggests, you might be facing a similar situation. Assuming you don’t get one of the (few) reconfigured planes, it means there will be at least four upgrades day of departure, which is good news.

Has anyone else noticed American holding back first class seats on former US Airways A319s?

  1. I noticed the same thing regarding my flights between PIT-CLT this week in both directions. I was wondering why first was “unavailable” to buy but the seat map showed 4 open seats.

  2. I flew one of the reconfigured A319s 2 weeks ago, and you’re wrong about the upsides Ben. These are NOT getting power, NOT getting IFE screens, and the F seats are very thin. It’s a downgrade in all respects, except that they are getting MCE. You are correct about the inventory anomalies though, I noticed the same thing with holding back 4 seats on my LAX-BNA flight. These planes are to be AVOIDED!

  3. @Lucky @Chase is right here: no TV, power, etc on the converted US A319s.

    I had a flight earlier this week with a last minute equipment change to one of the reconfigured A319s. It’s certainly not as nice as the AA 32Bs, although I personally don’t mind the smaller F cabin (I’m mostly flying out of FLL and upgrades still clear very consistently). The seats are pretty solid.

    My biggest beef is that the US crews are almost uniformly terrible and new hardware doesn’t change that.

  4. There are certainly powerports in First. Located in the back of the center console under the armrest. Don’t know about MC.

  5. I got my complimentary first class upgrade from LAX-BNA on the Wednesday night red eye on a A319, although the flight diverted to DFW to mechanical issues.

  6. The consolation prize of the new A319s is also pretty weak, in that if you don’t manage to get MCE (of which there are only three rows) or the exit row, you have to sit in knee-busting 30″ pitch seats, the smallest of any mainline aircraft in the US.

    It’s interesting to see that Parker has not yet committed to adding Main Cabin Extra on any of the ex-US narrowbody craft except for the A319, where the reconfiguration manages to squeeze in 8 extra seats, making it revenue positive. I think he’s done a good job in handling the merger, but … this reticence really irks me; it means that there will be two different fleets for some time to come. 🙁

  7. I was on a reconfigured a319 plane last week which was swapped in last minute. There are power ports in economy.. every seat. I would know because as an exec plat who originally had a bulkhead MCE seat, I got placed back in 26D and told “sorry there was an equipment change, there are no more MCE seats.” The whole back of the plane was an elite section. Really sucky. If you are an elite booked on an old USAIR a319… I would book the back of MCE. The front rows don’t exist on the new aircraft and you will get reassigned a normal coach seat. And as mentioned, forget about upgrades. I got a 5,000 mile customer service bonus due to be stuck in main cabin on a cross country flight.

  8. I worked for AA in the 80-90’s and the practice of holding back seats for sale during conversions has always been the norm.

    Your post title is a bit misleading. This “upgrade odds benefit” will slowly erode each time another 319 comes out of conversion. Beyond the short term, the odds of scoring an upgrade on these planes (or purchasing a discounted F fare) are going to decrease.

  9. Looks like my flight on the 319 from IAD to LAX on the 25th is sold out in first according to aa.com, but I see 4 unassigned seats on the seatmap. Maybe there is a chance at a last second upgrade … unless i’m 5th on the upgrade list, LOL.

  10. Return flight BNA-LAX had 4D bulkhead booked, they rebooked me in 26D and said sorry. Gonna have to talk to AA customer service about the bad seat map. This sucks

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