Why I Love US Airways’ Upgrade Procedure

Let’s just get one thing clear.  I don’t love the US Airways domestic upgrade procedure.  Not even close.  But, as part of my domestic upgrade showdown between American Airlines and US Airways, I invited Jeanne of Heels First Travel to spell out why she thinks the US Airways upgrade procedure is the winner.  She came up with the title.  Poor girl has a convoluted definition of love.

As part of the showdown, we’re giving away a $50 Amazon gift card to one Heels First Travel reader who comments on their blog about their favorite upgrade procedure.  If you haven’t ventured over to read what they have to say, now’s a great time to do so.  

As a gentleman, I’m going to let Jeanne present her argument first, then I’ll post mine.  That also gives me the opportunity to poke holes in all of her theories.  😉

Below is Jeanne’s argument for US Airways:

As US Airways and American Airlines blend their processes together, I am hoping they end up keeping the US Airways’ upgrade procedure.

Complimentary Upgrades for All!

Whether you are a Silver Preferred member or a Chairman’s Preferred member, you are eligible for complimentary upgrades on domestic flights and flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. You clear for upgrades in order of status, so Silvers won’t get too many upgrades—especially on routes between hubs.

But there aren’t that many elite travelers on vacation routes. That means, after a hard year of traveling for work, your reward is relaxing in First Class as you head to Cancun, the Dominican Republic, or Vegas.

My father has Silver Preferred status on US Airways. He was not able to clear a La Guardia to Philadelphia connecting flight, but he and my mother were upgraded to First Class for their Philadelphia to Punta Cana flight. Guess which upgrade mattered more to him?

You Get Upgraded Way Ahead of Time

As a Chairman, my upgrades clear a week out. I give my laptop a high five (it doesn’t like that) and get to think about being in First Class for a week. Platinums get upgraded four days out, Golds three days out, and Silvers two days out.

Granted, this also causes First Class to fill up, so there is only a small chance of an upgrade at the gate if you didn’t clear. But in a way, this is better. Who wants to be pacing in front of a gate agent, wondering if a seat will open last second? This way, you know your fate way ahead of time.

You Won’t Get Separated from Your Traveling Companion

US Airways has an all-or-none upgrade policy. If you get upgraded, your traveling companion gets upgraded. This is true even at the gate. If you want to get upgraded without the companion, you must split your ticket (which I don’t recommend doing, unless you really dislike the person).

This relieves me of the stress of who gets the upgrade. And to be quite frank, I don’t want to sit separated. I would rather sit with my traveling companion.

On tickets with more than one person, as long as there is one elite person per non-elite person, everyone is eligible for upgrades.

Your Companions Get Your Status Level

If you are a Chairman on a ticket with five other people and two of them are Silvers, all six of you get upgraded like Chairmen. This is only true for upgrades before check-in and this does not occur at the gate.

This means on a trip to the Caribbean, all six of you can sit pretty in First Class if you clear. But this can be risky too. If there are five seats free and six of you, the upgrade system will skip over your reservation and give it to the people next in line. Because you won’t get separated from your traveling companions.

Upgrades on Award Tickets

One perk that I’ve learned the gate agents don’t always know about is once you have flown 85,000 miles with US Airways, you will be eligible for upgrades on your domestic award tickets through the rest of the program year and through the entire next program year.

Once you hit this level of miles flown, your award tickets will get processed during your usual upgrade window. This benefit is only for Platinums and Chairmen since, well, how would you manage to fly 85,000 miles without hitting Platinum?

Not all Platinums and Chairmen have this benefit though. You have to actually earn the 85,000 EQMs. If you purchase your preferred status and have not actually earned at least 85,000 EQMs, you will not earn this benefit.

There you have it, US Airways’ upgrade process—generous, easy, and helps you avoid stress at the gate.

Please note, this article is about US Airways’ upgrade process, not their quality of product. I would very much like this process but with American’s quality of product.


Okay, back to Pizza time.  Take a moment to comment on Heels First Travel and here on my blog to fight for your favorite airline’s upgrade procedure and have a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card and other fun stuff.

May the best airline named American Airlines win!


  1. The upgrade on award tickets at 85,000 miles also may not apply to a few PLT and CP who earn status on segments. Even when I’m in that bucket I’m okay with the rule. 🙂

  2. I think the AA upgrade system is far better for lower-tier elites. Let’s face it, EXPs and CPs will always get upgraded under either system (of course, if space is available), but lower-tiers that are automatically upgraded have less of a chance with the US system. When I was an AA gold or AA platinum, I never requested upgrades on AUS/DFW – if a sticker cost $30, then in my mind that was a $30 cocktail. There were other golds or platinums that may have wanted that $30 cocktail so they had a better chance of getting the upgrade.

    1. $30 cocktail sounds like something you’d buy in a strip club, Justin! Good point on shorter segments. Even a sissy like me has sat in the back on AUS-DFW and didn’t die.

  3. AA system is great and I am really hoping it stays. I am EXP and my husband is Platinum. He gets a lot more upgrades than I could imagine would happen with the US system. Having every single elite in queue for an upgrade makes no sense. Requesting them makes it more fair to lower tier elites and builds more loyalty. I know if my husband were never upgraded he would be less brand loyal. I fear under a new system only EXP level elites will have a reasonable chance of clearing. I am fine waiting to see until the last minute whether I have the upgrade or not. I will be testing out how this works on the US Air system later this week when I fly. It will be interesting to see if there is any chance at all for AA elites to get a seat on US at the time of check in. Not holding my breath!

    1. Smittytabb, definitely don’t hold your breath but do report back to us on your experience.

  4. When I was only US Silver I got upgraded about 50% of the time. I think that is a pretty awesome rate getting free upgrades. The only routes that I could count on not getting upgraded was when flying into Philly, Charlotte or Phoenix. Pretty much every other trip I was upgraded.

    I am hopeing for the US upgrade over AA

  5. Can anyone help me reconcile this AA upgrade rule? If we “pay to play” to get on the upgrade list, why is priority given by time of request? Doesn’t this prioritize those on low fares booked far in advance? Kind of defeats the “you get what you pay for” and “we need the revenue to keep First as a premium cabin” arguments.

    Shouldn’t AA prioritize within tier by fare paid like UA? (Hey Pizza isn’t this the Capitalism that you wanted?) 🙂

    Personally I like the US system which prioritizes within tier by BIS miles.

    1. Segments, I’m all for Capitalism! The revenue I cited was the revenue from folks buying upgrade certificates. That being said, I’m not necessarily in disagreement on using fare class as the first tie-breaker. But, I’m unlikely to suggest anything that might make it easier for said airline to track revenue. 😀

      I’m not in favor of BIS, as some folks have all their travel front-loaded/back-loaded. More likely they can control what they pay or when they book.

Leave a Reply