American Didn’t Fully Clear Upgrade List On My Flight…

American Didn’t Fully Clear Upgrade List On My Flight…

140

Yesterday afternoon I flew American Airlines first class from New York to Miami. I had the unthinkable luxury (well, at least on US airlines) of an empty seat next to me, though it came at the expense of someone else’s upgrade. This is the first time that I’ve personally witnessed something like this on American, so it’s certainly an isolated incident…

An empty seat next to me in American first class

American offers unlimited complimentary upgrades to elite members within the United States, along with in select other markets. As a result, it’s exceedingly rare to find an empty seat in domestic first class, since it would mean that there aren’t any elite members in economy.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen an empty seat in first class on a mainline domestic American jet. Perhaps a few times I’ve been on a regional jet during a very off peak period where there were some empty seats, but that’s still rare.

Anyway, yesterday I was flying from New York to Miami on a 737-800. As boarding wrapped up, the seat next to me was still empty. Okay, presumably there was someone who booked this seat but then didn’t show up. In this situations it’s typically policy that the gate agent will come onboard and upgrade the next person on the upgrade list who is seated in economy. I find that American is quite consistent about this, and it’s rare for gate agents to not follow policy.

To my surprise, on this flight the door closed, but that seat stayed empty.

An empty seat in American first class!

Why didn’t American clear the upgrade list?

On this flight there were passengers on the upgrade waitlist who hadn’t cleared, so the lack of a person being cleared wasn’t because there was no one eligible for the upgrade.

Now, the upgrade list was one of the more unusual ones to begin with, given that number three and number nine on the list cleared. I’m not sure what exactly happened here. Did number one and two on the list reject the upgrade? Did numbers four through eight reject the upgrades, or was number nine just not correctly linked to number three?

American first class upgrade list

I think the next logical question is whether the first class seat next to me was left empty due to laziness on the part of gate agents, or was there another explanation? There’s only one possible (excusable) explanation I can come up with for why the upgrade wasn’t cleared. Even before the flight left, it was showing an on-time departure but an arrival 18 minutes behind schedule, presumably due to a longer than usual flight time.

American flight status

For gate agents, the number one priority is getting a flight out on-time, so perhaps there was pressure to get out this flight as soon as possible, especially with the anticipated arrival delay.

For what it’s worth, I confirmed with the crew that the seat wasn’t inoperative, so that’s not the reason it stayed empty.

Someone tried to self-upgrade during the flight

At roughly the halfway point of the flight, someone came up to the row I was seated in and said to me “do you mind if I sit here?” I responded “I don’t mind, but you might have to take it up with the crew.” After all, I didn’t pay for the extra seat, so it’s not really my business.

So he took a seat there and then started reading a book. I’d say within about 30 seconds, the friendly first class flight attendant showed up, and the conversation went something like this:

Flight attendant: “Sir, what’s your original seat?”
Passenger: “I was in 17D, but there’s someone in my seat, so I need a different one.”
Flight attendant: “Sorry, there’s someone in your seat now?”
Passenger: “Well, the guy next to me is spilling over into my seat, he’s very large, it’s really not comfortable.”
Flight attendant: “I’m sorry, I can’t have you sitting here. But if you’d like, I can try to find you another seat in economy.”

Suddenly he was very happy with returning to his exit row aisle seat, and didn’t need her assistance to move anymore.

Bottom line

I had an empty seat next to me in American first class yesterday, even though there were passengers on the upgrade list. American usually does a good job with clearing the upgrade list per the company’s policy, and I don’t remember the last time that I’ve witnessed something like this.

It was a weird flight when it came to upgrades, between the order in which upgrades were cleared, as well as a first class seat staying open.

Have you ever seen an American gate agent not clear upgrades when there were no shows?

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  1. Tony Guest

    I booked a same day flight from CLT to CVG this week and my name was never added to the waitlist. Line was way too long for me to ask for such a short flight.

  2. Will Guest

    Ben - on AA 2257 right now from OKC-DFW. I was upgraded. There were about 15 people on the upgrade list behind me. We just left with 2 empty first class seats. I’ve never seen it happen before.

  3. Flyer Guest

    I am 80-90% of the times the first on the upgrade list (700,000 miles on 2023).

    My 1/17/24 DFW-SPG has 4 available first class seats for sale, but the upgrade list showed 0 available for upgrade.

    I was the first on the list but was not cleared.

    After the plane closed the door, they moved me to the front. And yes, 3 more seats were left empty for the whole flight.

    The upgrade list...

    I am 80-90% of the times the first on the upgrade list (700,000 miles on 2023).

    My 1/17/24 DFW-SPG has 4 available first class seats for sale, but the upgrade list showed 0 available for upgrade.

    I was the first on the list but was not cleared.

    After the plane closed the door, they moved me to the front. And yes, 3 more seats were left empty for the whole flight.

    The upgrade list has other 12 persons.

    I believe it may be a software glitch.

    My 1/14/24 and 1/16/24 DFW-DEN-DFW were upgraded normally.

  4. Annie Guest

    So, one time I was flying from DEN-DFW and decided last minute to switch to an earlier flight at the check-in counter. Surprisingly, my status did not get carried over when the check-in agent did the switch. I kept refreshing in the app and never saw my name on the upgrade waiting list. Finally, I went up to the gate agent and asked her. She said it needed to be manually added on. So, I...

    So, one time I was flying from DEN-DFW and decided last minute to switch to an earlier flight at the check-in counter. Surprisingly, my status did not get carried over when the check-in agent did the switch. I kept refreshing in the app and never saw my name on the upgrade waiting list. Finally, I went up to the gate agent and asked her. She said it needed to be manually added on. So, I asked her to do it. Her comment was, "You are Gold; the chance is slim." My response was, "Slim is better than none when my name isn't even up there." During this conversation, they were clearing the upgrade list. Lo and behold, when my name finally showed up, I was first on the list, but number 2 (who was number 1) had already been cleared with a check next to his name. I considered demanding my upgraded seat but decided not to since it was only a 2-hour flight, intending to write a complaint afterward. I boarded, sat down to my "economy" seat, and 5 minutes later, the same agent moved me to business. Not sure if they removed the last person upgraded from that list. This could be one of the reasons why the clearance list looks all wonky and out of order.

