JonNYC is extremely knowledgable about everything related to American, and more often than not correctly predicts what’s going to happen. Yesterday he Tweeted the following, suggesting that American is considering limiting systemwide upgrade usage to the account holder:
So, if AA was seriously considering limiting SWU usage to Just the account holder, in favor or opposed?
— JonNYC (@xJonNYC) February 19, 2019
He actually suggests proactively writing in stating that you’re opposed to this (assuming you are):
Or, put slightly differently; write in and tell AA that you know this is being actively considered (they’ll lie and say it isn’t, of course,)and let them know just how unacceptable it would be
— JonNYC (@xJonNYC) February 20, 2019
I reached out to American to seek clarification, and American has confirmed that they have no plans to change their systemwide upgrade policy.
That’s not to say they won’t do so at some point in the future (I appreciate how openly Jon shares rumors, and I know they’re all well sourced but obviously not everything comes to fruition), but it does make me believe that this change isn’t imminent.
Unlike many other airlines, I find American’s communications people to be very honest and straightforward, so this isn’t like Qatar, where they’ll completely deny something, and the next day it comes true (if that were the case, I suspect I would have gotten a “no comment”).
So that’s good news.
Now, I had written out an entire post before hearing back from American, and I don’t want it to all go to waste, so I figured I’d address the hypothetical situation anyway, starting with a bit of history with systemwide upgrades at American:
American cut systemwide upgrades in half a few years ago
As of 2016, American reduced the number of systemwide upgrades that Executive Platinum members receive from eight to four. This was obviously a huge reduction for Executive Platinum members, and sadly came at a time when they were making all kinds of other negative changes to the program.
The next major change I was expecting
Historically systemwide upgrades have been valid for a one category upgrade, from economy to business, or from business to first.
American is just finishing the process of installing premium economy throughout most of their longhaul fleet, and the fear many have had is that American will eventually truly restrict systemwide upgrades to a one cabin upgrade, meaning you can upgrade with them from economy to premium economy, from premium economy to business, or from business to first.
This would be a massive devaluation to systemwide upgrades. However, we might not see this, at least in the near future. Delta and United are also both installing premium economy, and for the time being both airlines continue to allow upgrades from economy to business. So I don’t expect American to lead in this regard, but rather to follow.
So the question is whether Delta will change their policy in any way.
The implications of limiting who systemwide upgrades can be redeemed for
If American were to consider a policy change (which they’re not, at this time), I have a few general thoughts:
- If something like this were to be introduced, I would guess that they’d still allow you to upgrade a companion traveling on the same flight/reservation, since anything else would be plain unreasonable
- I know airlines deal with a lot of fraud related to selling miles, systemwide upgrades, etc., so it could be that a policy change would be taking aim at that
- Delta upgrades are only valid for the SkyMiles member and up to one companion traveling on the same reservation, so American would potentially be matching Delta’s policy here
Personally I don’t see any upside to a policy change like this, and only downside.
It’s not like this would really help Executive Platinums in any way. Systemwide upgrades are hard to confirm in advance. For those who are waitlisted, Executive Platinum members would clear ahead of those who were sponsored but traveling alone.
Jon is a great source and I trust this was under consideration, though I’m happy to hear that American has no plans to change their systemwide upgrade policy.
If they were to make this change at some point in the future, I don’t really see any upside or downside for Executive Platinum members when it comes to upgrade clearance. It sure seems to me like the primary motivation for such a change would be to reduce the sale of these upgrades, which I know is an issue airlines deal with.
Lastly, personally a change like this wouldn’t impact me much. Systemwide upgrades are hard enough to clear as an Executive Platinum member, so I don’t remember the last time I sponsored someone who wasn’t traveling with me, since the odds of clearing on most routes as a non-elite aren’t great.
While we know it’s not happening now, how would you feel about a policy change like this?