American And US Airways Reciprocal Upgrades Coming

There was a Wall Street Journal article published yesterday about some of the pricing discrepancies between American and US Airways.

Basically it’s sometimes possible to book American flights for less on the US Airways website, and to book US Airways flights for less on the American website.

And as annoying as that is, it’s not really surprising given that they’re still on separate reservations systems, so it always makes sense to check both websites to see if one is pricing lower than the other. The reservations systems don’t talk in “real time,” so in many cases are displaying different availability and have different demand forecasts.

One interesting tidbit in the article is this:

American expects to be able to offer reciprocal upgrade benefits within a matter of weeks, spokesman Casey Norton said.

There have been a lot of questions as to when American and US Airways will offer reciprocal upgrades. It’s good to know that they’ll be coming within a matter of weeks, at least.

As frustrating as it is, this is a massive merger, and unlike Delta/Northwest and United/Continental, American/US Airways didn’t do any codesharing prior to the merger, so have a lot of “catching up” to do. As much as I’d like to say “what’s taking so long?” this isn’t really something I fault them for. Keep in mind they couldn’t even start working together till the merger closed, and that was delayed quite a bit due to the Department of Justice.

So it does seem like reciprocal upgrades are the next thing on the “new” American’s “to do” list, and based on the above it seems like they may be implemented within a few weeks.

Ideally they’d offer status matching between the programs so that American Executive Platinum members would be matched to Chairman’s Preferred and vice versa, as that would totally eliminate the need for reciprocal upgrades. Then again if they can get good reciprocal benefits in place, that would be just about as valuable.

It will also be interesting to see how American handles upgrades for non-top tier elites. That’s because American doesn’t offer their Gold and Platinum members unlimited complimentary upgrades. Instead they have to use “500-mile upgrades,” which they can get two ways:

  • Gold and Platinum members earn four 500 mile “stickers” for every 10,000 miles flown
  • All elite members can purchase them for $30 online or at a kiosk, or for $35 with an agent


Meanwhile all US Airways elite members get unlimited complimentary upgrades.

My assumption is that the combined American will completely eliminate the “500-mile upgrade” program, but short term I’m curious to see how they roll that out.

Anyone see this playing out differently?

Filed Under: American, US Airways
  1. @josh g. In my experience, a US ticket bought on is not eligible for an automatic upgrade for US members with status, but is eligible for standby upgrades. AA elites mention somewhat better luck upgrading flights on AA with bought tickets but it’s not automatic.

  2. How does US handle upgrades for companions? At AA, you can upgrade companions using 500 mile upgrades coming out of your account, and you can link records so the companion get’s your priority.

  3. @ beachfan — US Airways offers complimentary companion upgrades. The companion clears at the same time as the member.

  4. Hi lucky this is not relevant comment. i feel sad about BA’s fuel surcharge, and just viewed TPG’s new post two days ago, not admitting he screwed this.
    he is so selfish , shouldn’t we have a way to punish him….

  5. Hell will freeze over before AA eliminate the $350M+ annual revenue stream of stickers that is well loved by elites.

    US elites will be able to buy stickers on AA and AA elites will get complimentary US upgrades. And eventually the two will all merge to stickers. That’s a given.

  6. Curious what they will do about system wide upgrades for international travel? I have a trip for June 7th on US airways where I could really use them.

  7. @ German expat — I think it’s HIGHLY unlikely they’ll have reciprocal international upgrades by then, unfortunately.

  8. As a low-level elite, I sure as hell hope they don’t move to a complimentary system. The only reason I even get upgrades is because of the stickers.

    Looks like the only thing the “new” AAdvantage program is doing is ensuring that they’ll lose my loyalty.

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