American will be eliminating ‘through passenger’ priority for upgrades. The date this change will take place is speculated to be March 11.
American’s upgrade priority for domestic flights (which 18 months ago also became priority for international flights) has been:
- Elite status level
- Whether the passenger is connecting off another American flight
- Whether the passenger is full (Y or B) fare [and they haven’t already received a complimentary confirmed upgrade]
- Time of request
There are several things unique about this process.
- Unlike United and Delta, elites on full fare ticket don’t have a pass to trump the status of other customers. So a full fare American Gold doesn’t receive higher upgrade priority than an Executive Platinum the way they would if flying Delta or United. (It prioritizes loyalty over the course of a year above fare on a given flight.)
- Prioritizing ‘through passengers’ gives priority to someone connecting off of another flight. Flying DC – Dallas – Phoenix, an elite would have a ‘through passenger designation’ for Dallas – Phoenix and trump all similar elites originating in Dallas.
The logic of this second criteria, giving priority to connecting elites over elites originating in a city, must be that the airline has a ‘lock’ on local elites. American doesn’t need to give Dallas-based elites the same level of upgrade priority in order to win their business — they win the business by virtue of offering non-stop service. But airlines compete fiercely over connecting passengers. Most passengers are indifferent to whether they connect in Dallas (American) or Houston (United) for instance.
US Airways never used this criteria for upgrades — nor did any other airline that I’m aware of.
Now the only tie-braaker, for other than full fare elites, will be time of upgrade request.
This criteria makes less sense to me. It privileges those buying tickets earlier. Perhaps there’s more competition for early purchase business, but it’s not obvious why an airline would want to give upgrade priority on this basis — other than it’s a relatively easy algorithm to manage.
Check-in time, which has been used at some other airlines but isn’t currently used at American, is similarly not a factor that makes sense to me to use for upgrades since it seems especially arbitrary.
The new changes, though, is simply that upgrade priority for passengers connecting onto a flight will be going away in a few weeks.