Want To Upgrade American & US Airways Flights? Don’t Make This Mistake!

Yesterday I shared the official announcement from American regarding the integration of AAdvantage and Dividend Miles.


The Dividend Miles program will cease to exist as of 11:59PM CT on Friday, March 27, 2015. And your last chance to book an award through US Airways Dividend Miles is 11:59PM CT today, Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

One of the things that’s exciting about the frequent flyer program integration is that elite members will finally have full upgrade reciprocity between American and US Airways. This means that AAdvantage members will no longer be at a disadvantage when trying to upgrade on US Airways, and (former) Dividend Miles members will no longer be at a disadvantage when trying to upgrade on American.


As I explained yesterday, the new elite upgrade process will look as follows:

American Airlines Operated And Marketed FlightsGoldPlatinumExecutive Platinum
For flights 500 miles or lessUnlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgradesUnlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgradesUnlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgrades
For flights over 500 milesUse earned or purchased 500-mile upgradesUse earned or purchased 500-mile upgradesUnlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgrades
Upgrade windowConfirmed as early as 24 hours before departureConfirmed as early as 72 hours before departureConfirmed as early as 100 hours before departure

But if you actually want your upgrades to clear, there’s one important important mistake you won’t want to make. And this is a mistake a lot of people seem to be making, based on the number of questions I’ve received about it.

In order to have your upgrades clear in advance you have to make sure your flights are marketed and operated by the same airline.

In other words, if you’re flying American, make sure your flight is also marketed by American, and not a US Airways codeshare. The same applies for US Airways — if your flight is operated by US Airways, make sure it’s also marketed by US Airways, and not an American codeshare.

If you’re booked on a codeshare then you’ll only be able to request an upgrade within 24 hours.

Why is this? Because even though the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs will soon be integrated, the airlines are still operating on separate reservations systems. So until the programs are integrated, you’ll only get your upgrades when the flights are operated and marketed by the same airline.

As a general rule of thumb, this means you’ll want to book your American tickets on aa.com, and your US Airways tickets on usairways.com.

In general, don’t book your US Airways ticket on aa.com

In general, don’t book your American ticket on usairways.com

Bottom line

While being booked on a codeshare can seem like a minor distinction to a consumer, it could be the difference between you getting your upgrade and not. If you book a codeshare you’ll only be able to request an upgrade within 24 hours of departure, which greatly reduces your chances of clearing.

Have you made the mistake at the “new” American of booking a codeshare and then not being eligible for an upgrade?


  1. Ben, you are slightly off on this. You can book US marketed and operated flights on AA.com. You select the Oneworld or show all airlines button. But you are correct that you can’t book a non-AA codeshare on US.com. But what you can do is call US and they can book the non codeshare AA flight.

  2. Does this effect bonus miles as well? I am Platinum on AA and recently flew an AA marketed/US Airways operated flight, and i did not get any bonus miles. Seems wrong.

  3. As a Chairman on US, I was burned this week booking a US Air flight via AA.com and not getting upgraded.

    However, the flight was $150 cheaper on AA.com vs USAirways.com even though it was the same metal but a code share.

    You should still check both web sites as I still notice flights that are priced differently on each but with saving the money on the fare, you may not qualify for the upgrade.

  4. Lucky,

    Just wanted to say a big thank you for the heads up to enroll in the trial preferred at the time that you did. Logged into my aa.com profile, and am now listed as an Executive Platinum! So it has started!

  5. I will still book both airlines on AA.com as I want to earn Business Extra points.

    I just booked DCA-PIT r/t (all on US) on AA.com as I think earning BE points goes a longer way than flying in F on a 40 min in the air flight.

    Others may value upgrades more than I do.

  6. Hi, No, I avoid code-shares wherever possible as they can add complexity and more middle men. I would only book a code share if the fare were a lot lower. I prefer availability searches that strip out the code share. I think I would prefer that code shares didn’t exist. I don’t see any benefit to the consumer, and a lot of cons & confusion?

    US Airways should just sell partner AA coded flights and AA just sell US coded flights. Just say in communication materials that you will be flying ie on our partner American if booking on the US site.

    I really can’t see any benefit to the code-share, I mean if I am booking on aa.com am I supposed to pretend that an AAFlight# operated by US is an AA flight?

    It would be a little like MacDonalds selling a Burger King cooked & prepared burger in a MacDonalds package and wrapper. Or Burger King preparing a burger and selling it in a MacDonalds bag & wrapper and calling it Burger King. What is the benefit of that? I rrealize that code-shares are between partner airlines, but you get my point.

  7. I got an email from AA saying that my accounts would be merged and I don’t need to do anything: “If you have a Dividend Miles account or if you matched your accounts, there’s nothing you need to do.”
    I didn’t previously link my dividend and AAdavantage accounts, so how will the airline know which accounts to match up ? I have the same name, physical address, and telephone numbers on both accounts but different email addresses so if they are matching by email addresses, that could be problematic. And it can’t be just by name as there’d be too many people with the same names.

    I currently have more miles on US than AA and want to make sure the former don’t get lost.

    Any thoughts?

  8. I believe they’re already merging the FFPs ‘piece by piece’! They matched EXP to my CP status on aa.com already while the up certs and mileage balance are not combined.

  9. @ Terence — Yep, they are indeed “advancing” status to those with higher status in the Dividend Miles program than AAdvantage program. Nice move!

  10. @ Adi-T — The miles will go into a new AAdvantage account, and then once the program integration is complete in a couple of weeks you’ll be able to merge two AAdvantage accounts.

