American’s New Upgrade Process is Working… Almost. Here’s What You Need to Know.

American is making some changes to its upgrade processes along with the merging of Dividend Miles into AAdvantage for a single frequent flyer program.

  • Complimentary upgrades for all elites on flights of 500 miles or less (instead of requiring 500 mile upgrade certificates for all domestic upgrades, with complimentary upgrades only for top tier elites)
  • No more ‘grace’ of 51 miles for 500 mile upgrade certificates — a 501 mile flight requires (2) 500 mile upgrade certificates.
  • Auto-requesting of upgrades, the default it to auto-request an upgrade where it’s complimentary instead of having to proactively opt-in

Per Traveling Better there are some glitches to this process that are being worked on.

  1. Elite ‘AAirpass’ (prepaid travel) members traveling with a companion cannot have upgrades requested online, and have to contact American to make their upgrade request.
  2. Corporate travel bookings that utilize a corporate name field (this may not be common) aren’t having upgrades auto-requested, and have to contact American to make their upgrade request. American’s website may even incorrectly show that upgrades have been requested — if you’ve booked booked through a corporate travel portal or agency and want an upgrade it may be wise to ring American, even though your booking may very well not contain this glitch.
  3. Reservations that contain a lap infant won’t get an auto-request, and so the passenger will need to call to make the request.
  4. Flights to Guatemala City and St. Maarten are being displayed as ineligible for 500 mile upgrade requests, when of course they are eligible.

These are all minor issues, though of course it’s important for affected customers to be aware of them. I’d anticipate American will have fixes in place in the near-term for these.

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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  1. Gary,
    a suggestion for a post or series of posts: AAdvantage for former DM elites. I’m trying to learn about the program in terms of earning and upgrades, awards will come later. Having a series of articles that encapsulates the program, especially from a DM member perspective would be appreciated.

  2. Gary – I just received my summary from AA re: the transfer and for the first time saw that I have 997,516 in my million mile balance account. I’ve never paid attention to this or even thought about it. Can you give me the highlights of attaining 1M miles status, benefits going forward, and where I can read about it. Thanks.

  3. @robertw – probably about as many who have ever been stuck in the back of an RJ during a long tarmac delay or who have ever missed a connection due to long deplaning waits. If you don’t want this feature you could just let your status lapse…

  4. Does this mean if one of our segments is less than 500 miles I will be automatically put on the upgrade list for that segment?

  5. Does the <500 mile complimentary upgrade apply to any companions on the same itinerary? Or will they still need a 500-mile cert (that's what an agent told me Saturday, but he seemed clueless about other things)? I am AA Gold.

  6. Speaking of the 500 mile upgrades…I thought those certificates were being loaded as part of the process of combining account and would be based of oe 2014 activity…perhaps I was mistaken? If anyone can add clarity that would be great…

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