Yay: American Improving Airport Upgrade Process

Yay: American Improving Airport Upgrade Process

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As I wrote about earlier, American Airlines is making significant changes to its complimentary upgrade program on flights within North America, as all elite members will soon be eligible for complimentary upgrades.

While those changes are a mixed bag, there’s another change to the upgrade process that’s entirely positive, which I think we can all get behind.

American will automate airport upgrades, clear them 40 minutes out

While American Airlines upgrades can clear before you get to the airport (the upgrade window depends on your elite status), in many cases upgrades will only clear at the airport, as American holds back first class seats. Fortunately American will be simplifying this process in the coming days and weeks:

  • At airports in North America, American will clear airport upgrades 40 minutes before flight departure, if seats are available; once your upgrade clears, you’ll be notified through the app or gate monitor
  • The upgrade process will be automated, meaning that gate agents will no longer manually be clearing upgrades

As American describes it, these changes will offer a more consistent experience, and allow customers to know about their upgrade status sooner.

American will clear airport upgrades 40 minutes out

Why this change to the upgrade process is fantastic

This change is something for American frequent flyers to get genuinely excited about, as this solves two major pain points of airport upgrades.

First of all, in the past upgrades generally started clearing 30 minutes before departure, around the same time that boarding started. While I understand the concept in theory, this was always frustrating, since if you were near the top of the upgrade waitlist you often wanted to wait to board.

While crews should come onboard to upgrade you even after you boarded, that gets tricky in terms of movign around bags in the overhead bin, and not all gate agents are great at following the rules.

The other benefit of this change is that upgrades are automated, which means that you can be assured that upgrades will be cleared with the correct priority, and reflect the upgrade list. While a vast majority of gate agents followed the correct upgrade order, there were always some exceptions.

The American upgrade process will be automated

Bottom line

American Airlines is improving its airport upgrade process, which is good news for passengers. Upgrades at the airport will now be automated, rather than manually being cleared by gate agents. Furthermore, upgrades will start clearing 40 minutes out, rather than when boarding starts (or potentially even later).

These are excellent developments that will make a meaningful difference for airport upgrades, in my opinion.

What do you make of these changes to American’s upgrade process?

Conversations (28)
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  1. Josh Guest

    What Credit cards are available in the UK,for UK based members,that will earn AA loyalty points?
    All the ones you mention in your article are for US based members,or am i mistaken?

  2. Califlyer Guest

    My main concern is the liquidation of unused 500 mile upgrades at 250 miles per is horribly undervalued. It costs $40 or 4000 miles per upgrade to purchase but we’re going to receive only 5% of that value back when the existing tickets are upgraded. I’m pretty unhappy about that.

  3. Laurence R Guest

    I have lifetime gold status on AA but rarely fly them anymore because of routes and because I feel that UA has a much better FF program and overall comfort. When I do fly AA, I almost never get a upgrade because the 500 mile upgrades are hard to use and costly. Why doesn’t AA simply give complimentary upgrades to folks with gold status like UA does?

    1. Faisal Guest

      They will, starting tomorrow. 500-miles upgrades are going away.

    2. Laurence R Guest

      Thanks. I should have read the next posting before I asked!

  4. Steven E Guest

    Great news for staff and duty travel - not

  5. Erica Guest

    Free upgrades "yay". Are you still expecting "gourmet" airplane food? Krug bubbles? We should move towards a bidding system for open seats , like they do in Europe. Why giving away your stuff. Anyways...

  6. D3kingg Guest

    I don’t get the whole companion thing. So if a man is EXP and his wife has no status with American. The wife will receive an upgrade ahead of a Platinum Pro simply because she is the guest of the EXP ?

  7. Randy Gold

    The announcement also states for Companion benefits:
    "If you and a companion are waitlisted for the same type of upgrade, you can sponsor them to receive your priority level. You’ll stay prioritized together, even at the airport."

    This tells me it will not be necessary to reorder the companion when at the airport.
    Currently a companion with lower status gets bumped down and you have to have an agent reorder.

    This is an...

    The announcement also states for Companion benefits:
    "If you and a companion are waitlisted for the same type of upgrade, you can sponsor them to receive your priority level. You’ll stay prioritized together, even at the airport."

    This tells me it will not be necessary to reorder the companion when at the airport.
    Currently a companion with lower status gets bumped down and you have to have an agent reorder.

    This is an improvement in my view.