  5. Kevin Guest

    On my most recent flight from Reykjavik Iceland to Denver, I was fortunate enough to be the only person in business class with a vacant seat next to me. It certainly makes an international flight more pleasant.

  6. Kayla Brahim Guest

    “Laziness of the gate agent” Do you have ANY idea of how hard gate agents work and the enormous pressures they face for very pay? Gate agents are the hardest working, under appreciated and undervalued group of employees in the airline industry.

  7. Liza Guest

    Hi! Thanks for your interesting article.
    More than a comment, I would like to ask a question to any flight attendant or gate agent who reads this.
    I am a parent of a newly hired flight attendant, and as such I get an extension of her travel benefits; so, I was going to Europe and requested to pay the applicable taxes and fees for Business class, but I didn't get it on the...

    Hi! Thanks for your interesting article.
    More than a comment, I would like to ask a question to any flight attendant or gate agent who reads this.
    I am a parent of a newly hired flight attendant, and as such I get an extension of her travel benefits; so, I was going to Europe and requested to pay the applicable taxes and fees for Business class, but I didn't get it on the way over, nor did I get it in the return flight. Not even premium economy, which was wide open on the return flight. So my question is this: will I ever be able to get these upgraded seats, or are they listed on paper only?

    1. Dixieboz Guest

      I’m not the right person to answer this, but no one else stepped up. I am a “companion” on Delta, which is like a significant other. Whenever I have had my retiree friend book me on a non-rev flight, she gets an invoice on her account, and then she asks me to reimburse her. I don’t think she has ever gotten the tax bill on my flights until after I return. Makes sense, since you are going standby. Having a reservation doesn’t mean you will actually get the flight.

  8. WRVino Guest

    Recently, my wife and I were flying AA to Belize from CLT. As we were boarding, the gate agent offered me the upgrade to First Class. He apologized and said that he only had one seat left in First Class, but it was mine if I wanted it. I politely declined and, instead chose to sit with my wife (in the exit row). I don't know if someone after me got the seat or not.

  9. Ana totes Guest

    A million of things could have happened and they ran out of time ...the ammount of stuff that goes on and clearances the agents need to have while being pressured to close the door and depart on time is insane...I could never.

  10. Dtutk Guest

    That happened to me on an international Delta flight returning to the US. They flash on the overhead monitors the available seats in the various cabins and the corresponding upgrade list (also on app). My wife and I are 2 and 3 on the Comfort plus list, with quite a few seats left. So we wait, until they board all passengers. Seats were still listed open, and upgrade list hadn’t changed.

    1. Flyer Guest

      Aren't upgrades only complimentary on domestic flights?

  11. TomAbro New Member

    This has happened to me a few times on American with one empty seat.
    However, the last time was a couple of months ago on an evening flight from Miami to JFK. Three empty seats in first with a seemingly full main cabin.

  12. Toni redfern Guest

    As a gate agent I can tell you there could be multiple reasons. Most likely would be the first class pax was checked in and they waited to the very last minute to give him the chance to get there then ran out of time. No one wants to write an email explaining why you were late closing the door

  13. Joe Guest

    I've been on flights with "damaged" first class seats that are not filled. Not always obvious what's wrong - the buckle doesn't latch or the seat won't stay upright when sat in. It is weird seeing an empty seat, but there is usually a reason!

    1. Rational Approach Guest

      If you had read the full article, you'd know the writer verified with the flight attendant that the seat wasn't inoperable.

  14. Don't make me go Karen Guest

    We were just recently on an American Flight first class. The aisle seat would not stay in an upright position. Maybe it was that seat, broken! Maybe it would have been better to delay the flight for a couple hours and fix it so just one more person could fly up there? Someone must have mentioned it.

  15. OST/K Guest

    I’ve found that when somebody low on the list clears, they purchase the in-app upgrade because they saw how low they were on the complimentary upgrade list.
    (ExPlat)

  16. Travel mom Guest

    My guess would be larger parties than the number of seats available, that do not want to split. That would also explain the out of order seat clearing. I am always surprised by the number of "no thanks" when the party cannot sit together. My family has our own personal upgrade list for available seats based on who had the last upgrade. Believe me, we all remember.

    1. Jamie Guest

      Right?! That’s how it is with my husband and I. He and I rotate who occupies the upgraded seat if we don’t both get upgraded. We’re ok sitting apart from eachother - lol We definitely wouldn’t be turning down an upgrade just to be together. That said, I do understand that some couples are different, and I appreciate it, because my husband benefitted from a husband/wife ahead of him on the list turning down the...

      Right?! That’s how it is with my husband and I. He and I rotate who occupies the upgraded seat if we don’t both get upgraded. We’re ok sitting apart from eachother - lol We definitely wouldn’t be turning down an upgrade just to be together. That said, I do understand that some couples are different, and I appreciate it, because my husband benefitted from a husband/wife ahead of him on the list turning down the one seat available …. and it was lay-flat seat, so he was super excited

  17. Jordan Diamond

    This could have been a useful post if you centered it around "This is what you can do when it happens to you".

    It feels like you're on a non-stop complaining streak of late. Oman Air tirade, and now this.

  18. Bob Guest

    I don't fly much these days, so my only status is lowly lifetime Gold. It was a total shock when I received a free upgrade on a recent flight segment. I was very glad that seat wasn't left empty ;-)

    Even more shocking, on the return trip, which was quite full, I was the only one seated in the exit aisle (there was only one exit row in the A319 variant). The FA came by...

