I had a couple of American Airlines systemwide upgrades that I wasn’t going to use so I offered them to a friend. Even though American awards their 100,000 mile flyers with 4 – rather than the previous 8 – confirmable upgrades valid on any American Airlines flight, it’s harder to get upgrade space than it used to be and I haven’t purchased any American Airlines international tickets.
For one of the upgrades American pulled a systemwide from my friend’s account rather than mine.
The second upgrade cleared at the gate. And though it’s been a month the upgrade hasn’t been taken from my account (it wasn’t taken from his either).
When upgrades cleared at the gate, they aren’t debited right away. Instead the reservation is tagged to remove the upgrade later. And American says they have “an unexpected backlog of cleared requests.” To which I have two reactions.
- This has been going on for at least a year
- It wouldn’t be an issue if they’d make upgrade space available prior to departure (tickets are reissued and upgrades deducted immediately in that case)
The thing is that it can take six months or more before American goes back and deducts a systemwide upgrade from a member’s account.
As a result, plenty of people think they have more upgrades available than they actually should. And they use those upgrades.
When American finally gets around to collecting, that means:
- A member may have upgrades for the next year available, and American will take those. So the member thought they had the next year’s upgrades to use, and may have been planning how they would be used, then they’re gone.
- The member may not have any upgrades available, in which case I’ve seen American asking for miles and a cash co-pay (generally 25,000 miles and $350) instead. With enough push back I’ve seen American give up on the cash and just take the miles.
Copyright: karenr / 123RF Stock Photo
Obviously this is a terrible customer experience. I find it hard enough to remember what I’ve done with my upgrades, and I rely on the upgrade total displayed in my account. I know Executive Platinums that don’t even know they have these upgrades, so expecting members to keep track of them when American cannot hardly seems reasonable.
Coming back and charging a member for an upgrade that they may no longer have — as a result of American’s poor systems and insufficient resources dedicated to the issue — is worse that a hotel billing missing charges months later because in the interim American has been telling you the number of upgrades you have in your account, and then coming back and changing their mind.
This happens over and over based on the emails I receive and the notes I scroll through on Facebook.
I tend to think an airline ought to be estopped from saying you have some number of upgrades other than the number displayed in your account for half a year. If they tell you that you have available upgrades, you should be able to rely on that. American’s glitches are American’s glitches and they shouldn’t interfere with your future upgrade or mileage redemption plans and they certainly shouldn’t be presenting you with a bill for hundreds of dollars.
At this point I assume I have one fewer upgrade in my account than American’s website shows me. But that’s only because my friend tells me nothing came out of his account. They might come back later and (incorrectly) deduct the upgrade from him and I’ll have simply let an upgrade expire as insurance against AAdvantage Upgrade Collections Agents coming after me next year.
Copyright: stocking / 123RF Stock Photo
American can re-program their IT for basic economy. They can re-program their IT for revenue-based earning of miles. They can re-program their IT to limit the number of flights you can have in an award ticket. They can re-program their IT to integrate the Grab app’s airport food ordering into their own app in order to earn affiliate commissions.
If it’s about saving money or extracting revenue from customers, American can give the IT fix a priority. But fixing IT so the airline doesn’t come after its most frequent customers six months down the line like a bad bill collector…?