    Also is states, you need to call to link companion upgrade request for reservations made before March 2. So this appears you need to clear and request companion upgrade?

  8. Creditcrunch Gold

    I wonder if this will be a permanent change or just another post covid recovery campaign that will expire within a few years.

  9. Sel, D. Guest

    Should have been an hour out, or at least before the T-45 seat selection cutoff. Multiple scenarios that this could be helpful for the upgraded, non-upgraded, and the gate agent.

    1. 305 Guest

      100%. Hour out to allow 15 mins before the seat change cutoff would be ideal. Huge benefit for non-upgraded elites who book close-in, might be only shot at a MCE seat opening up with reduced MCE cabin sizes filling quick

  10. beachfan Guest

    Let me see how they handle mile plus copay upgrades before I say hurray.

    I don't think this applies to mile plus copay or SWUs. So you have to pull your SWU or miles plus copay waitlist before they start processing. But if you are on a connecting fllght, might not be able to - perhaps having cleared one segment of the SWU means you can't get off the waitlist and you'll get snookered at the gate.

  11. Russ Member

    One thing that I hope they fix with the IT piece of this is companion upgrade priority. I pretty much have to check in with an agent or go to the Admiral's Club before every flight to make sure my companion is listed with my priority. If you don't get a premium agent (i.e. when the line is longer in premium than regular), check in agents have repeatedly denied even being able to do anything. I suspect this might be rocky but I hope I am impressed!

  12. JohnC Guest

    So no more excitement when you get upgraded when you have just sat in your crappy coach seat and get the notice on the app that you been upgraded to a lie flat seat? I will miss those days.

  13. Bob Guest

    Wonder how that will impact couples travelling on separate record locators.

  14. Jerry Diamond

    This is going to be really disappointing for non-revs that knew the GAs. They're going to have to start flying in Y. That really sucks for them.

    1. SQ51 Guest

      I'm just thinking about how less often nonrevs will get cleared in first given that more companions are being upgraded now too

    2. SQ51 Guest

      But also didn't nonrevs get cleared after upgrades anyway?

    3. Tom Thumb Guest

      They did but jerry seems to hate airline employees for no reason.

    4. Santos Guest

      I've seen nonrevs get cleared well before upgrades on many elite-heavy routes. IMO, looked as if they new the GAs personally.

    5. Yiannis Guest

      It really does damn it!

    6. D3kingg Guest

      @Jerry

      Non revs do not get upgraded ahead of paying passengers. It’s not even possible everything is recorded within the computer system.

      That type of sneakery ended in the 90s when American acquired TWA and went electric. Before computers the gate agents had to count boarding passes and then take a head count on board like a deck of cards. Sure my mothers friends used to block seats for us until last minute...

      @Jerry

      Non revs do not get upgraded ahead of paying passengers. It’s not even possible everything is recorded within the computer system.

      That type of sneakery ended in the 90s when American acquired TWA and went electric. Before computers the gate agents had to count boarding passes and then take a head count on board like a deck of cards. Sure my mothers friends used to block seats for us until last minute on a few occasions. Once from JFK to LAX , another time JFK to MXP , and another time JFK to FRA and one other time JFK TLV.

  15. Fathiss Guest

    Little bit of oversell. Fantastic? A bit hyperbolic. It is marginally better speaking as an AA EXP for years. But I understand your need to sell.

  16. Tony Guest

    I also posted this over at VFTW, but I don't understand what this means for the F seats cleared to pax who miss the flight - checked in but misconnect, last minute SDFC, bag check issues, etc.? Those seats go out empty?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Tony -- Nope, presumably upgrades would still be cleared to seats that end up being empty, even less than 40 minutes from departure. The idea is just that upgrades start clearing earlier on, rather than just when boarding starts.

    2. digital_notmad New Member

      Ah got it. So this is just for the upgrade list as of T-40. Great news indeed, thanks.

  17. Abidjan Member

    Good job, AA. Thanks Lucky.

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The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Jerry Diamond

This is going to be really disappointing for non-revs that knew the GAs. They're going to have to start flying in Y. That really sucks for them.

4
SQ51 Guest

I'm just thinking about how less often nonrevs will get cleared in first given that more companions are being upgraded now too

3
Santos Guest

I've seen nonrevs get cleared well before upgrades on many elite-heavy routes. IMO, looked as if they new the GAs personally.

1
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