    I don't fly much these days, so my only status is lowly lifetime Gold. It was a total shock when I received a free upgrade on a recent flight segment. I was very glad that seat wasn't left empty ;-)

    Even more shocking, on the return trip, which was quite full, I was the only one seated in the exit aisle (there was only one exit row in the A319 variant). The FA came by to give the usual schpiel about being willing and started to tell the family in the adjacent row their young daughter couldn't be in an exit aisle before I pointed out I *was* her exit aisle pax.

  19. AJ Guest

    I had this happen in December on a flight except I was the #1 on the list that wasnt upgraded and I could clearly see an empty seat in Business. Two in fact.
    I assumed soemone didnt make the flight with that many empties.
    I thought about asking about the upgrade list but decided I was fine in the exit row, didnt need a meal and just let it go

  20. George Romey Guest

    Yes an empty seat in F is very uncommon although it happened to me last Saturday flying from CLT to PVD because the a/c was upgauged from an A320 to an A321. Last month I had the seat next to me empty on a Saturday evening CLT/SAN flight-that was a real shocker. Years ago some guy tried to upgrade himself and his wife on a MIA/LGA flight I was on. The FA said he either moved back to coach immediately or he was calling the cops. They moved.

  21. AaronP Guest

    The only person who should care about this is the person who is first on the Upgrade List...

    1. GLCTraveler Gold

      Absolutely and I'd be pissed off!

  22. justlanded Guest

    Slow news day...

  23. Fathiss Guest

    I’m ex plat with AA for about 4 years now. They don’t always follow policy. Last year I was first on the upgrade list when there was a no show in FC. The FA went to the back of the plane and upgraded some random guy.
    I said nothing but later called the Platinum desk to inform of the error. They gave me enough miles to nearly cover the miles I paid for the flight so all was good. I’ll take a free economy flight over an upgraded points flight any day

    1. Dturk Guest

      The passenger in the back could have been an airline employee flying free, bumped up front by a friend agent.

    2. Daniel Guest

      It could be someone who paid for the upgrade.

  24. Andylinsky New Member

    While Ben's observations and non resolved questions are interesting, what REALLY concerns me is the guy who nonchalantly entered the first class cabin and took a seat. How easy would it have been for that person to storm the cockpit? Where's the security, and the awareness of the flight attendant (30 seconds is an eternity).

    1. Facepalm Guest

      Nearly impossible. The cockpit door is locked for the entire flight. That's pretty common knowledge.

  25. ShellBell Guest

    I’ve found that with upgrades now being automatic for anyone with status, it’s not uncommon to see people decline. I’ve done it when traveling with my kids.

  26. Matt Guest

    Might have been my seat. I was 3 minutes late getting to check in my bags for the flight and there was some considerable time spent rebooking me on a later flight. Maybe they were still expecting me to show up.

  27. Jack Bauer Guest

    To whom it may concern:
    As to a possible explanation for that empty first class seat: there's no way that any agate agent would intentionally leave that seat empty. There are many audits on every single flight and that empty seat would stand out. And per the OP, the seat was operational so a broken seat is not the reason. But there are occasions where a status person who is cleared for an upgrade,...

    To whom it may concern:
    As to a possible explanation for that empty first class seat: there's no way that any agate agent would intentionally leave that seat empty. There are many audits on every single flight and that empty seat would stand out. And per the OP, the seat was operational so a broken seat is not the reason. But there are occasions where a status person who is cleared for an upgrade, gets the first class boarding card but sits in the main cabin! Yep, that's happened. Why? The status passenger chose to remain in the main cabin to sit next to a travelling companion...i.e. spouse, friend etc. That's not wrong or unreasonable. But what is wrong, selfish and arrogant is when a status person refuses to inform the gate agent. So, the gate agent believes that the first class seat is occupied when it isn't. The gate agent often will find out only seconds before closing the boarding door when the flight attendant makes an inquiry about the empty seat. At that point, the gate agent has to choose whether he should return to the podium, determine which customer failed to take his first class seat, show him back in coach, then check the upgrade list to find out who is next in line to upgrade, proceed on board and ask that person if they want to move to first class along with their baggage (at that point, moving bags is often cumbersome) or just dispatch the flight "as is." The "as is" is significant because as I indicated earlier, the empty seat issue will often only become apparent at the last moment when the gate agent is prepared to provide the captain his final paperwork so taking the previous steps could almost certainly involve delaying the flight.
    The gate agents are far more involved with a flight than most passengers can realize. This is an example.

  28. Joe Guest

    After reading an enjoyable article and the kind of travel wonk minutia you expect from a TRAVEL BLOG, especially one that posts frequently, I was a bit surprised to see bitching and moaning about how we shouldn’t care about these things. I guess I shouldn’t be.

  29. Bob Guest

    What you experienced is quite common. Most AA tickets do not have charges for changing your flight. People check in for their flight 24 hours prior to departure and are automatically added to the upgrade list. Maybe their meeting runs late, they're stuck in traffic, long security line, their inbound flight is late... They just decide to catch the next flight. If they don't list for the next flight before their current flight leaves, their...

    What you experienced is quite common. Most AA tickets do not have charges for changing your flight. People check in for their flight 24 hours prior to departure and are automatically added to the upgrade list. Maybe their meeting runs late, they're stuck in traffic, long security line, their inbound flight is late... They just decide to catch the next flight. If they don't list for the next flight before their current flight leaves, their names stay on the upgrade list. Happens hundreds of times every day.

  30. MrDebonair Guest

    WTF? Who complains about an empty seat? Maybe there were no more upgrades to give and no military personnel on the flight. Passengers really should just STFU and not tell airline workers or the company transporting them how to do their jobs.

    1. GLCTraveler Gold

      @ MrDebonair, WTF back..... Those due the upgrade should have received an upgrade period, unless the seat is inoperable. They are due the upgrade for their loyalty and should speak up appropriately! That is how the systems work, whether you like it or not. So, you should STFU and go back to Iowa and your corn-feed caucuses feeder trough and vote again for Bozo the Orange Faced Clown! I sure hope Bozo comes down a...

