American Raises its International Upgrade Co-Pay and Extends it to… Hawaii

Starting March 1 American’s fee to upgrade internationally with miles increases from $250 to $300, and a new $150 fee will apply to mileage upgrades to and from Hawaii.

Full fare tickets remain exempt from the fee, and upgrades requested prior to March 1 (for travel after March 1, even if the upgrade doesn’t clear until after March 1) won’t have the new fee structure apply.

$250 to $300 ($500 to $600 roundtrip) isn’t a big deal — once the fee was introduced, a 20% increase in that fee is almost beside the point. The watershed was broken, off course the price would increase.

Though extending the fee to Hawaii flights is a huge deal, a real blow to AAdvantage members. And, frankly, it’s not all that good a deal –“YUP” fares that confirm in first class aren’t always much more than $300 more roundtrip to Hawaii, so why burn the miles? And AAdvantage elite members can use their stickers to upgrade based on availability.

The upgrade fee is a huge cut into the value of AAdvantage miles. Although American correctly assesses in its FAQ that the fee reflects the reality that demand for upgrade seats outstrips supply (i.e. some members go unsatisfied) so raising the price of the seat serves to limit demand. But I’d much rather see at least an option to confirm an upgrade with additional miles rather than money and while we’re on it, I’d really like to see the option to confirm upgrades out of revenue inventory for a mileage premium… I can dream, can’t I?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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