  11. @ Heather — You should still earn the class of service or elite bonus, if that’s what you’re referring to?

  12. @ John — You’re of course correct. Was trying to keep things simple by saying “in general,” but you’re of course correct.

  13. I have status on AA but not on US. Should I put my US Dividend Miles number on my US Airways reservations after the accounts are linked in order to get the best upgrade priority? Or will AA elites automatically be added to the upgrade queue? I’m referring to flights both marketed and operating by US.

  14. Living in a city serviced by American Eagle, this all gets very frustrating. We end up with lots of mixed itineraries, starting on Eagle, then flying out of DFW on US Airways. You have to visit both websites to select seats. You can’t request upgrades. Blech!

  15. This happened to me: booked on AA.com to use the many GCs I have, but flight was on US (as was my Chairman’s Status). Heard another guy grumbling about it in F as well. Didn’t understand until now, but got both upgrades, so wasn’t too upset.

  16. @Lucky,

    What sucks is if you want to mix. I am trying to book LHR-PHL and returning JFK-LHR. Pricing AA 774 + AA 104 is at $1090 but pricing US 774 and AA 104 is $2294.

    I want to book it this way so I can SWU upgrade.

  17. Has anyone thought about the consequences of UsAir and AA elite members now sharing the same upgrade ‘inventory’? The way I see it, there will be twice as many people vying for the same amount of upgrade slots. While it is true that there will two airlines for us to choose from, but on any given flight, there will be twice as many people with elite status lining up for the same amount of available seats on the plane. Consequently, the likelihood of getting an upgrade drops by 50%!

    Or is there something wrong with my math?

  18. @ Joe Clark — I’m not really sure I follow your logic. There will be the same number of elite members and first class seats next week as there are this week. Your assumption is that elite members of one airline fly the other airline frequently pre-merger, which seems a bit off (or else they’d have the same status in both programs to begin with).

  19. I’m sure there are many people who fly both AA and USAir, out of necessity or choice. On any given AA flight, for example there are undoubtedly some USAir elite members that currently DON’T qualify for upgrades; these passengers will, post-merger, now be competing with AA elite members for the same number of available seats , no?

  20. @ Joe Clark — Right, and the same is true the other way around. Still seems like a win-win to me.

  21. what about corporate travel sites like concur? I can tell if a flight is “operated” by a specific carrier but I don’t know if it is marketed by that carrier..thoughts?

  22. @ Patrick — For the most part they shouldn’t be booking codeshares. So you can see when you get the confirmation whether the flight is also marketed by the same airline.

  23. Hi Lucky,
    I made this exact mistake, booked aa flight on us (didn’t notice it’s code-share, as the flight number is the same!) Rather than wait till 24h check-in time to try my luck, would it be possible to call AA beforehand for upgrade (I’m EXP)?

  24. You hit it on the head about codeshare flights. Unfortunately, some of us live in a corporate travel environment where we don’t get the option of booking with the primary airline. Our contract fares are all with American, but most flights are flown with US Air. Used to be upgraded 50% of the time, since the “New American” exactly once. Contacting customer service gets you an email with “working hard to provide elites upgrade opportunities consistent with our technology limitations”, and nothing more.

  25. My current kvetch is that even as an elite, and with AA upgrades available on my flight, and in that 24 hour windows, I am being DENIED upgrades on the codeshare. And AA had the audacity to refer me back to US air to get the upgrade, which is aboslutely in conflict with their stated upgraded policy online.

    If upgrades are available, and codeshares say you can upgrade once in that window with available upgrades, and refusing them, saying that you can walk around the airport and see, is in denial of the very policy. NOT good.

  26. I’ve found that if you book a codeshare flight (purposefully or accidentally), the only upgrade option (at least with us air sold, aa metal) is to request to be put on the standby list at the actual airport. There never seems to be an option for an upgrade request on aa.com in this situation. I fly from a regional airport on a red eye flight though, so there are usually seats available when I find myself in this kind of bind.

  27. This is an incredibly bad customer experience when they declare they are one airline and then so immediately fail to deliver on an important benefit like upgrades.

    As a Platinum member of AA – with lots of 500 mile upgrade coupons – being told I cant use them on an American ticketed flight operated by US Airways – (what does this even mean when the airlines have merged?) – is insanity.

  28. This “one airline” isn’t working. I start my travel in a small airport that only services USAir to/from Charlotte. I don’t have much choice (and I book through Concur) about which airline code to use. Sometimes my flight from Charlotte to wherever is USAir, sometimes American. I too have had a major decrease in upgrades since this started. Sometimes I find that the seat I selected when I purchased the ticket isn’t the seat I end up. So I go from an aisle in the front to a middle in the back of the plane. This morning the flight attendant was greeting certain passengers by name and asking about a beverage preference after take off. She didn’t ask me, so I asked for a glass of ice water. I was told that they accommodate the needs of their advantage passengers first, I’d have to wait. I’m Platinum, so really???

  29. Well… this is all behind us.

    As a AAdvantage member, I read the fine print and realized that flying US Airways paper and US Airways metal was the quickest “ticket” to an upgrade to first. No “stickers” required, and upgrade was automatic.

    I would like to thank all the folks that booked incorrectly and nearly guaranteed my upgrade. I am humbly thankful !

    Finally … I’m taking off on a mileage run to Singapore (DEN-ORD-NRT-SIN-NRT-LAX-DEN) to ensure that I make AA Exec Plat in 2015. So close, I can’t pass that up!


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