      @ MrDebonair, WTF back..... Those due the upgrade should have received an upgrade period, unless the seat is inoperable. They are due the upgrade for their loyalty and should speak up appropriately! That is how the systems work, whether you like it or not. So, you should STFU and go back to Iowa and your corn-feed caucuses feeder trough and vote again for Bozo the Orange Faced Clown! I sure hope Bozo comes down a mild debilitating illness that keeps him from running for Prez.
      Ben is reporting facts, and it is greatly appreciated to see his experiences and insights on why it happened. He is not there to complain, nor gloat, just report in an unbiased fashion.
      Thank you Ben.

    2. Whatever Guest

      How did you make this about Trump? You're an angry little fella.

    3. J Smith Guest

      It's called Tee Dee Es. It's real and it's rampant.

    4. GLCTraveler Gold

      Whatever Whatever........... Angry about that F'g Idiot and anyone that acts like that!!

  31. bdbrown20 New Member

    Just in the past 8 months alone, I have been on 3 Alaska Airlines 737s, where I was upgraded to first class and they left 1 or 2 seats in first empty. There were at least 20 - 30 people still on the upgrade list.
    I presented this situation to some Pilot friends of mine. The first thing they mentioned was the time element of the "On Time Departure" factor and they crew might...

    Just in the past 8 months alone, I have been on 3 Alaska Airlines 737s, where I was upgraded to first class and they left 1 or 2 seats in first empty. There were at least 20 - 30 people still on the upgrade list.
    I presented this situation to some Pilot friends of mine. The first thing they mentioned was the time element of the "On Time Departure" factor and they crew might have felt there was not enough time. I countered that statement with the number of times I was in coach, I knew I was at the top of the list. I checked the App on my phone and saw I was upgraded, so I went and relocated to the new seat after taking a screen shot of my new boarding pass. About half the time, the crew did not come to the back to get me. However, the first class FA had my name on her list.

  32. Kris Guest

    This is such a foreign concept to an Australian. Free upgrades?!?!?!?!

    Our main carriers, Qantas and Virgin may occasionally upgrade due to operational requirements but if you want to sit up front (referring to upgrades, not confirmed tickets), you have to pay for it with either $$ or points.

    Just providing some insight as to how we roll in Australia.

  33. crosscourt Guest

    I wouldn't have thought something as frivolous as this would be an article. I also find it concerning that a passenger upgrade list is published in this manner, whether the first three letters of a name, or the whole name, is used. It's not for this blog to publish such a list. It's not your property to do so.

    1. Frozenkiwi Guest

      These lists are posted on apps and publicly in the airport. Some airlines like Alaska and united even post their lists online when you search for flight details. So I wouldn’t be too upset…

    2. NFSF Diamond

      Hundreds of people on the same plane can access it, and if AA is like United, they’re all publicly available.

      https://www.united.com/en/us/flightstatus/details/509/2024-01-16/SFO/EWR/UA

    3. GLCTraveler Gold

      @ crosscourt, wake up and get with the program!! This is the 21st century and Western Airlines nor NW are no longer flying!! You need to get out more....

    4. Chris Guest

      Tinfoil hat club has entered the chat

  34. Bari A. Guest

    Pretty interesting. This happened this morning (Monday 1/15) on my JFK-MIA flight (AA1899 - 772). The upgrade list had a minimum of 15+ ppl. I asked the flight crew if the seat was inoperable and she advised that the gate agent had an issue with the upgrade list. Really strange. If I was number one on the list, I would have been outraged.

    1. GLCTraveler Gold

      Absolutely outraged.......... You are loyal to the Airline, and they should reward you for it, period!! Too many airline gate agents don't take their jobs seriously, nor manage their time wisely resulting in issues like this. It happened to me on an AS trancon flight and I called after the fact to point it out. They apologized and gave me a discount code, so was kinda satisfied, but would have preferred to be comfortable for 5.5 hours vs. the $$.

  35. David Guest

    I actually had this on a recent flight from DCA to LGA. I checked my flight to see if it was full and at least according to AA app the seat (aisle) next to me was taken in First class. I boarded the flight expecting someone to sit next to me but I was surprised when the crew closed the door there wasn't anyone in the seat next to me. I think their was 5...

    I actually had this on a recent flight from DCA to LGA. I checked my flight to see if it was full and at least according to AA app the seat (aisle) next to me was taken in First class. I boarded the flight expecting someone to sit next to me but I was surprised when the crew closed the door there wasn't anyone in the seat next to me. I think their was 5 people on the upgrade list and the flight was delayed by 30min so maybe that was the cause? Either way it was a pleasant surprise not to have someone sitting next to me.

  36. iamhere Guest

    Not just American. Legacy US carriers all have similar upgrade policies for premium members.

  37. Jes Guest

    This happened to me on a flight from Atlanta to Nola on Delta last year and I was number one on the upgrade list with an open in first (next to my boss) and the gate agent closed the flight without filling it. I was in coach next to the boarding door and tried to ask him why and he literally ignored me. I vote laziness on the part of the gate agents. I did complain to Delta via text and received a $100 voucher.

  38. PINTOCM Guest

    For the list 2 weeks, many AA flights are not clearing the upgrade list until after everyone has boarded. I too was wondering what was up with this. This is not an isolated incident. They just did it yet again on the flight I'm currently on from Charlotte to Tampa.

    1. Eric Guest

      There are many reasons why this could happen, but the main reason is closing the door on time for and on time departure. On time door closure trumps over processing fre upgrades and nonrev passengers.
      You may call and get some sort of compensation, if you were not processed.
      Please never ask the crew anything regarding empty seats or upgrade processing. They don't have the means or tool to do this. The door is closed, the end.

