Is Everything Back To “Normal” With American Airlines Elite Upgrades?

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Reports lately from American Airlines’ elite members have been that upgrades are not clearing ahead of time.  While I haven’t flown American that much in the last two months, I’ve experienced the same behavior lately.  Since the merger with US Airways, upgrades have generally not cleared as far ahead as they used to.  As an Executive Platinum, I could usually count on upgrades right at the 100-hour window unless I was flying IAD-LAX.  It wasn’t a big surprise that things slowed down after the merger, given the size of both programs elite membership.

View From The Wing reported a few days ago that an apparent technical glitch had been fixed.  I was glad to hear there was a glitch and this wasn’t just a new policy.  American has been ramping up their efforts to sell discounted upgrades, which could impact upgrade availability.  Those changes are billed as something that will only happen if they anticipate they can upgrade all eligible elite members.  But, the new world of domestic first on airlines is “you get what you pay for on that flight”.

But, Is Everything Really Fixed?

I’ve seen some notional reports from fellow road warriors that upgrades are clearing before they get to the airport.  That’s a definite improvement.

I did observe some oddities this week. I had applied some systemwide upgrades (SWUs) to a few flights I had before they expire at the end of the month.  I’m guessing I won’t have that problem in 2017 with the reduced number going forward.

At any rate, even though my SWUs cleared, I was still on the upgrade list (showing that I hadn’t cleared yet) on all of my flights.  The AAgents noted that they’ve been dealing with a system glitch related to that.

Additionally, there was a non-rev (airline employee) seated next to me on one of my flights in first class.  That’s very atypical for that date and time.  Heck, it’s pretty atypical on most of my flights lately, where the plane is full and even I’m not clearing on a regular basis.  The non-rev could have been bumped ahead of other elite members by a friend at the gate, hard to say.

For my two cents, I think American is still digesting some sort of tech glitch.  Maybe that’s wishful thinking, since I’d love to think I could clear a free upgrade once in a while…..

The post Is Everything Back To “Normal” With American Airlines Elite Upgrades? was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. Still a huge problem. Haven’t cleaned twice (20 segments this year) before getting to airport. Several times there were 12+ seats available in first. Agents tell me it’s not a bug, they are holding them to sell as paid upgrades. DCA to MIA tomorrow has 13/16 available in first, still not cleared.

  2. I’m puzzled by AA’s upgrade process, especially on international flights. I’m a lowly Platinum and haven’t received a single domestic upgrade using 500-mile stickers. However, when I flew Tokyo – DC recently on a cash + points upgrade my upgrade cleared 3 days in advance (NRT – ORD and ORD – DCA). I was shocked as there were at least 15 people on the upgrade list when I checked in.

    However, I’ve always had consistent upgrades and processes with United.

    1. austinwatkins, that NRT-ORD upgrade is pretty cool! Things have been very inconsistent the last 18 months or so. As a Platinum, things are about to get worse for you with Plat Pro getting complimentary upgrades as well.

  3. If by “friend at the gate” you mean “a random co-worker”, then yes. Non-revs (acutally crew, not friends/family) upgrade before elites all the time. If you follow any crew on Twitter/Instagram you’ll see the pics. It’s rare to see an upgrade list with less names than there are seats in first/biz, yet amazingly, non-revs somehow get the seats.

  4. I’ve observed a few weird things this year, so glad you posted this. I am an Exec Platinum:

    -Upgrades in the beginning of the year weren’t clearing ahead of time; in most situations they weren’t clearing at all.
    -Recently that has changed; I’ve had upgrades usually clear 24-48 hours in advance.
    -In one situation, an upgrade cleared on an A319 CLT-DCA 72 hours in advance. When I arrived at the airport, I learned I had actually been downgraded. They told me it was because of an equipment swap (FALSE) and then said it was because first class had been oversold (that happens??). I was proactively offered a $300 voucher, boarded, and then moved up to first at the last minute before the doors closed. They then took away the voucher.
    -I’ve applied two systemwide upgrades so far, both business to first on three class international flights, one in February and one in July, and both cleared at the time of booking.

    So, some positives, some frustrations, and one really big negative. It’s been an interesting upgrade year as a recently branded Exec Platinum, so I hope that the experience gets better and more consistent throughout the year.

    1. Samuel, this is definitely not my experience as an EXP (being downgraded). In 10 years as an EXP, I had one incident where I was downgraded a million years ago by an agent in a bad mood. Sorry to hear you went through that.

  5. AA fix the upgrades, just not in our favor. Hardly any C or A availability on domestic routes and basically waitlisting everyone on all international. Expert flyer was already a valuable tool and now it necessity if you fly AA.

    1. Perryplatypus, I agree. Things aren’t anywhere near where they used to be. The emotional connection to AA I’ve had over the years makes me sad about that. The business side just makes me book elsewhere.

  6. I’ve been tracking upgrade clearing for myself and several other FF’s I’m close to. Definitely seeing domestic sticker upgrades clear again in advance (except for peak travel flights, but those were always difficult).

    However, there’s no inventory anymore for miles+copay/SWU/BXP upgrades to be confirmed in advance, and I’ve heard reports that they’re still even having issues with those not clearing when they open space later!

    1. Miles, I cleared two SWUs last week on domestic routes. Those were expiring because I couldn’t use them on flights I wanted last year, which tells me everything I need to know about SWU availability.

  7. I’ve had mixed luck since this was “fixed”. I have had one clear at 24 hours, another at 100. and then i’m inside of 24 hours and still waiting on the third. The bigger bug to me has caused me to no longer check in before getting the airport. I did checkin from the app 24 hours prior LAX-MIA and it completely changed my seats from MCE to back of plane middle seat on a 77W. They couldn’t do anything to fix it. Claimed there was someone else in my old seat already (not true once i got to the airport). But I no longer trust them to risk my Y seat selections on most flights.

    I do think I’m facing my second missed upgrade tomorrow morning out of 18. We’ll see though.

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