Yes, I know that complimentary upgrades on award tickets is not a benefit of American AAdvantage status.
It’s not a benefit of US Airways status (except for elites who selected this as their ‘special dividend’ award).
And yet I’m actually surprised. What I experienced tells us a lot about the new programming and how US Airways works and treats elite frequent flyers.
See, US Airways aggressively offers to upsell customers to first class. If there’s a first class seat available when you check in, there will be a paid offer to buy that seat.
And the paid offer is available even when you’re traveling on an award. I’ve bought up to first for $50 on the US Airways Shuttle between DC and New York LaGuardia, for instance, when I know there’s bad weather and congested airspace and I expect to be sitting on the tarmac for an hour or more in addition to flight time (I don’t really consider the buy up to first class worth it for a 40 minute flight alone. Heh.).
I did this recently on a Briitsh Airways award ticket, 4500 Avios points one-way and then a paid upgrade.
But I recently had my first travel using an Avios redemption on US Airways since American and US Airways introduced reciprocal elite upgrades available at check-in less than two weeks ago.
And at the time, when this was first announced, I guessed that the upgrade process on US Airways would be:
- If there’s an upgrade seat available for sale, you can buy it.
- If you have elite status with American, the price is zero.
That’s how it works for paid tickets. I didn’t expect that US Airways IT systems would differentiate between paid and award tickets for this process.
It turns out that they do, and that American elites don’t get the upgrade seat free, at least if my experience is indicative.
I make my British Airways award booking on US Airways, and one nice thing is that my seat assignments populate into US Airways premium seats… often seats that US Airways would charge for. That’s my experience, anyway.
And then I change the frequent flyer number on my reservation. US Airways phone agents usually won’t do this for you on a British Airways award booking (which is weird), so I do it myself — either at check-in or in advance using the Finnair website.
Checking in for a flight recently there was a first class seat available for sale – and despite having my American elite number in the booking, I was asked to pay. No complimentary upgrade on this award ticket.
I didn’t want the bulkhead on this regional jet anyway. I didn’t pay for the seat. But I grabbed a screen shot, because it was interesting to see the result.
And it’s interesting to be reminded that US Airways charges for many of the ‘better’ coach seats, and the charge applies even to their top elites. I find this policy ludicrous, and hope it doesn’t carry over to American when the two airlines integrate next year.
Remember that these aren’t even actually better seats, such as having more legroom. US Airways does not currently offer extra legroom seats in coach.
In the graphic above they are proposing to charge $26 to a 100,000 mile flyer for a coach seat without extra legroom on a regional jet, on a flight of just a few hundred miles.
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