Testing The New Reciprocal Upgrades on American Airlines and US Airways

Today is day 1 of the interim process for reciprocal upgrades on both American Airlines and US Airways for their elite members.

It was made official just a couple days ago and the procedure looks like it will be around for a while during integration.  In case you missed the announcement, here’s the meat and potatoes:

Details on American Airlines operated flights:

  • For American Airlines operated flights, the interim process will use the existing framework for load-factor based upgrades.  This means that US Airways elites will be eligible for upgrades, but only in those instances where all American Airlines elites have already been accommodated.
  • This process will not allow US Airways members to waitlist for an upgrade.  Rather, they’ll have to check at the airport or upon check-in to see if an upgrade is available.
  • US Airways Chairmans Preferred members will receive complimentary upgrades.  All other elites will need to buy 500-mile upgrades (I still nostalgically refer to them as “stickers”).

Details on US Airways operated flights:

  • For US Airways operated flights, American Airlines elites will be able to waitlist for upgrades on their day of departure if one isn’t available at check-in.
  • The plan is for AA elites to be folded in at the appropriate status levels.  That is, AA gold with US Silver, AA Plat with US Gold and AA Executive Platinum with US Chairman Preferred.
  • Upgrades at check-in will be done on a first-come, first-serve basis.  US Airways essentially offers any unpurchased first class seats as a buy-up opportunity at check-in, whereas American generally holds some inventory on certain routes.  In this case, all the inventory US Airways used to offer for a buy-up will be complimentary for American Airlines elite members.

As luck would have it, I had a US Airways flight scheduled for today, so if a seat was available in first I’d get to test the new system.

I checked in for my flight on the US Airways website.  I’d booked the flight using my AAdvantage # since that’s where I want my EQMs to credit.  Now, it was time to see if my elite status would reflect correctly to qualify me for an upgrade.

When I got to the seat selection screen it showed my current seat assignment in coach.  It also showed the pricing legend at the top for other seat choices:

American and US Airways


Interesting.  No price on the First Class seat, but showing prices for Choice Seats.  And, I could see there were seats available in First Class on the seat map:

American and US Airways

This was a regional jet, so only 8 total seats. But, 2 were available.  Maybe just a simple click?

American and US Airways

Um, yes.

Definitely, yes.

I’m sure I want to upgrade!

That’s it.  No bugs, no muss, no fuss.  That doesn’t mean everyone will have the same experience I did, but I’m pleased to see everything working exactly as promised on hour 6 of day 1.

I would expect this process to be around for a while, as American noted when they made this announcement that there are no other plans to augment the system between now and full integration, which will definitely take us well into 2015.

From time to time, I have seen where US Airways is offering a First Class seat for not much more than a coach seat.  These were generally times when I was buying a more expensive ticket, though nowhere near full-fare coach.  I’m not sure if that’s intentional, a way to increase revenue on seats they might otherwise give away from free to elite members but offer at a bit of a premium further out for passengers like me who might pay a bit more if guaranteed an upgrade.  So, it’s possible they’ve got some levers to pull on revenue management that will make these complimentary upgrades more or less available going forward.  US Airways generally has less First Class seats per plane than American Airlines, so there will certainly be more folks fighting for the same amount of seats on some routes.

There’s plenty more to come as part of the integration process, and I’m sure every day won’t be sunshine and roses.

For today, though, the New American has my seat waiting for me.


About the Author

My goal in life is to fill my family’s passports with stamps, creating buckets of memories along the way. You’ll find me writing about realistic ways for normal people to travel the world, whether you’re on a budget or enjoy luxury. I also enjoy taking us on the occasional detour to explore the inner workings of the travel industry.

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  1. Welcome to the super easy US Check In Upgrade Process for elites. I’m pretty disappointed I will have to battle for those free upgrade seats with you lots when I don’t clear in the Gold Window especially considering I get next to no benefit on the AA side of the house.

    1. Ven, I agree that you don’t get much out of this announcement and may even suffer from folks like me stealing your seats. 🙁

      Just don’t throw tomatoes at me as you walk by if I steal your seat! I’ll be happy to buy you a drink to make up for it.

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