  39. Jeff H Guest

    1. That flight had 16 seats issued for FC. It was not closed out with one open FC seat. All 16 passed through the scanner, so maybe they were traveling with someone in coach and just wanted to sit by them.
    2. Because of 1 above, no gate agent would have needed to come on to the airplane to upgrade the next eligible person. There were no seats left in their computer. Plus many...

    1. That flight had 16 seats issued for FC. It was not closed out with one open FC seat. All 16 passed through the scanner, so maybe they were traveling with someone in coach and just wanted to sit by them.
    2. Because of 1 above, no gate agent would have needed to come on to the airplane to upgrade the next eligible person. There were no seats left in their computer. Plus many if not most people who are upgraded after boarding will just see the message on AA’s app and know they’ve been upgraded. They refresh their boarding pass and the new seat is there.
    3. The people they skipped on the upgrade list were offered one of the two upgrades but passed because they were traveling as a multi person party. Not unusual at all for people to get skipped.
    4. You didn’t have the full picture before writing and posting your article.

    1. Cam Member

      what's the source for this?

    2. FlyerDon Guest

      Perhaps it was a skiplagger? Or perhaps the pax decided at the last minute not to go, and deplaned. Or just maybe that seat was assigned to a deadheading pilot that was good friends with the captain in command and at the last minute decided to ride in the jumpseat rather than his first class seat.

  40. FlyerDon Member

    Maybe six of pax’s were parties of two that didn’t want to split up.

    1. Patrick Guest

      Weight restrictions possibly.

  41. Chris Guest

    If I'm next on the list and the GA doesn't clear the list I clear myself.

    Most of the time the GA comes in last second with a boarding pass. Occasionally they don't, but haven't yet had an issue with the FAs when I show them that I'm next on the list.

  42. Darren C Diamond

    When AS and AA joined forces, AA gate agents would tell me that they refused to upgrade me because I was flying on my AS MileagePlan # (AS Gold 75K=Plat Pro) instead of my AAdvantage #. Maybe some gate agents prefer to not upgrade when they see pax using OW numbers.

  43. Mike Guest

    This article is literally about nothing. It’s so crazy that some random occurrence that you actually have zero insight into what happened has become a story. This is not news. This is not noteworthy. Move on.

  44. Matt Guest

    I usually fly Alaska and have top elite status. While supposedly American as part of One World honors that status, I have have more than once observed empty first class and business class seats and not been offered an upgrade.

    Once when getting rebooked by Alaska onto an American flight, the Alaska agent commented that American doesn't like to give status upgrades. Seems petty and dumb... but sometimes seems that's what American is going for.

  45. Chuck Rogers Guest

    I had one time they cleared me, the app informed me after the door closed. Once the flight attendants got up I rang my call button, show her and she moved me up.

  46. Amy Guest

    Empty seats is one of the reasons why when I book in business class to Asia I give money to Asian carriers.

    It's far more pleasant to fly in a cabin that's half empty than one where the seats have been filled to the brim with upgraders dressed for the gym.

    And it costs the same: all you have to do is avoid American carriers!

    1. Chris Guest

      Do you really care that much what someone is dressed in?

    2. Mark Christopher Guest

      When I fly from USA to Asia I always wear sweat pants and sweat shirt. I am going to be comfortable on a 13 hour flight.

    3. Andrew Guest

      Oh boy, this Amy sounds more like a Karen. I sometimes pay for long haul business class seats and would certainly be considered "dressed for the gym" by your standard.

      Reading the comments section on this blog is such a guilty pleasure sometimes :)

  47. Randy Diamond

    Yes, I have empty seats in F. Many times thought it is someone declining the seat. They are traveling with some in coach - and the agents waited until the last minute to upgrade. Hence - no time to upgrade someone else.

  48. AD Diamond

    It's definitely increased pressure to get the flight out on time. I like to sit in row 1 so I'm there a lot and hear the discussions with the agent. Recently I've been on multiple flights for both DL and AA where the agent said they didn't have time to clear the upgrades. In every case, they handed the FA a piece of paper with the seat numbers so they could upgrade the people. But...

    It's definitely increased pressure to get the flight out on time. I like to sit in row 1 so I'm there a lot and hear the discussions with the agent. Recently I've been on multiple flights for both DL and AA where the agent said they didn't have time to clear the upgrades. In every case, they handed the FA a piece of paper with the seat numbers so they could upgrade the people. But a couple weeks ago on DL I had the same experience -- nothing was said about upgrades and the door closed with the seat next to me empty and 30+ people on the upgrade list.

  49. Peter Guest

    Last month I was flying AA MIA - ORD and the same thing happened to me. Once the door closed the FA offered the seat to one of the bulkhead passengers

  50. NRSA AV8R Guest

    I was flying nonrev ord-mia a few days before christmas and this super rare thing happened when the gate agent upgraded me to one of two empty first class seats on a B738 also. Free first class! Wow! Much excite. Cant really blog about it because i forgot to take a picture of my empty seat before I sat down though. This story was a waste of time. No one cares why the seat was empty except maybe someone who didn't get UpGrAdEd.

  51. Just an airline guy Guest

    As someone associated with the airline, I decided to lookup the priority list for your flight yesterday and see what happened. The answer is actually quite simple but without seeing behind the scenes it looks awkward. From 1 - 12 on the upgrade list. 1 & 2 were flying together specified "no split." # 3 took a seat, 4 and 5 also were another pair traveling together with "no split." 6 has zero notes but...

    As someone associated with the airline, I decided to lookup the priority list for your flight yesterday and see what happened. The answer is actually quite simple but without seeing behind the scenes it looks awkward. From 1 - 12 on the upgrade list. 1 & 2 were flying together specified "no split." # 3 took a seat, 4 and 5 also were another pair traveling together with "no split." 6 has zero notes but also no seat assigned, maybe a no show? 7 and 8 were a pair again and didn't want to split up, 9 took a seat up front as the last upgrade. 10, 11, 12 were upgrades trying to move from basic economy to premium economy, they didn't get it. Ironically, This then leaves the standby list. 1,2,3, were revenue standbys (coach only) 4,5,6 were listed for main cabin and they got seats, 7,8 were listed for business but didn't answer and missed the flight, 9 was listed for main cabin and got it, 10 was listed for business class and again, no answer, missing the flight. 11 was a pass traveler but didn't bother listing for FC so got a seat in coach.

