GREAT NEWS Regarding American Premium Economy Upgrades

Filed Under: American

American has shared the following statement with me regarding this topic: “When Premium Economy launches as its own class of service, upgrades from Main Cabin to Premium Economy will not be available via mileage or systemwide upgrades and will clear from Main Cabin or Premium Economy into Business. We’re developing temporary options to give our best customers a way to upgrade into this new class of service and we’ll announce more details once they’re available.”

In late 2015 American announced that they planned on adding a premium economy cabin to much of their longhaul fleet. While the airline has long offered an extra legroom economy section, this is the first time they’re offering an actual premium economy cabin.

The premium economy cabin has debuted on American’s new Boeing 787-9 aircraft, though will eventually also be added to their A330s, 777s, 787-8s, and A350s.


Up until now American has been operating the 787-9 on routes to Madrid and Sao Paulo, though hasn’t actually been selling the premium economy cabin. Instead they’ve been letting passengers who have access to Main Cabin Extra seats sit there. This is because they wanted to work out the service kinks and also needed to realign fare classes to allow the sale of this new cabin. American is actually selling premium economy fares for travel as of April.

My biggest concern regarding the introduction of a premium economy cabin has been what it means for upgrades. Executive Platinum members receive four systemwide upgrades per year, and historically they’ve been valid for a one cabin upgrade, meaning from economy to business or from business to first.

With premium economy being introduced as a separate cabin, my fear has been that this rule would stick, and that economy upgrades would only be valid to premium economy, and that you’d need to book a premium economy ticket to upgrade to business class. This won’t be the case, per the always knowledgable JonNYC (I’ve followed up with American to see if they can confirm).

American will continue to allow upgrades from economy to business class, regardless of the presence of a premium economy cabin.


That’s fantastic, though we probably at least partly have Delta to thank for setting the precedent. Delta is in the process of introducing premium economy as well, and has stated that they will continue to allow upgrades from economy to business class.

But it gets better than that for American flyers. American will also offer complimentary day of departure upgrades from economy to premium economy for Concierge Key and Executive Platinum members. What’s not yet official is how these will be processed (i.e., whether you can pick any available premium economy seat 24 hours out, if there will be a waitlist cleared at the gate, etc.). As far as I know, this will make American the first airline to offer complimentary upgrades to international premium economy.


Bottom line

While it seems like AAdvantage elite benefits have been cut like crazy the past couple of years, this is at least some good news. It’s fantastic that upgrade instruments will continue to be valid from economy to business class. Furthermore, it’s really exciting that Executive Platinum members will receive complimentary upgrades to premium economy on the day of departure.

  1. Funny post, since I’ve just talked to an AAgent regarding SWU or miles + copay to upgrade a DFW-GRU route in May. He told me that the upgrade would happen from Main Cabin to PY. He was pretty confident to tell me that this is what would happen.

  2. Haha. Two thing I’ve learned over the years. Don’t rely on desk agents and things will change.

    For now this is a great perk to EXP members. The potential free upgrade is a great incentive. I personally feel that AA premium Economy is more comfy than CX which I’ve flown several times. So great news. But really not sure how long this will actually last. But again the number of exp will be decreasing in the upcoming years so waitlist will really go to those who “earned” it

  3. OT, so I apologise, but I’m a NYC-based BA Gold holder reconsidering my loyalties after the recent AA F/J TP realignment. How much would I be looking at in minimum $ spend terms to gain AA EXP?

  4. Wow so relieved. American is the best domestic airline……..

    Until tomorrow when I will change my mind like the rest of you for another day.

  5. I’m sure Delta, AA, etc. will tell us for now that this is true. Heck they may even make exceptions for CK or ExPlats but for Platinum “Pro” and down things might be different. They make also change all this in the future.

  6. “As far as I know, this will make American the first airline to offer complimentary upgrades to international premium economy.”

    Not true. Unless things have changed in the last few years, ANA Diamond, Platinum, and Super Flyers Card members and get free upgrades to Premium Economy on the day of departure.

  7. Yeah this is not going to happen. The whole point of introducing PY is to cut on upgrades to J. This might just be an internal AA ploy to find out who JonNYC is since AA management is not very happy about this person leaking confidential information.

  8. Perhaps he meant upgrades to J now that PY is not sellable yet. I highly doubt AA will want that to happen. Also, DL Economy Comfort is not really a PY cabin, but rather seats with extra leg room.

  9. It would be even better if Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Pro could use 500 mile upgrades at a lower rate i.e. 250 miles per upgrade.

  10. @Ben – Is there a way of knowing based on booking code, or who booked or anything, what the chances are of an upgrade? For example I am booked to fly British Airways World Traveller Plus in June. The booking was not paid for or booked by me however, it was paid for by a Gold Exec club member who is not part of the flying party. Does that increase my chances? I’d be interested to see a post on this.

    Thanks for your always-in-the-loop posts!

  11. Hopefully, AA will have a more reasonable award chart (like CX) for PY redemption. The near nonexistence of J seats on AA international long-haul makes AA miles worth less than SkyPeso, IMO. International long-haul PY at least gives us some opportunity to redeem those nearly unusable AA miles.

  12. @Tony

    Regarding JonNYC – There are definitely people at AA who know who he is or at least have a good guess (it doesn’t take a whole lot of digging on the internet to find him). However, the more it goes on the more I think there is at least complaceny with the leaks. Just my opiniom though so take it with a grain of salt.

  13. @Craig you’d be looking at $12k on airfare without a CC spending waiver or $6k if you spent $50k on the Barclay’s Aaviator Silver card.

  14. They’ll never find me, they already have.
    I hide in plain sight. I’m invincible.

    Most importantly, YOU’RE WELCOME. 🙂

  15. I’m a delta diamond member and they recently let me upgrade to premium economy from main economy on an international flight at the time of booking.

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