    This is a very unique flight here. AA always ensures Fc is full, even if it is full of non-revs, they want it to be full to give the impression that there is always high demand. Apparently on this flight, they just ran out of people to upgrade.

    1. GLCTraveler Gold

      @ Just an airline guy..... That is very unique for sure!! Thanks very much for the details on what happened. I was thinking traveling pairs was one reason and sure enough it was for 6 of on the list!! Good point about perception too!

      Thanks again for insight into this mystery!! ;-)

  52. jdink Member

    This past Weds on a flight seated in business class from GDL-PHX there were 2 open seats in business and 2 on the waitlist for upgrades. One person took the one upgrade, but no one else was upgraded to the remaining open seat. And yes the seat was operational because his friend who was already seated in business class, and moved over to join his friend after everyone was boarded. Who knows what happened for...

    This past Weds on a flight seated in business class from GDL-PHX there were 2 open seats in business and 2 on the waitlist for upgrades. One person took the one upgrade, but no one else was upgraded to the remaining open seat. And yes the seat was operational because his friend who was already seated in business class, and moved over to join his friend after everyone was boarded. Who knows what happened for sure, but it was one of the best AA flights I have had in most recent times, meal and service, with a F/A with 26 years seniority.

    1. MF Guest

      I'm an Executive Platinum and this has happened twice in the last year where I have not been upgraded to first class on a domestic flight when I was next on the upgrade list and there was an open seat available. I've also been upgraded twice at the last moment and pulled from my economy seat just prior to leaving the gate, and I have experienced one time where there was an empty seat next...

      I'm an Executive Platinum and this has happened twice in the last year where I have not been upgraded to first class on a domestic flight when I was next on the upgrade list and there was an open seat available. I've also been upgraded twice at the last moment and pulled from my economy seat just prior to leaving the gate, and I have experienced one time where there was an empty seat next to me in first class. All of these occurred on a 737-800 or A321 neo, out of either Chicago, Boston, or Phoenix. Based on my limited experience, it appears that this situation is much more frequent than expected.

  53. jb17 Member

    Only time I've seen this happen (DL) was usually when the gate agent tried to upgrade one person after a no-show (walked on board with a new boarding pass) but the person declined. They were bulkhead C+ with their family. Can't expect them to go back and forth to the gate multiple times. Felt bad for the #2 for sure.

    1. Chris Guest

      Yeah, I'm 50/50 if I'm comortable in an exit row and found room for all my stuff then I'll probably just stay where I'm at.

    2. Jack Bauer Guest

      Any passenger accepting a first class boarding card (upgrade) should inform the gate agent if they intend to refuse the upgrade. That is the right thing to do.

  54. Tim Guest

    I had this happen last month, was told it was a weight and load issue. I was sitting 2 rows away in Economy+, I highly doubt the extra 6 get impacted the plane at all. I was top of the list and it showed 1 seat available. They even briefly cleared my upgrade (which I got a screen shot of) but revoked it within ~2 minutes, trying me the right and load balancing issue. It did indeed remain unoccupied the entire fight.

    1. Snagglepuss Guest

      Weight and Balance is supposed to be strictly followed.

  55. Kathy Sterling Guest

    Yes, many times and only on American.

  56. Shh can’t say Guest

    According to the flight detail all 16 seats were assigned on that flight. Whoever was assigned that seat either chose to sit in economy and didn’t tell anyone or the seat was assigned to an employee such as a pilot. Another possibility is the seat as marked as broken thus not assignable.

    As far as the upgrades go, the first two people didn’t want to be split up so they declined the upgrade. People...

    According to the flight detail all 16 seats were assigned on that flight. Whoever was assigned that seat either chose to sit in economy and didn’t tell anyone or the seat was assigned to an employee such as a pilot. Another possibility is the seat as marked as broken thus not assignable.

    As far as the upgrades go, the first two people didn’t want to be split up so they declined the upgrade. People after the third person don’t have indicators that they declined so there is no telling how the one person down the list got the upgrade.

  57. EN Guest

    Lol it happens. It's been happening for decades and it will happen again at least on United

    1. Steven E Guest

      I’m of the opinion that there was a legitimate reason- too many to list

  58. Timo Diamond

    It's happened to me twice where I was next on upgrade list and door shut and we departed with an empty seat in first. I asked the gate agent while boarding if I was next to be upgraded and she said yes but no open seats. Oh well, short flights so not worth fighting. And I met an interesting seat mate.

  59. Ray Guest

    @ Ben - the keyword in your story is "usually" aa does a good job.
    But this happened to me, too. I was #1 on the upgrade list and
    observed a seat in 1st stay empty all flight (and was seemingly
    functional). I was furious.

    No helpful or comforting actions from flight attendants, gate agents
    or customer service.

    After this I quit pursuing status on aa (what's the point) and started flying other airlines more often. Never happened on ua.

  60. Ben Guest

    My personal favorite is when you are on the AA upgrade list.. your name doesn’t clear, but there are several uniform pilots sitting in first class. Total BS.

    1. Sue Guest

      No it’s not BS! They have a contract that is fulfilled also! That’s how it goes

    2. SueMe Guest

      No, total BS. Give the revenue seats to the LOYAL customers, not to the entitled pilots.

    3. Greg Guest

      Entitled pilots!!? If they are flying to their next flight, no problem giving them room to rest. Very well may be covering a flight so a flight isn’t cancelled.

    4. Bruyul Guest

      Can confirm contracts can guarantee first class seats for pilots. I’d rather them take it and operate a safe flight then have them squeezed into a middle seat at the back of the aircraft.

    5. MrNonrever Guest

      Yeah I have to lean to entitled pilots as well, and I used to be in the airline industry, ( ex AAer ) now when a non-rever wants to take a vacation and try to get first class that's becoming a thing of the past... Crandall would have never allowed that from the pilots. A seat is a seat.

    6. jedipenguin Guest

      Pilots need to live in the hub where they work so there won't be any need to commute.

    7. Steve Guest

      Pilots aren’t contractually guaranteed a FC seat when commuting to or from work, only when deadheading.

    8. texasoilfields Guest

      May I politely recommend self-editing your comments before posting?

    9. Brian W Guest

      If you want the seat, PAY for the seat. The level of entitlement is high for people who feel they are owed a steakhouse experience while only being willing to pay McDonald's prices.

    10. Gabe Guest

      Difference is, those McDonald prices add up to the tens of thousands, while your stakeholders bills add up to a couple of hundred or maybe thousands in a single year. When you add it all up, who generated more revenue and profit for the airline? Obviously the person that spends tens of thousands a year and based on the rewards programs, you get rewarded for your loyalty by getting free upgrades when you spend all that money on one airline.

  61. Ryan Guest

    In AA hubs departure time is recorded by actual aircraft pushing off gate not when door closed. 1226 door closed would be 1 minute late. Shows first class full. The 2 upgrades must’ve not have known they been upgraded

  62. Tom Clayman Guest

    You sure that your body odor wasn't so bad they agent saved someone the experience of sitting next to you?

  63. Johhny Guest

    You can't rely on FA's to provide service, but I'm glad to see they are policing First to make sure know one gets a better experience.

    1. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      I'm actually GLAD they are "policing" first class. Next step would be for them to also police the First Class lavatories. SO tired of people running up as soon as we get to causing altitude just so they can look around like they are at the zoo and hold up service. I don't care if it's "closer" to some seat or not. If there are 3 open or even 1 open lavatory in the middle...

      I'm actually GLAD they are "policing" first class. Next step would be for them to also police the First Class lavatories. SO tired of people running up as soon as we get to causing altitude just so they can look around like they are at the zoo and hold up service. I don't care if it's "closer" to some seat or not. If there are 3 open or even 1 open lavatory in the middle and rear of the plane: use the lavatory assigned to your seats class. Parents bring up 3 kids and a baby at a time and stink up thr whole front of the plane and make it noisy and crowed. Ridiculous that FA's on ALL airlines don't address this more often.

  64. James C Guest

    Any chance the seat was non-op and had been taken out of service? Not sure AAs policy but a faulty meal tray, non-recline etc would block the seat for passenger use on BA

    1. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      James C. You should READ before commenting next time.

    2. AD Diamond

      And YOU, BenjaminGuttery, should think twice about posting at all, as your next post was entitled and offensive. It can be annoying when there's a line of people from economy waiting for the lav up front. But not all airlines have a policy and I assure that they are not gawking like they are in a zoo. They just want to use the facilities.

  65. roger Guest

    All I can is 'Stay in Your Lane' and worry about You and not the open/empty seat. Kudos to the FA for handling the situation and addressing the freeloader for seat poaching. Tired of people exploiting situations, making issues out of nothing or pretending to be concerned about someone getting slighted when in reality they couldn't give a rat's and just prefer to meddle. Get a Life!

    1. GBOAC Diamond

      Someone does need to get a life (hint it's not Ben)

  66. Greg Guest

    So Miami to have the seat poacher

  67. JetAway Guest

    DCA/DFW a couple of weeks ago. One empty F seat right before door closure. GA came aboard to upgrade a pax in Coach. The pax didn't want to bother with changing seats so flight left with the empty F seat. For a variety of reasons people decline last minute/gate upgrades.

  68. Jason Guest

    It's due to a GA trying to rush the flight D+0.
    I worked AA in the good days the only people in F Class were nonrevs. I got F Class 99% of the time. GA gave seats out of order to get the paperwork and close the door. My guess the UPGD went to the people already at the gate first.

  69. Vin Guest

    Maybe due to weight balancing they had to keep the seat empty?

  70. Chris P Bacon Guest

    Could've been travellers who chose to remain with their travel companions. Could've been no-shows or busted connections. Could've been people who stood by and cleared on an earlier flight. To simply blame it on "laziness" by the gate agents or the need to maintain an on-time departure is unfair to both the employee and the company. Maybe AA needs to follow DL and try to monetize the front cabin better. I've noticed that I get...

    Could've been travellers who chose to remain with their travel companions. Could've been no-shows or busted connections. Could've been people who stood by and cleared on an earlier flight. To simply blame it on "laziness" by the gate agents or the need to maintain an on-time departure is unfair to both the employee and the company. Maybe AA needs to follow DL and try to monetize the front cabin better. I've noticed that I get offered pretty reasonably priced confirmed upgrades on most of my AA flights. I'm not opposed to paying for the upgrade if it's priced right.

    1. Franklin Guest

      Did you not read the post at all?

  71. Khatl Diamond

    Not seen it on American... but happened very recently on a Delta flight from MEX where I got an upgrade and yet half of the first cabin remained empty in flight

    1. Jason Guest

      DL is famous for not working the list at all that's how they play to keep their on time departures so they look good in DOT ratings

  72. Mark Guest

    This happened to me on a recent DFW-AUS flight. I cleared for a complementary upgrade, and the flight left with 2 empty seats up front (it was an Airbus 319), and 5 people on the upgrade list.

    I truly think American's upgrade system is flawed, as back in OCT 2023 I cleared an upgrade from ATL-DFW ahead of a work colleague on the same flight that had the same status that I did, but 100K...

    This happened to me on a recent DFW-AUS flight. I cleared for a complementary upgrade, and the flight left with 2 empty seats up front (it was an Airbus 319), and 5 people on the upgrade list.

    I truly think American's upgrade system is flawed, as back in OCT 2023 I cleared an upgrade from ATL-DFW ahead of a work colleague on the same flight that had the same status that I did, but 100K more Loyalty Points. He should have gotten the upgrade well before I did.

    Is it down to gate agents, or AA's IT?

    1. Golfingboy Guest

      Keep in mind the LPs are based on a rolling 12 months so it all depends on when your colleague earned their LPs relative to when you did. What one ends with in the qualification period does not matter. So there may have been a time span where you earned more LPs over your colleague and that gave you the edge this time around.

  73. Jim Guest

    I recall a bit ago, some AA staff noted that the company's obsession with D0 meant, among other things, not clearing the upgrade list.

  74. Tim Guest

    When we were on transcontinental on the A321T, I had used miles to get my two travel partners (no status) business class seats and bought myself (platinum) a ticket a in economy. Both of them were bumped to first and I was upgraded off the upgrade list to business, but was nowhere near the top of the list. They skipped a lot of the list, and I over heard the flight crew talking that there...

    When we were on transcontinental on the A321T, I had used miles to get my two travel partners (no status) business class seats and bought myself (platinum) a ticket a in economy. Both of them were bumped to first and I was upgraded off the upgrade list to business, but was nowhere near the top of the list. They skipped a lot of the list, and I over heard the flight crew talking that there was a late arriving flight that they didn't wait for and a lot of the upgrades were people on the connecting flight that didn't make it, so lots of gaps in the upgrade list.

  75. D3kingg Guest

    I was in F once and my flight from lax to phx diverted to LAX because a cancer patient died in flight. I decided to disembark in LA and take a flight to Houston instead . The flight continued onto PHX with one empty seat in first class.

  76. JAck Guest

    I believe this is a clear situation where the person upgraded needed two or more seats or wanted to stay with someone who was in economy.

    1. Gregg Guest

      Wrong. Their companion would be with them on the upgrade list.

    2. Leigh Guest

      Gregg, nonsense. They ask if you’ll accept an upgrade without the companion. It’s normal procedure. Most people decline the solo upgrade without their companion(s).

  77. Phil in ATL Guest

    I appreciate you writing about this and using your platform to shine a little light on this. Upgrades are one of the main reasons we attempt status and nowadays they have become more and more rare. It’s a shame to see one go to waste and I’ve seen it way too often on Delta. I don’t want to automatically blame a lazy gate agent but if that was the case they often think nobody will notice. Maybe if they thought more people would notice they would process the upgrades.

  78. Jerry Diamond

    I have seen this happen an couple of times, and I generally report it to AA (via Twitter) even if I'm already seated up front. I don't know if they actually take any action, but their responses generally make me think they do care, and don't want this to happen. I'm glad you used your platform to make this post.

    1. John Guest

      Them empty seats are a threat to society, and we are all safer for your vigilance and reporting of this threat. Thank you for your service.

  79. Isaac Guest

    I suspect all rejected the upgrade.

    I was on AA as an AS elite. I was 6th on the upgrade list. All 5 ahead of me rejected it. I’m like hells yea.

    (This was when we were on board however).

    1. Gregg Guest

      And why would they do that??

  80. RJB Guest

    Once in a whle I fly JFK to DCA. The lazy Republic gates agent and ground tstaff rarely bother to clean the airplane and occasionally just blow off the update list. I have had it happen several times in the past year. not a problem if I am in F. Now I know if i am next on the upgrade list, I also mention that to the gate agent.

    Happened last week on United Express LGA to IAD. Also Republic operated.

    1. Jason Guest

      The gate agents are American/ United at the hubs. Not agents of the operating carrier

  81. Lee Guest

    Ben, the person who was passed over for the upgrade might have needed two seats. I would have taken the one seat and given it to my travel companion. And, I'd stay in back. Separately, I've been in long-haul F and seen seats go empty. While I might have paid cash for my seat, it's quite upsetting to me that individuals who have earned tier status via loyalty to the airline (or hotel) and not receive an upgrade (or other benefit) when it is readily available.

  82. Jacob Guest

    Complaining about things like this when you get free flights due to writing this blog seems silly. Your life could be a lot worse.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Jacob -- First of all, my flight wasn't free, as I paid for it. Second of all, I'm not complaining at all, but just sharing an observation about something I encountered for the first time. If anything, I benefited from this, as the seat next to me was empty. And you're absolutely right, my life could definitely be a lot worse -- I consider myself to be pretty lucky!

    2. Lee Guest

      Jacob, assume benevolent intentions. Failing to understand the context and your compromised reading comprehension have led you to an inappropriate comment. Ben is not suggesting that he's out anything. He's not. But, someone with tier status was not given an upgrade when someone should have been given an upgrade. I'd characterize Ben as advocating for such a person. That person could have been you. Lose the chip on your shoulder.

  83. Patrick Guest

    While I can’t remember if I have not seen them clear upgrades on American, I definitely see them clear out of order quite often. I am sure there are reasons for this, but it does seem odd.

    1. Darin Member

      IIRC, I believe standby customers also show up on the customer facing upgrade waitlist. Depending on their situation, they may appropriately be prioritized above upgrades. The crappy AA IT doesn't factor this in, but the system the AAgents use does.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ Jacob -- First of all, my flight wasn't free, as I paid for it. Second of all, I'm not complaining at all, but just sharing an observation about something I encountered for the first time. If anything, I benefited from this, as the seat next to me was empty. And you're absolutely right, my life could definitely be a lot worse -- I consider myself to be pretty lucky!

11
Lee Guest

Jacob, assume benevolent intentions. Failing to understand the context and your compromised reading comprehension have led you to an inappropriate comment. Ben is not suggesting that he's out anything. He's not. But, someone with tier status was not given an upgrade when someone should have been given an upgrade. I'd characterize Ben as advocating for such a person. That person could have been you. Lose the chip on your shoulder.

6
GBOAC Diamond

Someone does need to get a life (hint it's not Ben)

5
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